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Broadway assessments headed to hearing Monday

April 13, 2019 GMT

Jon Ryan expressed mixed feelings about assessments he’s facing for the reconstruction of North Broadway.

“It’s definitely going to be a good thing when it’s all said and done,” said the owner of Dwell Realty Group, 923 N. Broadway Ave. “I just feel bad for any mom-and-pops along there that are already kind of stuck with a payment on the higher end.”

The building his business occupies, near the intersection of Broadway and 10th Street, faces a $46,000 assessment, and a nearby investment property he owns with his business partner is slated to contribute another $14,000 toward the Broadway project.

In all, initial assessments show neighboring property owners contributing $3.17 million to the $19.2 million project that covers North Broadway from Civic Center Drive to the bridge near Silver Lake, as well as alleys on both sides of the street.

Ryan, who plans to attend the Rochester City Council hearing on the assessments at 7 p.m. Monday in the city-county Government Center, said he hasn’t decided whether to appeal the assessments.

“Obviously, I’d like it to be less, but I understand the work costs a lot of money,” he said, but also noted he believes some of the price-per-foot estimates appear too high.

Down the street, Lucy Bishop, owner of Bishop Management Co., said she thinks Ryan and every other property owner should file an appeal, which would be due in writing before Monday’s hearing or verbally during the hearing.

“How do you make it fair if for some reason half of the people who live in this neighborhood decide to appeal and the city says, ‘You’re right; you don’t have to pay the assessment,’ and the other half doesn’t show up to the meeting?” she said. “What happens to them?”

City Council Member Shaun Palmer, who represents the ward, echoed the call for filing appeals.

“I’m advising everyone to appeal the assessment,” he said, noting the process can be as simple as writing a note stating “I appeal” and taking it to the Rochester City Clerk’s office in City Hall.

Palmer said he supports the project but said many of the assessments appear to be too high.

If an appeal is made and eventually taken to district court, a property owner must provide evidence that the amount sought exceeds the benefit to the property, according to the League of Minnesota Cities.

Business owners aren’t the only ones who received notices of assessments to help fund the project. Homeowners’ assessments, while they are determined in a different manner — and are generally lower — also struck many as being too high.

Mike Nelson, whose home is next to the alley west of Broadway, received a notice that he would owe approximately $14,000 for the project — $12,000 for the alley and $2,000 for a new sidewalk.

“We really don’t know how we will pay for this,” he said.

His wife, Lindsay, filed an appeal, and the couple said they weren’t aware they would be assessed, even after attending several project meetings.

Dillon Dombrovski, Rochester’s city engineer, said some miscommunication existed during the project meetings, which started in November 2017. He said some property owners had been told at one point that the alley work wouldn’t lead to an additional assessment.

With that in mind, he said city staff will be recommending the City Council drop the alley assessments from the project.

“Anyone beyond the alley is being recommended to be dropped from the roll,” he said, which would mean the Nelsons and other homeowners could see their assessments dropped to zero.

For businesses and homes between Broadway and the alley, assessments would remain for street and sidewalk work.

If the council approves dropping the alley assessments, it would require the city to tap at least $628,000 in state funds set aside for future work along the Broadway corridor. Dombrovski said the existing state funds will not cover all the work scheduled to follow the current project.

During a March 18 City Council meeting, Rochester attorney Paul Ohly said the project was too aggressive for small businesses, including one he represents along Broadway Avenue.

“I think the project as presented is too expensive,” he said.

Council Member Michael Wojcik, however, noted assessments are limited to roadway and sidewalk work. The added amenities, which include a one-way protected cycle track on each side of the street, are not part of the assessments.

Additionally, he noted this isn’t the first time the city has seen such complaints.

“I saw this firsthand in the Uptown District, and I don’t expect this to be different,” he said.

Palmer, however, indicated the process needs to be addressed.

“I think you will see a change in the way of doing it,” he said.