Corcoran puts finishing touches on assessment policy

The Corcoran City Council, Thursday, Jan. 26, continued a long process of reviewing the city’s special assessment policy and gave city staff feedback on finishing touches for the document, which is nearly complete.

Soon property owners in Corcoran will be able to refer to the policy when they or the city are proposing improvements to city streets, storm and sanitary sewers and water infrastructure. The policy will show how Corcoran would calculate the amounts property owners would be assessed to help the city pay for project costs.

At the meeting, the City Council also took up other business. Here are meeting highlights.

Special Assessment Policy

The issue of special assessments has popped up more than once in the past couple of years when property owners petitioned the city to pave gravel roads serving their properties. The City Council wrestled with ways for Corcoran to finance construction costs.

The topic turned out to be complex, because Corcoran has different types of city streets. Some are collector roads serving a large area, some are neighborhood streets, some are gravel roads and some are paved. Adding to the puzzle, some properties are farmland or other undeveloped land without structures on the site.

The city has several sources of funds, including state aid for maintaining collector roads, bond sales, the city budget and special assessments of owners of benefitting properties. Only certain major city streets are eligible for state aid.

Last summer city staff and the City Council began work on the special assessment policy for water, sanitary sewer, storm water and street improvements. The council decided to wait until after Jan. 1 to complete the document so that the incoming mayor and two new City Councilors could give their input.

During council review of the policy on Jan. 26, City Administrator Brad Martens explained how the policy would work for streets. Property owners in new developments are not likely to be assessed. Developers and the city would negotiate development agreements spelling out sources of funds for improvements.

When special assessments are used for street improvements, the policy “fully focuses on the benefit to individual,” Martens said. The assessment is based upon what an appraiser thinks a property would be worth on the market before and after completion of a project. The assessment would be a percentage of the difference between the two amounts. Property owners would not pay all project costs. The city would use property taxes and other sources of funds to pay the remainder of the bills.

The policy allows owners of unimproved property to defer assessments until after the property is platted.

Property owners would continue to have input on proposed improvements affecting their land. Corcoran would ask engineers for feasibility reports to determine whether a project is needed and feasible. The City Council would hold public hearings on the project itself and proposed assessments.

The proposed assessment policy is lengthy and detailed. Anyone can contact Corcoran City Hall to get a copy of the latest version. Or visit the city website at ci.corcoran.mn.us. Click on “government, council, agenda packets, 2017, 2017-01-26.”

Motor Café to emerge from fire

Tim Laurent said he and his wife Anne are “excited” about the prospect of building a new Laurent Motor Café after losing the previous building in a fire last May. The new building would sit on the same site as the old one at 23030 W. State Highway 55.

The couple asked for and got three City Council approvals for the project and now can legally begin construction. The council approved a conditional use permit allowing auto sales/ repair in the Light Industrial zoning district and a second conditional use permit allowing the use of more than 20 percent metal siding on the building.

The council also approved a site plan for a new 7,855 square foot building that would be slightly larger than the old building and would sit 32 feet further north on the property. The new building would contain 2,278 square feet of office space and 5,577 square feet of service bays. The metal roofing would be designed to resist hail damage. A well and septic tank would serve the facility. The display area for car sales would be outside.

Legislative priorities

The City Council approved the city’s legislative priorities for submission to state legislators. The list covers topics related to general government, transportation, fiscal reform, support for regional assets and school funding.

Corcoran is asking that local government aid formulas be adjusted so that the city could get financial help for maintaining infrastructure used by commuters passing through Corcoran.

The priority list also expresses city support for investing in the Brockton Lane interchange to expand development and job opportunities for the northwest metro region.

Corcoran also is asking the legislature to consider supporting the city in the $4 million cost of acquiring and constructing a 120-acre regional recreation site in western Corcoran.