You still need to make an official request if you want something waived

    The City of Crookston, after the city council this week approved a resolution, will be taking a more property owner-friendly approach when it comes to waiving certain special assessments on properties, but people are still going to have to make an official request of the City if they want any special assessments waived.

    Waiving eligible, outstanding special assessments on tax-forfeited properties automatically and not requiring an actual request became a point of discussion this week when Ward 6 Council Member Tom Vedbraaten asked that the resolution on the matter, which was included on the meeting’s consent agenda, be added to the regular agenda for additional discussion. When the resolution came up, Vedbraaten suggested the City simply remove/waive the assessments automatically on tax-forfeited properties instead of requiring an official request.

    When City Administrator Shannon Stassen and City Finance Director Angel Weasner indicated that Vedbraaten’s request was more than likely doable but would at least initially require some additional work, and when no council members raised any significant objections, Vedbraaten offered an amendment to the resolution.

    “A property might look more appealing to someone who might be looking at buying it” if the eligible special assessments were already waived, he said. “…If we’re saying we’re going to be taking them off, why not just them take off right away?”

    But Vedbraaten’s proposed amendment started to lose some traction when Weasner explained how Polk County lumps the assessments into one dollar figure on parcel documentation, and that it would take additional work to separate all of the numbers. When Vedbraaten’s amendment came up for a vote, it was defeated, with him and At Large Council Member Bobby Baird voting in favor of it.

    “It doesn’t seem like that big of a hurdle to come in and make a request,” Ward 2 Council Member Steve Erickson said.

    Vedbraaten said he was OK with the resolution being approved as it was originally written, “As long as the county makes it clear that people can come in” and request that the eligible special assessments be waived.

    The original resolution was unanimously approved.

Background

    The modified waiver policy was brought forth so the council would have a more consistent approach to fall back on when requests for assessment waivers are made. Mayor Wayne Melbye said it was a less-than-perfect situation to consider requests on a case-by-case basis that could lead some property owners to question why they didn’t get various assessments waived, while other property owners’ requests for waivers were granted.

    From time to time, often when a home or property is changing hands, Crookston residents come before the council asking that various outstanding assessments be waived, such as for snow removal, mowing, tree removal, delinquent utility bills, special service/improvement district fees, and project assessments, i.e. street improvements.

    The new policy will call for a waiver request to be granted on tax-forfeited property if the fees are user-based and don’t directly benefit the property. Such fees that would be waived involve snow removal, mowing, and delinquent utility bills. Special assessment waiver requests that improve the property and will not be waived include diseased tree removal, special service/improvement district fees, and project assessments.

    The new policy pertains only to tax-forfeited, buildable lots. All special assessments on un-buildable lots would be waived.