Winona County District Court File No. CX-02-604.
Considered and decided by Minge, Presiding Judge; Harten, Judge; and Halbrooks, Judge.
1. To rebut the presumption that an approved assessment roll is valid and that the benefit of the municipal improvement exceeds the amount of a special assessment, a property owner must clearly testify that the assessment exceeds the benefit.
2. A municipality has reasonable discretion to divide property into different classes for assessment purposes and may consider such factors as the timeline for development and the additional cost of extending the proposed utilities to undeveloped property.
3. A municipality must comply with its ordinances in determining the benefits and assessing the costs of public improvements.
4. If failure to correctly identify the larger area benefited by an improvement affects the entire assessment roll, the district court may order a reassessment of all the property on the roll.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Minge, Judge
Appellant city challenges the district court's judgment setting aside its assessment and ordering a reassessment of all property covered by the assessment roll. Although respondent's evidence as to cost and value is insufficient to rebut the presumption of the assessment's validity, we agree with the district court that the city did not comply with its ordinance in determining the gross developable area benefited by the improvement. Because that error affects the entire assessment roll, we affirm the district court's disapproval of the assessment roll and we remand to the city for reassessment not inconsistent with this opinion.
Respondent David E. McNally Development Corporation is a corporation, whose primary business is real-estate development. Respondent was the developer of Bluffview Subdivision, located within the boundaries of appellant City of Winona, and was the owner of four lots and one out lot within phase one of the subdivision. Three of its lots were subsequently sold on contracts for deed.
Respondent petitioned the city to extend and construct water and sewer lines for Bluffview Subdivision. On December 18, 2000, appellant enacted Ordinance 3481, providing that 80% of the cost of constructing the improvements to the benefited property would be assessed based on acres or square footage of the gross developable acres. When respondent requested an estimate, appellant's city engineer advised him that each lot would be assessed $938.52 for the trunk lines.
The total cost of sewer and water extensions was $570,291. Although smaller diameter lines would have adequately serviced the subdivision, the city installed a 24-inch sewer trunk line and a 16-inch water trunk line to accommodate potential future development in West Burns Valley, beyond the Bluffview Subdivision. On March 4, 2002, appellant assessed each lot in Bluffview Subdivision, including those of respondent, a total of $5,350.56. Respondent contested the assessment on April 2, 2002, arguing ...