The Grand Forks City Council turned down a request to revalue a slew of apartment properties in the city — a move that would have refunded an apartment company nearly $200,000 on its 2017 taxes, according to the city.
The 5-0 vote upheld the city's 2017 valuation on roughly a dozen IRET Properties apartment buildings throughout the city, with hundreds of units between them. Among those buildings is the Cardinal Point Apartments building, among the largest apartment buildings in Grand Forks.
The result of the vote will be sent as a recommendation to county officials, city documents state. But City Administrator Todd Feland said that, if past is prologue, it's unlikely the city's conclusion would be overturned.
"(IRET's lawyers) have a right to appeal their values, and I think they're exercising their right to see what they can get for their client," City Assessor Paul Houdek said on Tuesday afternoon, prior to the meeting, pointing out that a lower property valuation means a lower tax bill. "I don't think there's anything specific about that year or these properties that would be why they're doing this."
Requests for revaluation aren't uncommon before the City Council. Local government records on property value are important for calculating property taxes, and case in point is Cardinal Point — with a 2019 market value of nearly $29.5 million, according to county records, with a taxable value of about $1.5 million in 2019 and a local property tax bill in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The request denied by the City Council would have affected $193,000 in taxes paid on the 2017 year across IRET’s lengthy list of local properties, Houdek said, and would have been refunded to local taxing entities.
IRET lawyers with the firm Fredrikson & Byron did not speak before the council on Tuesday evening, and a spokesperson with IRET did not return a request for comment.
A lawyer with Fredrikson & Byron found himself facing strong comments from city leaders last week when he distributed supporting documents for the revaluation to city leaders and a Herald reporter listing detailed information about IRET properties, including hundreds of tenant names and addresses. It triggered an immediate rebuke from City Council member Danny Weigel.
“Do all these people know that you just entered their names and addresses into the public record?” Weigel asked. “Because I already found one police officer that lives here.”
The Herald, which obtained a copy of those records, does not intend to publish the personal data they contain.
Also Tuesday, the council approved, on a 5-0 vote, a letter of intent outlining the hope to include Grand Forks Air Force Base within city recycling and trash pickup services. The letter doesn't formalize the relationship — and the fine details have yet to be agreed upon — but Feland told the City Council the city doesn't intend to "subsidize" services on the base. The deal, he said, is one that would be mutually beneficial to both the city and the base.
After the meeting, Feland framed the item's importance in terms of the ties between the Air Force base and the city.
"What can we do to extend city services and provide win-wins?" Feland said. "The win for us that we're still getting paid for the services that we're providing."