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Thread: Commercial Highway Special Assessments

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    Commercial Highway Special Assessments

    One of our clients is searching for some info on how to special assess a transportation project. In brief, the State DOT is designing intersection improvements on a major commercial thoroughfare. Our firm is working with the DOT on this design. The new and revised design will result in additional work to improve the geometrics of one intersection and the DOT has informed the community that this additional $50,000 or so was not part of the original design and the community will be required to pay for these new improvements. The community would like to spread this cost out to all the businesses on the thorooughfare that will benefit from the improvements (budgets were just adopted last month, so they cant just put the cost on the tax levy, and keep the project for 2004. The community is fishing for ideas on how to administer such an assessment: based on parcel areas, traffic generations, assessed values, square footages of buildings???

    The community does not need a lecture on whether or not this is 'good for business' so please avoid those posts. If anyone has some experience with this type situation or ideas on how to fairly assess the municiaplity's costs, please advise.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    First step: check your state statutes that enable special assessments; then any case law on how various methods have made judicial review.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    What Mike said.

    In order to levy a special assessment, I believe it is necessary to demonstrate that the improvement is for the direct benefit of the property. While you could assess the adjoining property owners, you might have a little more difficulty if you went beyond (i.e., area-wide). We typically do these based on frontage-foot, or less frequently based on parcel size. I am not sure of the legality of some of your other thoughts, like traffic generation or building size. You might run this one past the League of Municipalities.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Jeff's avatar
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    Ditto what Mike said....

    Various munis in PA have been trying this with little success. While it can be proven that improvements will benefit the property owners, its pretty hard to not argue that they aren't simply benefitting the community as a whole, therefore the community should foot the bill.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian SGB's avatar
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    The City of Ithaca, NY had a similar proposal recently for proposed access management improvements on NYS Route 13 (Meadow Street).

    Contact information for the city Planning Department can be found here.
    All these years the people said he’s actin’ like a kid.
    He did not know he could not fly, so he did.
    - - Guy Clark, "The Cape"

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    Jeff - I have pretty much come to the same conclusion.

    What they are trying to do is an 'area wide' assessment and prorate it based on trip count by user. There would be some significant traffic count that is not attributed to the users in the area, which would be the community's share.

    I'm still not sure it can survive a challenge though.

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