City of Fairfax, MN
Renville County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the City Council of the City of Fairfax 7-5-1989. Amendments noted where applicable.]
These policies establish a procedure for making public improvements and levying special assessments pursuant to the requirements of Minnesota Statutes. When an improvement conveys special benefit to properties in a definable area, the City intends to levy special assessments on the benefitted properties to finance such improvements. It is the policy of the City that the amount of the assessment for public improvements should not exceed the special benefit to the property. The City will use the assessment policies to insure that assessments have a reasonable relationship to benefits. Public improvements covered by this policy manual include the construction of streets, storm sewer, sanitary sewer, waterworks, and other public improvements allowed by state law.
A. 
Initiation of improvements. Improvements may be initiated by the City Council or by petition of not less than 35% of the affected property owners. Petitions requesting improvements will be received by the Council until the last day of August of the year prior to the year of requested construction. Petitions after this date will be received only upon special consent of the Council. The City Council shall, by resolution, determine whether or not the petition has been signed by the required percentage of owners of the property affected by such petition.
B. 
Procedure. The City Council shall, by resolution, adopt a procedure for the implementation of the local improvement process. A copy of the procedure shall be kept on file in the office of the City Clerk-Treasurer and appended to this policy manual. The procedure shall outline the steps to be followed in determining the need for an improvement and adopting assessments.
C. 
Project cost. The "project cost" of an improvement shall be deemed to include the cost of all necessary construction work required to accomplish the improvement, plus expenses incurred or to be incurred in making the improvement, including engineering, legal, administrative, financing, right-of-way, and other contingent cost.
D. 
City cost. Where the project cost of an improvement is not entirely attributable to the need for service to the areas served by said improvement, or where unusual conditions beyond the control of the property owners in the area served by the improvement would result in an inequitable distribution of special assessments, the City, through the use of other funds, may pay such "City costs" which, in the opinion of the City Council, represents those costs not directly attributable to the area served.
E. 
Assessable cost. The "assessable cost" of an improvement shall be defined as those costs which, in the opinion of the City Council, are attributable to the need for service in the areas served by the improvement and are not in excess of the special benefit conveyed to the property by the improvements. Said assessable cost shall be equal to the project cost of the current project as defined above, minus City cost as defined above, minus other financial assistance applied to the project.
F. 
Use of other funds. If financial assistance is received from the federal government, from the State of Minnesota, or from any other source to defray a portion of the cost of a given improvement, such aid will first be used to reduce the City cost of the improvement. If the financial assistance received is greater than the normal City cost, the remainder of the aid will be used to reduce the special assessments against the benefiting properties. Such reductions will be applied on a pro-rata basis.
G. 
City property. City-owned property, including municipal building sites, parks, and playgrounds, but not including public streets and alleys shall be regarded as being assessable on the same basis as if such property was privately owned.
H. 
Distribution of assessments. The assessable costs of the improvement shall be distributed among the affected property owners according to one of the procedures outlined in § A281-3.
(1) 
Adjusted frontage shall be expressed to the nearest foot.
(2) 
"Area" shall be defined as the gross area of the parcel or lot which is benefitted, in terms of square feet or acres. All property within district boundaries is to be included. District boundaries shall be determined by the Superintendent of Streets or the City Engineer.
(3) 
Unit or lot: When the City Council determines that the assessable cost would be more equitably distributed on a unit basis, the assessable unit may be the lot or other equitable unit adopted by the Council.
(4) 
Measures of dimension, distance, or size shall be based on recorded platting data, wherever possible.
I. 
Application of policy. In the event the literal application of the provisions delineated herein would result in an inequitable distribution of special assessments, the City Council reserves the right to adjust the policy so as to achieve a more equitable distribution. Such adjustment may be based on current or anticipated land use.
J. 
Time of assessments. Levying of assessments generally occurs in the current year of construction.
A. 
Distribution of assessments. Several methods exist for assessing property benefitted by local improvements projects. It is the policy of the City to use the method that most equitably distributes the project costs. A description of the methods generally used by the City appears in this section. How these methods will be used in relation to specific types of improvements will be described in later sections.
B. 
Front foot method.
(1) 
Improvement costs are commonly distributed according to the adjusted front footage of a parcel or lot. In this method, the City determines a rate of assessment per front foot. This rate applies to each parcel as follows:
Assessment =
Assessment rate per front foot x Parcel's adjusted front footage
(2) 
The City will choose from among the following methods to calculate adjusted front footage based on which method best reflects the benefit received from the improvement.
C. 
Rectangular interior lots. For rectangular interior lots, the footage equals the dimension of the side of the lot abutting the improvement.
X = FRONTAGE
D. 
Cul-de-sac lots. For cul-de-sac lots, one of the following methods applies:
(1) 
Footage equals the lot width at the building setback line; or
(2) 
Footage equals the average of front and rear lots.
1.
Y = Frontage
2.
x + z
=
Frontage
2
E. 
Curved frontage. For other lots with curved frontage, one of the following methods applies:
(1) 
Frontage equals lot width at the building setback line; or
(2) 
Frontage equals lot width at the front lot line.
1.
Y = Frontage
2.
X = Frontage
F. 
Irregular shaped lots. For lots with irregular shape frontage equals the average width of the lot.
x + z
2
= Frontage
G. 
Corner lots. When improvements are made to both sides of a corner lot, frontage will be determined by one of the following methods:
(1) 
For utility laterals-adjusted frontage equals the average front footage of both sides.
Frontage =
x + z
    2
(2) 
For street improvements-adjusted frontage equals the sum of both sides minus a side lot allowance of 50 feet.
Frontage = (x + z) - 50 feet
(3) 
For curb- and gutter-adjusted frontage equals the sum of both sides abutting the improvement.
Frontage = x + z
H. 
Area method.
(1) 
Assessments may be distributed according to the gross area of the benefitted lot or parcel. The assessable area shall be expressed in terms of the number of acres or the number of square feet subject to assessment.
Assessment =
Area to assessed (acres or square feet) x
assessment rate per acre or square feet.
(2) 
Where appropriate, an allowance will be made for streets. When the area is platted, the deduction will be for actual and proposed street right-of-way. For unplatted land with no streets platted or proposed, a deduction of 20% of the gross acreage applies as a street credit.
I. 
Unit/lot method. When the City Council determines that the assessable cost would be more equitably distributed on a unit basis, all lots in the area to be included will be assessed equally.
Assessment =
Assessable Cost
Number of Lots
A. 
Laterals.
(1) 
Definition. "Sanitary sewer laterals" are defined as sanitary sewer lines eight inches in diameter or less extending from the trunk sewer and designed to serve individual properties.
(2) 
Assessable cost. The assessable cost for sanitary sewer laterals equals the entire project cost.
(3) 
Distribution of assessments. Unless otherwise specified by the Council, assessable costs will be distributed to benefitted property on an adjusted frontage basis. Assessments for sanitary sewer laterals will be levied at the same time against all benefitted property in the area.
B. 
Service lines.
(1) 
Definition. "Service lines" are defined as a sanitary sewer line that allows individual connection to the sewer system.
(2) 
Assessable cost. The assessable cost equals the entire project cost for the service lines.
(3) 
Maintenance. Maintenance of service lines is the responsibility of the property owner. The cost of repair, maintenance, or replacement of service lines shall be assessed to the property owner. In cases where the service becomes clogged, obstructed, detrimental to the use of the public sewer, or unfit for the purpose of drainage, the owner shall make repairs as directed by the City's representative. The property owner may correct the improper discharge condition. In order to preserve the owner's right to cost sharing as defined hereinafter, the owner must obtain prior approval of the nature and cost of the work by the City. If the City performs or contracts for the work or if the property owner obtains prior approval from the City for the repair, one-half the cost of such repair shall be paid by the City and the property owner shall pay the remaining one-half of the cost. The City Clerk-Treasurer shall mail notice to the property owner of the amount of the property owner's cost. If the property owner does not pay the owner's share of the cost in full within 30 days after mailing of such notice, the City may spread the charges so unpaid against the real estate of the owner as a special assessment under Minnesota Law for certification to the County Auditor for collection along with the current real estate taxes. At the time of such certification the City shall direct that the special assessment be paid in a single installment or it may direct that the assessment be paid in up to five equal annual installments at 0% interest.
C. 
Hookups.
(1) 
Charges. The City Council may set by resolution a charge for allowing properties to connect to the sanitary sewer system.
A. 
Laterals.
(1) 
Definition. "Lateral water lines" are defined as water mains of a size less than six inches in diameter.
(2) 
Assessable costs. The assessable cost of laterals equals the entire project cost of lateral improvements.
(3) 
Distribution of assessments. Unless otherwise specified by the Council, the assessable cost will be distributed on a front foot basis.
B. 
Service lines.
(1) 
Definition. "Service lines" are defined as a water distribution line that allows individual connection to the water system.
(2) 
Assessable costs. The assessable cost equals the entire project cost for the service lines.
(3) 
Maintenance. Maintenance of service lines is the responsibility of the property owner from the curb stop connection to property owner's residence. The cost of repair, maintenance, or replacement of service lines shall be assessed to the property owner.
(4) 
Freeze up of service lines. The initial thawing of water lines will be the responsibility of the City. All succeeding freeze up of lines will be cost shared on a percentage basis between the homeowner and the City. The percentage will be determined by measuring area from main to curb stop and the curb stop to the house apportioning the cost per foot. The City will assume responsibility of footage percentage from main to curb stop and the homeowner will assume footage percentage from curb stop to house.
[Amended 3-8-1994]
C. 
Hookups.
(1) 
Charges. The City Council may set by resolution a charge for allowing properties to connect to the water distribution system.
The following procedure for the cost of installation of electrical services by said City:
A. 
New construction.
(1) 
Overhead service: City to furnish and install at no charge.
(2) 
Underground services: Property owner to pay 1/2 of the difference in cost between overhead and underground services.
B. 
Replacement services.
(1) 
Overhead services: Replaced at no cost to property owner.
(2) 
Replace overhead with underground: Property owner to pay 1/2 of the difference in cost between overhead and underground services.
(3) 
Upgraded underground service: All cost to property owner.
A. 
Definition. "Storm sewer systems" are defined as storm sewer pipes, open drainageways, storage sites and ponding areas designed to provide for the control of stormwater and groundwater over a particular area.
B. 
Assessable cost. The storm sewer system improvements shall be the responsibility of the City. Exception: Storm sewers serving private parcels or lots shall be considered private storm sewers and the cost shall be borne entirely by those tracts or parcels benefitting.
C. 
Distribution of assessments. The City shall determine the area to be benefitted by the storm sewer improvement. Assessable costs for such improvements shall be distributed on an area or lot basis to benefitted properties. (Storm sewers serving private parcels.)
D. 
Addition laterals. Should smaller storm sewer laterals and catch basins be required with street construction, these additional costs may be included in the street construction assessment.
A. 
Street construction.
(1) 
Definition. Street construction is defined as the initial installation of a permanent street into an area, consisting of all necessary grading, base, drainage, hard surfacing, and curb and gutter.
(2) 
Policy. Street construction will occur only after all utilities and utility service lines have been installed to serve each known and assumed location. No street construction shall be approved for less than both sides of a street except as necessary to complete the improvement of a block which has previous partial completion. No street construction will take place without curb and gutter. Typical street design standards are as follows: Residential areas "five-ton" design normally 33 feet in width measured between the faces of curbing. Commercial and industrial areas "nine-ton" design normally 40 feet in width measured between the faces of curbing.
(3) 
Assessable cost. The assessable cost equals the entire project cost for the street construction, including intersections, alley openings and street opening.
(4) 
Distribution of assessments. The assessable costs for street construction shall be distributed among benefitted properties on an adjusted frontage basis except (1) in the case of improvements to irregular shaped or cul-de-sac lots where assessable costs can more equitably be spread on a lot basis or (2) unless otherwise specified by the City Council.
(5) 
Additional capacity. The City shall pay the cost for extra width and strength when the Council determines such additional capacity is necessary. If the property owner(s) request or require additional width or strength, the cost of such additional capacity shall be borne by the property owner(s).
B. 
Street reconstruction.
(1) 
Definition. "Street reconstruction" is defined as the rehabilitation of an existing street.
(2) 
Assessable cost. When reconstruction projects are required the project cost shall be borne by the City.
C. 
Resurfacing.
(1) 
Definition. "Resurfacing" is defined as the act of prolonging street life by applying a sealcoat of oil and pea rock, or other materials.
(2) 
Assessable cost. The resurfacing project shall be borne by the City.
If a special assessment is levied against a tract of land which is later subdivided, the installments remaining unpaid can be apportioned among the various lots and parcels in the tract upon a finding that such apportionment will not materially impair collection of the balance due. This may be done upon application of the property owner or by the Council action upon its own motion, but notice of such apportionment and of the right to appeal must be mailed to or personally served upon all owners of any part of the tract.
The City Council may, subject to legal notice and hearing requirements, make supplemental assessments to correct omissions, errors, or mistakes in the relating to the total cost of the improvement or any other particular item. If an assessment is set aside by a court for any reason or if the Council finds that the assessment or any part of it is excessive or determines on advice of the City Attorney that is or may be invalid for any reason, the Council may upon notice and hearing as required for the original assessment make a reassessment or a new assessment as to such parcel or parcels.
A. 
The City Council may provide for the collection of certain service charges as a special assessment against the property benefitting from the service. Special charges that may be assessed include those for:
(1) 
Snow, ice or rubbish removal from sidewalks, weed elimination from streets or private property;
(2) 
Removal or elimination of public health or safety hazards from private property;
(3) 
Installation or repair of water service lines;
(4) 
Street sprinkling or other dust treatment of streets;
(5) 
The trimming and care of trees and the removal of trees from any street and the treatment and removal of insect-infested or diseased trees on private property;
(6) 
The repair of sidewalks and alleys;
(7) 
In cases where the property owner requests the connection of the premises to the utilities, the obligation rests on the owner for all unpaid charges. It permits placing the obligation for all utility services upon the owner and provides for collecting unpaid bills with taxes.
B. 
Implementation of this section must be authorized by the City Code. Provisions for the levy and collection of the assessment are the same as for other improvements except that any special assessment levied under this section is payable in no more than 10 annual installments, the number to be determined by the Council.
A. 
Partial prepayment. After the adoption by the City Council of the assessment roll in any local improvement proceeding, the owner of any property specially assessed in the proceeding may, prior to the certification of the assessment of the first installment to the County Auditor, pay to the City Clerk-Treasurer any portion of the assessment. The remaining unpaid balance shall be spread over the period of time established by the Council for installment payment of the assessment.
B. 
Certification of assessments. After the adoption of any special assessment by the Council, the City Clerk-Treasurer shall transmit a certified duplicate of the assessment roll with each installment, including interest, set forth separately to the County Auditor on an annual basis to be extended on the proper tax lists of the county.
A. 
Outside City limits. If the City installs utility facilities which benefit property which lies outside the corporate limits, that area and the allocable costs shall be included in the original public hearing for the improvement. The City may attempt to negotiate a contract with the property owner of the property lying outside the City which will provide for payment to the City on the same basis as if the property were within the City and to be assessed for the improvement as a prepayment upon completion of the project. If such a contract cannot be executed, the City will assume the temporary responsibility for payment of the cost allocable to the property lying outside the City limits. In the event, the original principal amount of the assessment, if it had been assessed, plus accumulated interest, shall be increased annually by a percentage to be determined by Council up to a maximum of 15, years for which no payment is made. At the time of annexation of the property to the City, a subsequent public hearing may be held for that property and an assessment roll prepared, adopted and certified to the County Auditor, payable at the same rate and terms except for the total amount, as were applicable to other property owners included in the original assessment. The City shall reserve the right to delay the assessment at the same time it causes to be constructed other public improvements on the property following its annexation. When property lies outside the City limits, no physical connection to the City's utility or drainage system will be permitted until a utility agreement and contract, including satisfaction of costs or assessments, is executed.
B. 
Senior citizens.
(1) 
Criteria. In determining whether or not a senior citizen is eligible for deferral of special assessment installment payments, the following criteria are established:
(a) 
Senior citizens special assessment hardship deferral applies to special assessments levied after the date of the adoption of this policy;
(b) 
Senior citizens special assessment hardship deferral applies to qualifying special assessments against all properties classified as "homestead" pursuant to Minnesota Statute, where one or more of the owners of such property is 65 years of age or older and it would create a hardship for the owner or owners of the property to pay the special assessment installments as they become due;
(c) 
It shall be presumed that a hardship exists if:
[1] 
The annual assessment installment exceeds 1% of the previous year's total adjusted gross incomes, for federal income tax purposes, for all owners of the property; in no event shall total adjusted gross income include social security benefits, railroad retirement benefits, retirement benefits attributable to employee contributions, disability benefits, personal injury awards or workmen's compensation payments; and
[2] 
All owners of the property verify, by completing an application provided by the City.
(d) 
In cases where exceptional and unusual circumstances exist, the City Council may determine that a hardship exists despite the fact that the minimum income requirements of Subsection B(1)(c) are not met; such cases shall be decided by the Council on a case-by-case basis.
(2) 
Interest. Interest shall be charged on any assessment deferred pursuant to this chapter at a rate equal to the rate charged on other assessments for the particular public improvement project the assessment is financing.
(3) 
Termination of deferment. The option to defer the payment of special assessments pursuant to this chapter shall terminate and all installment amounts previously deferred, plus applicable interest, shall become due upon the occurrence of any of the following events:
(a) 
Request of property owner;
(b) 
Death of property owner 65 years of age or older, providing the surviving owner is otherwise not eligible for the deferral;
(c) 
Sale.
(d) 
The City determines that hardship no longer exists;
(e) 
The property, for any reason, loses its homestead status.
The Fairfax City Council adopted the following process for the initiation, review and assessment of local public improvement projects.
A. 
Project initiation. Projects may be initiated in two ways: (1) Petition by 35% of the affected property owners; or (2) by order of the City Council. Unless otherwise authorized by the City Council, petitions for improvements must be submitted by September 1.
B. 
Petition review. If project is petitioned, the City Council must determine if the petition conforms with the guidelines of Minnesota Statute 429-035.
C. 
Feasibility report. The Council instructs the City Engineer to prepare a preliminary report on the proposed improvement. The report will indicate feasibility of proceeding with improvement and estimated costs.
D. 
Accept feasibility report/call for hearing. The City Engineer will submit the feasibility report to the Council. The Council will then schedule a date for a public hearing on the improvement. Notice of hearing will be mailed to all affected property owners at least 10 days prior to the hearing date. Notice of hearing will also be published twice in the Fairfax Standard.
E. 
Public hearing on improvement. The purpose of the hearing is to give all interested property owners a chance to make comment on the proposed improvement. If the project is petitioned by 100% of the affected property owners, then this step may be skipped.
F. 
Order improvement/preparations of plans. If the City Council chooses to proceed with the project, then the improvement is ordered. The City Engineer will be directed to prepare the necessary plans and specifications.
G. 
Approving plans and specifications/ordering advertisement of bids. When the City Engineer has completed the plans and specifications, they will be presented for consideration to the City Council. Upon approval of the plans and specifications, the Council will direct the City Clerk-Treasurer to advertise for bids for making the improvement. At a minimum, the advertisement will be placed in the Fairfax Standard and the Construction Bulletin. The Council shall also set a time for the bid opening. Generally, the City will allow a thirty-day period between calling for bids and opening bids.
H. 
Order assessment roll/assessment hearing. If 100% of the affected property owners have not petitioned for the improvement or signed a waiver of rights to appeal, then the City Council shall begin the assessment process. The Council will declare costs to be assessed, order preparation of the assessment roll and set a date for a public hearing on the assessments. The purpose of scheduling assessment proceedings at this time is to deal with disputes over the assessment prior to awarding the bid and beginning construction. Notice of hearing shall be published in the Fairfax Standard and mailed to all affected property owners.
I. 
Accepting bids. At the time and place previously established, the City Council shall open and review all sealed bids for the improvement. The City may accept and retain all or a portion of the bids. The City may also defer awarding the bid for a period of time not to exceed 60 days. The purpose of the delay is to allow staff time to review the bids and to allow for assessment hearings, if necessary.
J. 
Assessment hearing. The assessment hearing is held at this time only if the Council has previously determined the need to do so. The purpose of the hearing is to give property owners the opportunity to object to the proposed assessment. Objections may be made at the hearing or submitted in writing prior to or at the hearing. At its direction, the Council may consider any objection to the amount of a proposed individual assessment at an adjourned meeting. The purpose of such additional inquiry is to determine objectively and in an adversary proceeding whether the amount of the assessment exceeds the benefit conveyed to the property. At such an adjourned meeting, both the City and the property owner will be given the opportunity to present oral and written testimony.
K. 
Adopting assessment. Upon determination of final assessment amounts, the Council shall adopt the assessment roll. Any property owner who has formally objected to the assessment has 30 days to appeal the assessment to District Court.
L. 
Awarding bids. When the City Council has completed all necessary review and hearings, it may award the bid to the lowest acceptable bidder.
M. 
Construction. Once the City has entered into a contract with the successful bidder, construction of the improvement may begin.
N. 
Assessment process. In those cases where the City has not undertaken the appropriate assessment proceedings, the Council shall initiate the assessment process (Steps H, J, K).