Residents object to assessment

NEW ULM — On Tuesday, the City Council held a public hearing on adopting the final assessment rolls for 2017 utility, street and alley improvements. There were 14 improvements on the list. Most of the improvements received no comments, but multiple residents objected to the assessment to the Dacotah Drive, Settler Trail and Benz Circle street improvements.

City Engineer Steve Koehler said the special assessment for the subdivision was defined in the development agreement created in 2007. Assessments are designed on a unit basis. Each lot in the subdivision is assessed the same amount. The 2007 utilities improvements resulted in each of the 39 lots in the subdivision being assessed at around $26,000.

After this time, the developer failed to pay tax or assessment for five years and the property went back as tax forfeiture. The county worked on a plan to sell the lots and came back to the city with suggestions. The city council suggested reducing special assessment on two blocks on Dacotah Drive to $7,500. A local builder agreed to buy 20 lots if the assessment was reduced to $4,000.

Koehler said the latest assessment for street improvements returned to the by-unit assessment as originally laid out in the development agreement.

Settler Trail resident Scott Nelson was upset with being hit with another per-unit assessment after later residents were given reduced assessments on utilities.

Benz Circle resident Dennis Miling said he and other residents from the start of the development are paying $30,000 more than other residents. Around 60 percent of the lots did not have to pay for the same utilities and he feels it is unfair taxation.

Council Chairman Charlie Schmitz said he understood the concern, but said the council felt it was the city’s best interest to sell those lots and bring in tax revenue. In addition, this street assessment was unrelated to the reduced utilities assessment.

Miling suggested this discrepancy in utility assessments be corrected through the street assessment.

City Attorney Roger Hippert said adjustments to a street assessment cannot be made based on a previous assessment.

Miling said they would take the issue to the next step.

The council voted to adopt the final assessment rolls. Assessments are paid over 10 years with simple interest on the unpaid balance.

Cara Knauf of the New Ulm Chamber of Commerce gave an update on the downtown table and bench project. The idea behind the project was to place historical pictures and information on downtown benches. A few months ago the Downtown Action Team received a grant for this project.

The bench project starts on 1st South and ends at 4th North and Minnesota. Each block downtown would have a different theme with the idea of celebrating and educating people about New Ulm.

Knauf said they would be ready to move forward once the council gave its approval.

Councilor David Christian thanked the Downtown Action Team on this project and said they had done their homework.

The council was willing to support moving forward, but final approval was not on the agenda.

Knauf agreed to bring the approval request to the next council meeting.

Later, the council passed a resolution declaring support for the Highway 14 Task Force recommendation to MnDOT regarding improvements on Highway 14 between the cities of New Ulm, Courtland and Nicollet.

Mayor Robert Beussman recommended supporting the resolution. He said many hours of work has been completed on this plan with Nicollet, Courtland, the farmers and residents in between.

The council approved the application of Dean Burdorf requesting a variance to construct a parking lot with a zero foot front yard setback for a business at 500-520 S. Valley Street.

The council had some concerns about allowing the zero foot setback since it might set a president. Ultimately, they agreed to the variance because it would allow a U-Haul business to operate at this location.

Christian said the setback was established for 165 foot deep lots, but this lot was only 50 feet deep.

Councilor Les Schultz said it might not be setting a precedent since every block is a little different.

The council approved a series of documents associated with the State Street Apartment Project, now called the Emerson Union Apartment Project, on 15 N. State.

The documents include the Development Agreement for Tax Increment Financing District H-9, Tax Increment Revenue Note and consent to collateral assignment, which would provide collateral security for the lender on the loan.