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Grand Forks sees rise in special assessments

Grand Forks has had a busy year for roadwork and new development, city officials say. While last year the city only listed projects requiring approximately $6 million in special assessments, staffers this year determined they will need more than $18.

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Grand Forks City Hall

Grand Forks has had a busy year for roadwork and new development, city officials say.

While last year the city only listed projects requiring approximately $6 million in special assessments, staffers this year determined they will need more than $18.8 million.

However, residents won't notice any drastic changes in their special assessment bills.
That's because the city has increased its project cost share from 50 to 80 percent, according to City Administrator Todd Feland. He added a 0.5 percent increase in sales tax will also help offset additional costs to taxpayers.

"Many of these projects wouldn't have happened without the sales tax," Feland said.

Three percent of that $18.8 million covers road maintenance projects. In total, these kinds of projects cost $2.3 million, $1.8 million of which came from sales tax dollars.

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Infrastructure surrounding the new water treatment plant, including new roads around the site, account for 24.9 percent of this year's special assessments.

New annexations, mostly with land the city has annexed for the new water treatment plant, account for 4.8 percent of this year's special assessments.

Around 13 percent of these special assessments will go toward industrial development on the northern end of the city, where the Red River Biorefinery is being built.

The other 17.5 percent covers citywide maintenance projects and specific neighborhoods.

New development

The city is deferring 36.2 percent of special assessment costs for another three years. Most of those deferred special assessments are related to housing and development on the south end.

"The work just takes longer than one construction season," Special Assessment Coordinator Emily Fossen said.

By the time construction on all of those new housing developments in south Grand Forks is finished, staff estimate there will be approximately 230 new properties.

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"If we're creating 230 lots in one season that's quite a lot for the city to be investing in," Feland said.

City officials said they're working hard to communicate with residents who will be living at or responsible for these properties in three years.

"We're working a lot with the Realtors, to get that information out there," Fossen said. The real estate companies will eventually sell that property to future property owners.

Feland and other staffers said they've held numerous public hearings and meetings regarding this year's special assessments.

"Nobody attended the hearings, nobody protested and no one came to the council," Fossen said.

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