With no options immediately at hand, the Minot City Council agreed Monday to attach home demolition assessments to flooded properties, including properties purchased by buyers unaware that there would be a bill coming.
Council members empathized with property owners who received unexpected notices after buying properties that had clear titles at the time. The assessments didn't show up in the records because they had not yet been imposed.
Donna Marquart, who bought a third of lot that bordered her home for about $3,500, said she thought demolition costs already had been paid before she received a $8,811 bill.
"I am very willing to work with the city. I know there's a solution out there," Marquart said. "I certainly want to work with the city to bring back my area. It's a sad area, and it really needs people who care and want to make it better."
Darin Ballard, who did a title investigation before purchasing properties to rebuild on, also was not aware of about $36,000 in assessments on two properties. Ballard said he does not wish to push the burden onto the previous owner struggling to recover from the flood with the bill. He asked that should the city obtain a grant to help with demolition costs, those properties that exchanged hands since the demolition share in the funding.
"In every sense, there's a tragedy related to all those properties, and they should all be included in the solution," he said.
The city has sought to obtain state or federal funds that could be used for demolition but has not yet been successful. Mayor Curt Zimbelman said it may be that any funds that are obtained would be limited to helping residents who are low to moderate income.
The $745,471 in assessments will apply to 51 properties if no other funding is found. The city must file the assessments with the county auditor by Nov. 1 to be included in next year's taxes.
City attorney John Van Grinsven noted that if the city does use other funding to pay for the demolition assessments, that creates an unfair situation for the many additional flood victims who hired their own contractors to remove their damaged homes. Homeowners notified by First District Health Unit that their homes needed to be razed for health and safety could make repairs or demolish the home. If neither option was selected, the city had authority to remove the houses and bill the owners. Residents who hired their own contractors typically paid as much as a third less, but the cost in many cases remained several thousands of dollars.
In other business, the council:
voted 10-3 to settle a court case involving the appeal of a voluntary home acquisition. One homeowner who exhausted the appeals process and remained dissatisfied filed in district court. The city originally offered $134,435, which increased to $145,000 following a series of appeals. The council agreed to pay $150,000 to avoid further litigation costs.
voted to let expire on Dec. 31 a two-property tax exemption on up to $75,000 of value on newly constructed homes. Houses built this year or that already have gotten a substantial start toward construction still will get the exemption.
approved a special use permit to enable Baker Hughes Oilfield Services to store oil-field chemicals in quantities that exceed current allowances at its facility in north Minot.
approved a change to the comprehensive plan to allow higher residential densities in Minot and decrease the minimum allowable lot size from 7,500 square feet to 5,000 square feet.