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Lanesboro City Council

Fri, Feb 2nd, 2001
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Council gets tax lessonBy Mike McGrathMonday, January 29, 2001

The Lanesboro City Council met in a lengthy session last Monday evening, dealing with tax assessors, subdivisions and disgruntled residents.

After approval of the agenda and minutes, the Council listened to a presentation by Fillmore County Assessor Robert Picket and assessor Dave Kiehne.

Kiehne was the dominant speaker during the presentation, explaining how the Minnesota tax code works with regard to property assessments. According to Kiehne, the State has guidelines that must be followed, requiring reassessment every four years.

Despite the fact that Kiehne went on to explain just how the tax calculations are made, tossing around such baffling terms like "tax capacity structure," "limited market value" and "levy rates," it seemed the citizens in the room just wanted to know why their taxes are going up so dramatically.

"Lanesboro in not unique in values anymore," consoled Kiehne as he explained that property values are going up in cities all over Fillmore County. "We do this all day long, so we do know values."

At one point, Mayor Brose also assured the citizens that the Council had only raised its expense budget by $1164 for 2001, thus the tax increases were not coming from over spending by city officials.

Lanesboro property values have been steadily rising for the last five years, and this is clearly reflected in the real estate sales transactions recorded in the courthouse. Since the assessor had not been around in at least four years, the cumulative effect of the increased value came as a shock to many residents.

The city will conduct a Board of Review in April at which time taxpayers may have an opportunity to protest their assessment. Following the city review, a second level of appeal is at the county Board of Review in early June.

Rural Subdivision

The Council voted unanimously to exercise its "two-mile limit" authority on subdivision review for a proposed subdivision in section 30 of Holt Township.

The application for the 3-lot subdivision proposed by Jesse Buggs of St. Paul had originally been made to the Fillmore County Zoning Office. State law allows cities to exercise review authority over all subdivisions proposed within two miles of their boundary.

The discussion on the subdivision seemed to center around why the application nearly went through the entire county process before being brought to the Lanesboro Council.

Councilman Hal Cropp asked why this subdivision application was on the Fillmore County Planning Commissions agenda for Thursday night, when Lanesboro had yet to make its decision.

"It should have come to the city first," replied city administrator Barbara Hoyhta. "It was the countys oversight."

Councilwoman Peggy Hanson argued in favor of the city reviewing the subdivision application, noting that many changes had occurred since 1995, when the city chose to exercise its right to have the option to review subdivisions on its borders.

Since that time, the city has extended sewer up Zenith Street and is trying to encourage growth in that area. Hanson felt that in light of the county currently reviewing its subdivision ordinance, the council should refer this application to its own planning and zoning. Mayor Brose agreed with Hanson, asking the Council for a motion allowing Lanesboro to act on the application.

Not everyone in the room was in agreement, however, as County Commissioner Duane Bakke warned the Council to be careful how they word a motion to review this subdivision, citing the ambiguity of the interpretation of the law that gives the city its review authority, and noting that there may be time limits on application review.

However, Bakkes comments did not deter the Council, as it unanimously approved a motion by Cropp and Hansen to accept the application for review by the Lanesboro Planning and Zoning commission.
Other action

Councilman Kevin Drake reported on the Utilities Board meeting, explaining that several B & B owners had complained of being charged commercial electric rates when they actually live in their home.

The Utility Board also received complaint from a property owner who must pay monthly garbage charges for a home that is unoccupied. On this matter, the Council voted not to take action on the non-payment of garbage fee while the Utility Board studies the issue.

Councilwoman Peggy Hanson reported that the Art Center Commission has made no decision yet on site, and that the Commission was requesting Council approval to hire a private attorney to answer city ownership questions with regard to the State bonding process. The Council approved the request.

The Council took no action on an application by Mark Brewster for a simple lot split. The application was referred to planning and zoning for a recommendation.

Police Chief John Carlin presented officer John Tuchek with a Certificate of Achievement for his work in investigating a vandalism incident at the Community Center. The Council recognized and thanked Tuchek for his work.

The Council also voted to appoint Luanne Hamann to the library board.

Dont Park in the Alleys

As if the evening hadnt been long enough, the Council listened attentively to a lengthy protest from resident John Levell, who came before the Council to complain because the city had towed his car away.

Levell went on vacation over the holidays and left his car parked in the alley behind his house. When he returned, the car was gone. Levell argued that there are two signs in the alley next to his home that say "no parking between signs," and that his car was not parked there.

Chief Carlin reported that the car had been ticketed, then towed several days later when the city needed to plow the snow in the alley. He also produced an ordinance that stated that parking is not allowed on any alleys in the city.

Levell countered by arguing that he had been singled out, noting that the city never tows any other cars away. He also produced photographs showing several vehicles in the city that are "plowed in."

The sympathies of the Council members seemed to sway from Levell to Carlin and back again, all the while the clock ticked away. In the end, no decision was made, but it was recommended by Carlin to Levell that he at least go get his car at Hermans in Fountain so that the impoundment fees would terminate.

By Mike McGrath

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