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Board weighs requests from lakeshore property owners seeking lower property values

WILLMAR -- The values placed on lakeshore lots were questioned by a majority of the property owners who appeared Monday night before the Kandiyohi County Board of Appeal and Equalization.

The board, which is made up of the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners, is considering appeals by 16 different property owners, an entire lake association that's objecting to lakeshore values and a group of people who purchased land on Lake Florida with the intent of keeping it "wild."

There hadn't been this many people appealing their valuations for about 15 years, said Chairman Dennis Peterson, who is the eldest member of the board.

Faced with the current poor market conditions, some property owners questioned why their values increased rather than decreased.

But property values are based, in part, on the sale of comparable property from about 18 months ago. At that time, land sales were still quite strong in this area.

"We'll listen to what you have to say," said Peterson, as he opened the meeting and explained the procedure.

The commissioners listened to the arguments of the property owners for about three hours on Monday night. They'll resume their meeting at 1:30 p.m. today when they'll hear rebuttals from Assessor Tim Falkum, who'll explain his reasons for the values.

The commissioners have 10 days to decide whether or not to adjust the market values on a case-by-case basis.

Nearly all of the appeals came from the northern part of the county, where the lakes are located. Most were residential lots, along with a few parcels of farm land and one Spicer business.

Most came armed with appraisals, surveys, sales of comparable property and other documents to show that the county assessor had placed too high a value on their land.

David Stulen said he was "shocked" that the value of his Irving Township home had increased $76,000 with no improvements made since last year, except for a flag pole in his front yard.

Bruce Johnson questioned why a 10-acre alfalfa field he owns in Harrison Township was assessed at a much higher rate than his other lakeshore property, including lakeshore with structures on it. "I'm getting hosed on these 10 acres," he said. "It's way over-valued for what it is."

Grant Gaasterland said land he'd owned for many years in New London Township near undesirable swampy water was classified as lakeshore for the first time this year, which increased the market value by about $85,000. He said no one would want to put a home near that water, which he said had been used for the Spicer sanitary sewer years ago.

His neighbor told the commissioners she'd be embarrassed if the green scummy water in that area is what Kandiyohi County considers a lake.

Former Kandiyohi County Administrator, Wayne Thompson took on the role of lobbyist in a letter he wrote on behalf of the Norway and Games Lake Improvement Association.

Considering the infestation of Eurasian Milfoil and poor water clarity, Thompson wrote that the $1,600 per foot of lakeshore on Norway Lake is too high, especially when compared to the $1,750 values for Lake Florida, which Thompson said has better water clarity and a sanitary sewer system. He asked that the Norway Lake values be reduced to $1,200.

Like he did last year, Henry Zimmer appealed the values of his rural Irving Township property. He's also taking the county to court over property taxes. On Monday he told the commissioners he wanted to be reimbursed the $50 he paid the county sheriff to serve court papers to Falkum in April. Zimmer claimed Falkum refused to sign the papers and so he was forced pay the fee to have papers delivered by the sheriff.

In a later interview, Falkum said Zimmer didn't have the correct papers with him when he was initially asked to sign them at a township board of review meeting. Falkum said he invited Zimmer to bring the papers to his office, but he never did.

For the first time, the commissioners looked at electronic pictures of the property that are part of the county's GIS system. It's hoped that the detailed visuals will eliminate the need for commissioners to tour properties in person before deciding whether or not to lower the values.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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