Property owners challenge Austin's assessment fees - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Property owners challenge Austin's assessment fees


AUSTIN, Minn.  (KTTC)- On Wednesday, four property from owners from Austin's northeast annexation made their case against a City improvement project.  In 2010, the City began installing a sanitary sewer system.  The project was completed a year later, but some property owners are still opposing the special assessment fees.  Those assessments valued each parcel at $15,000.

John Howe is the former mayor of Red Wing and a former state Senator, but also owns 11 rental properties in Austin. 

"They're doing what they think is right and certainly, we have our opportunity to challenge it,"  said John Howe.  "They simply just took the cost of the project and divided it by the number of parcels, regardless of size of parcels, regardless of value to parcels-that doesn't meet the special benefits test."

The "special benefits test" is part of Minnesota law and states, "no matter what the method the city uses to establish the amount of the assessment, the real measure of value is the increase in market value of the land because of the improvement."  Howe said this matter is about more than just the cost he'd have to pay on the assessment, he said the City has violated State Law.

"What we need to do is assess what value you brought to the property.," said Howe.  "All the home owners that I've talked to are willing to pay-whatever increase in market value.  Unfortunately, our properties have went down since the project."

Depending on the judge's ruling, the City of Austin stands to lose or gain thousands of dollars.

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