By Meg Britton-Mehlisch firstname.lastname@example.org Jan 7, 2020
The Minnesota Capitol.
A $30,000 contract with Twin-cities based lobbying firm Messerli & Kramer is the latest attempt by the city of Prior Lake to get the Legislature to give cities the authority to charge developers for the cost of road improvements near their projects.
In a sign of regional unity, Scott County Association for Leadership and Efficiency members last month promised to reimburse the city for the cost.
“Never before has there been such solidarity,” Prior Lake Mayor and SCALE Chairman Kirt Briggs said. “When you’ve got the full weight of SCALE, that sends a big message.”
The City Council on Monday unanimously approved a contract to employ the lobbying firm until May to try to persuade legislators to support two bills in the Minnesota House and Senate. The legislative session resumes Feb. 11.
In March, Sens. Eric Pratt (R-Prior Lake) and John Hoffman (DFL-Champlin) and Reps. Brad Tabke (DFL-Shakopee) and Tony Albright (R-Prior Lake) introduced bills that would give cities the ability to charge a developer for a new subdivision’s impact on the local transportation system.
The money would be used for things like stoplights, turn lanes and street signs on roads to and from the subdivision.
The bills also create a system for developers to challenge a fee if they believe the fee isn’t proportional to the development’s impact on the city’s infrastructure.
SCALE members agreed to cover the lobbying costs and to add “pay for safe streets” to the organization’s list of legislative priorities.
Last year’s legislative priorities included changing the governance model of the Metropolitan Council to elected instead of appointed officials, increasing affordable housing through tax incentives, and state bonds for transportation and flood projects.
Over the last year Prior Lake has led the charge for street impact fees, arguing that development should pay for itself and not be offset by higher taxes for existing residents.
The city and developer groups have struggled to find common ground in months of meetings. Developers point to an August 2018 Minnesota Supreme Court ruling that affirmed cities did not have the statutory authority to charge these kinds of fees.
In February, the city passed a resolution urging state legislators to adopt a statute for the fees. The Scott County Board of Commissioners and the cities of Savage, New Prague, Belle Plaine, Jordan, Elko New Market, Shakopee and Credit River Township followed suit.
Until the Supreme Court decision, the city charged a street impact fee of $6,500 per acre for new developments to cover newly needed roads nearby. City officials estimate the decision will cost the city more than $25 million over the next few decades based on the amount of undeveloped land in the city, including recent annexations.
According to the SCALE legislative priorities document, the League of Minnesota Cities and Metro Cities listed the legalization of street impact fees on their 2020 platforms as well.
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