The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

November 19, 2012

Marigold critics focus on tax issues

NORTH MANKATO — Opponents of a proposed six-story apartment building abutting a residential neighborhood once again beseeched the North Mankato City Council to shoot down the plan, and Monday night they had some new ammunition.

The direct impact on North Mankato taxpayers of the project being scuttled would be relatively minor, the council learned at their Monday meeting. Supporters of the 108-unit $17 million development, including the North Mankato Port Authority, have said a large project is necessary to generate the property tax revenue to retire bonds sold to cover the cost of improvements made by the city to the long-vacant site on Belgrade Avenue at the foot of the Veterans Memorial Bridge.

The bond payments for the cost of demolishing the abandoned Marigold Dairy building in 1990 are expected to jump from $35,508 this year to $89,724 in 2016. If the Marigold apartment complex moves forward, $1.2 million in new property tax payments will be reserved to pay off the city debt.

But paying off those bonds without the new tax revenue from the Marigold apartment complex wouldn't have a dramatic impact on city homeowners, according to a report to the council.

The increased property taxes resulting from rejection of the project would be $3.76 a year for the owner of a $100,000 home in 2016. For a $150,000 home, the increase would be $6.61, rising to $9.47 for a $200,000 homestead. The bump in taxes would continue until the bonds are paid off.

ÒIn 2016, that will be a gallon of gas," said Councilman Bill Schindle, a skeptic of the project.

Councilman-elect Kim Spears, speaking in the portion of the meeting reserved for public comment, suggested the impact could be $0 for property owners if the Port Authority -- the city's semi-independent economic development arm -- covers the bond payments from its reserves.

"They do have a debt service fund," Spears said.

While the council isn't expected to make a final decision on the project until its Dec. 5 meeting at the earliest, opponents of the project spoke out again Monday saying it's too big and too close to single-family homes -- even by the city's own zoning standards.

Heather Milton of Wheeler Avenue said the council shouldn't make an exception to its own development criteria to save taxpayers the equivalent of a Starbucks drink.

"It's like you say, the price of a gallon of gas or maybe a cup of coffee," Milton said.

Getting a project on the site, after more than two decades of trying, isn't only about covering the city's debt obligations, however, according to backers of the plan. It will also grow the city's tax base -- once the debt is retired and a tax subsidy to the developer expires in 15 years or so -- and bring new customers to the downtown business district.

But one Belgrade business owner came out against the plan at Monday's meeting.

"I think you should seriously think about denying it," said Sharon Schaller, owner of Sharon's Craft-N-Floral Center.

Schaller raised a new objection -- inadequate drainage for the complex. She said plans show it's designed to handle a "10-year 24-hour rain event," which sounded good until she looked into what that meant.

"You find out it's three inches of rain in 24 hours," Schaller said. "... I just don't believe the drainage is adequate."

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