Council approves tax abatement for 4 new homes to be built

Published 9:19 pm Monday, November 22, 2021

The Albert Lea City Council on Monday approved tax abatement for four new single family homes being built within the city.

The city has a policy in place that allows for 100% of tax abatement for the city’s share of real estate taxes for newly constructed single-family, duplex or multi-family homes for five years. The same is also usually approved at the Freeborn County and school district levels.

The houses will be built at the following addresses:

• 1718 Keystone Drive

• 1814 Tiger Ridge Drive

• 1710 Keystone Drive

• 1623 Massee Street

The abatement covers the increase in property taxes resulting from the improvements, and land values are not eligible to be abated.

City staff and the council in the last few weeks have discussed amending the policy in the future to allow a shorter abatement for new construction, but additional time could get added for other factors. The city is also considering abatements for people who make significant improvements to rehab existing residential properties, and for efforts to make a property more green, or eco-friendly, to build on a vacant or underused lot between existing homes, to provide multi-family housing or to provide housing for low- to moderate- income households.

More discussion about modifications to the policy are expected to take place at a later meeting.

In other action, the council:

• Amended the professional services agreement with SRF Consulting Group for the East Main Street resurfacing and trail project in 2022. The city has been in an agreement with the consulting firm since July, looking into drainage improvements to reduce the risk of flooding near the intersection of East Main Street and Freeborn County Road 38.

City Engineer Steven Jahnke said initially the company thought crews would be able to install a storm sewer along County Road 38, but as it investigated further it found there was a private storm sewer on the south side of East Main Street.

City background information said improving the drainage would not have been possible while maintaining the connection to the private system, so a new storm sewer system was designed with city right-of-way that will drain the area to the large culverts that run underneath Interstate 35.

The additional design needed for this increased the firm’s maximum fee for design services to about $55,000 and its construction phase services to about $120,000, which includes 18 weeks now, instead of the original 14-week estimate.

Construction costs were originally estimated at $1.8 million for this portion, but now are expected to be closer to $2.6 million. Jahnke said federal funds were hoped to be obtained to cover 80% of the cost.

• Approved a temporary easement agreement with the Minnesota Department of Transportation for the East Main Street project in 2022. The project includes resurfacing, shared-user trail installation and flood mitigation.

The flood mitigation includes raising a portion of the road between Newton and Elizabeth avenues, including the property at 404 E. Main St.

The temporary easement agreement gives MnDOT and its contractors access to the property to complete the improvements, including regrading and turf reestablishment.

• Ordered the removal of hazardous structures at 720 Minnesota Ave.

Building official Wayne Sorensen said there had been a fire in both the upper level and in the basement of the home. In the upper level, there was extensive damage, and the fire had gone through the roof on one side of the house.

Sorensen said the owner signed a voluntary agreement for removal and agreed to have the costs of doing so assessed to the property.

There were no insurance funds to go toward cleanup.

Sorensen said the demolition is slated to be competed by the end of the year.

• Approved a resolution levying special assessments for miscellaneous delinquent water and sewer accounts and miscellaneous delinquent accounts receivable.

The resolution included assessment costs for removals at 318 E. Eight St., 405 Court St., 710 Valley Ave. and 1442 Lee Ave.