The Northfield City Council on Tuesday approved assessments for this year’s planned street repair project in the heart of the city.

Carleton College, which has the highest total assessment on the proposed roll, claims its assessments are excessive and disproportionate to the benefits the college will receive.

Assessments were spread over businesses and residential property throughout the area of the repair project. The highest assessment cost was $131,410 for Carleton property at 1 N. College St.

The city received three objections regarding assessments, from First United Church of Christ, Cannon Valley Gardens and Carleton. The council accepted the First United Church of Christ request to lower its assessment based on a miscalculation, rejected Cannon Valley Gardens’ request and delayed action on the Carleton objection to gather more feedback.

Carleton Vice President and Treasurer Fred Rogers said Tuesday the assessment methodology wasn’t done uniformly, disproportionately burdens the college’s parcels and exceeds any market value increase.

Under the proposal, Carleton would pay 29% of the $1.35 million assessment total.

In its response, city staff recommended rejecting the objection, noting a professional appraiser found there were special benefits justifying the property assessments.

Public Works Director David Bennett said the appraiser made downward adjustments to benefit amounts related to the main Carleton campus with the understanding that there is a Highway 19 access point to college land and parts of the property are in a floodplain.

Councilor David DeLong questioned why Carleton was objecting to $17,500 assessments when other properties of similar size were being assessed far more.

Fellow Councilor Suzie Nakasian questioned why Carleton College didn’t respond to public concerns over construction traffic caused by the college damaging residential neighborhoods. To her, there was no evidence that Carleton assessments should be lowered.

In voting in favor of delaying a vote on Carleton’s objection, Councilor Erica Zweifel said if staff wants to capture lost revenue caused by damage from construction traffic, it should be done as part of the permitting process.

In speaking against delaying finalizing Carleton assessments, Bennett said due diligence has been taken to ensure accurate assessments.

By law, the city can only maintain or decrease assessment amounts at this point.

Reach Associate Editor Sam Wilmes at 507-645-1115. © Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.

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