Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Our new game - Guessing Property Tax Revenues on New Developments

Here's a little game anyone can play. Let's look at a proposed development and try to estimate what the future property tax collected will be when the project is completed. Let's try our chops at the most recent Mound downtown project!

First the facts...
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Johns Variety Building right before tear down
The property in question is part of an old downtown block on Mound's most significant intersection of vehicle traffic. Very valuable in terms of location as it's near the Dakota Rail Trail, and across the street from Mound True Value, and Mound Marketplace, where Jubilee Foods and other restaurants and retail stores. Also, the property borders and is close to some residential. Buildings that will be torn down are, for the most part, very old, and on their last legs in useful life. Property Taxes generated on these parcels in 2012 produced $53,141 dollars for Hennpin County and City of Mound.

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Exciting new Walgreens!
Going up is the new Walgreens with a convenient drive through, two driveway accesses, a new parking lot, and a small bistro restaurant.

The game is played as follows... how much in property tax will the new Walgreens produce? How does it compare to the properties that used to be there? This is valuable land, and we want to be sure this property is financially productive!

Our first contestant is yours truly...
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George Linkert, the guy whom the Mound City Council decided wasn't worth reappointing to the Planning Commission without any explanation.
.... George Linkert only has a couple years experience on the Planning Commission. His background in music and education make him look like an underdog. Let's hear what he's got to say....

George ~ After looking at similar parcels on County Roads in our area, "It's uncertain if the property taxes raised on the Walgreens Block will be more than what is collected currently. If it will be, it certainly doesn't seem like it will be much."

Ok, George seems to thinks the revenues from the new parcels will be a little higher, if not the same.

Next up to play are the experts from the Hennepin County Assessor's office...

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Mr. Assesor warming up his slide ruler.
.... these guys do this sort of analysis for a living, can you tell us how much in property taxes the new Walgreens development will make for local governments?

Mr. Assessor ~ "I am the one who deals with most of the Walgreen appeals in our Hennco cities we provided services to. .... I would consider more in the tax area of $100,000 to $105,000."

Really! Wow... $100,000 is quite a different number that what George got. How did you come up with that number?!

Mr. Assessor ~ "There are many reasons why tax estimates can vary from one property or parcel to another. Walgreen's stores as related to other larger retail centers and/or other freestanding retail facilities generally locate themselves on highly visible or strategic corner locations.
As we attempt to estimate market value we look at the market forces that are at play within each given location and more particularly to the individual real estate that is being appraised. The estimate provided on the Mound Walgreen's reflects the quality, condition and the age of that structure as compared to some of the other surrounding retail.

What we are not valuing is the long-term income stream and the considered bond rate return that Walgreen's real estate provides in the investment market."

OK, Thanks for playing Mr. Assessor!

Let's review the numbers. What did our contestants believe would be the property taxes generated from this new development....
George Linkert - $53,141
Mr. County Assessor - $100,000


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Complete Walgreens, picture taken from trail.
Now let's check the Hennepin County Website a few months later as the development is nearing completion and find out what the revenues generated on the new Walgreens development will be!

2013 Property Tax revenue $57, 490.90*

Which means George was off by approximately $4,000
Mr. Assessor is off by approximately $42,000

Congratulations George Linkert! You estimated the future property tax generated of this new development more accurately than the highly touted, better educated county assessor by $38,000!

* - This total doesn't included the finished Dakota Junction, which wasn't finished until last year and so it's numbers haven't been published yet. I'll guaranty you it won't be $38,000.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Being dumped by the City of Mound

Without warning or any discussion, the Mound City Council choose to ignore the Planning Commissions recommendations for appointments to it's panel. The City Council apparently decided to take a pass on my reappointment without comment.

They have taken a pass on a Planning Commission member that...
... attended every meeting in three years but one
... gathered and prepared information on most items that have been on agenda
... offered unique and thoughtful comments an most items on the agenda
... accepted and attended training sessions the city offered
... as well as went on other training sessions on his own prerogative

I am, of course, personally saddened about this development. But frankly, I am more sad that our City Council, most of whom have sat with me on the Planning Commission at one time or another, haven't appreciated me. Apparently my contributions to the discussion of Mound have been so offensive or wasteful, that the City Council wants to move in a different direction.

This is a sad move by this City Council.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Is Grandview a neighborhood or a shortcut?

The city of Mound was petitioned recently to consider slowing down traffic on Grandview Boulevard. This is another residential street providing a shortcut through a neighborhood people live on. It gets lots of fast cars going through it, so people don't have to drive through Mound's downtown.

It's good to see residents of Grandview Boulevard asking about ways to improve their street, though I believe it's going to take a lot more than a petition to get the city to take these concerns seriously. Their prevailing (and incorrect) belief is that if we have cars drive slower, then we are creating congestion. As we have discussed before, driving 5 MPH slower adds only seconds when one is driving through someone else's neighborhood.

Unfortunately, Grandview is a MSA street, which means that Mound get's state highway money to pay for the street, but there are strings attached to those funds. The state has guidelines about how MSA streets are to be built, including how wide it has to be, and what the minimum speed limit is (which is 30). There is highway money behind these streets, and so they are meant to have cars drive fast on them.

There is work being done at the state level to incorporate more pedestrian and bike features on these streets, but frankly, the process is slow, and several people that I have spoken with on these matters feel it's little more than lip service. The MSA system that is deeply ingrained in the way we build and manage cities. It's only value is that it cuts seconds off a commute for people driving in cars. The MSA system adds little value to the people who live on Grandview Boulevard.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Good Places in Mound

It has been suggested I come up with a list of positive places for Mound. Here's a quick list and explanations. Feel free to add your own in the comments!

Surfside Park and Beach 

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Surfside on a Thursday evening
Easily the most popular park in the city. Public Access for your boat, shelter for your party, concerts, Spirit of the Lake events, beach, playground... it has pretty much everything you'd want despite it's fairly small size.

Mound Caribou
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A convenient meeting place
The place to meet friends and acquaintances. Want to be seen? Hang out here.

Gillespie Center
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The Gillespie Center
This really is a fantastic facility manned by a small staff, and a lot of dedicated volunteers. Wonderful, inexpensive lunches on Wednesday, Thursday and Fridays, concerts, meetings, Memorial Day services, exercise classes. This is not a place just for seniors, there is something for everyone here.

Mound Westonka Schools
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Westonka Schools have been working with Maeve and our family since she was an infant with home visits.
Westonka Schools keeps racking up the awards and acknowledgements. They are safe places for our kids, as well as offering a nurturing and exciting environment for them to learn and grow. The Mound Westonka schools are easily one of Mound's biggest assets.

Gale Woods Farm
Not technically in Mound, but this relatively new addition to the Three River Parks serves Mound and the surrounding area with wonderful activities helping people understand our food system, as well have being a great event center.

Minnetonka Drive In
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My 1964 Dodge Dart (aka - The Kid), which occasionally makes it to the Minnetonka Drive In.
Again, not technically Mound, but a great place in the summer to stop when walking by the trail, or to drive in and eat in the car or one of the picnic tables. Also fun to stop by on Thursday nights when the Slow Strokes meet, and walk around the coolest free car show around. FYI - The Drive In opened for the season just last week!

Dakota Trail
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Not the best part of the trail, but it connects you to some very nice places.
Everyone love the trail that goes through Mound for wonderful bike rides, jogging and walking. The walk along Langdon is very scenic as one heads towards St. Bonifacious. It will be interesting to see how the new "Dakota Junction" restaurant adds to Mound's trail life. Hopefully Mound can utilize the trail more effectively as Downtown redevelops.

Mound Farmers Market and More
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Farmer Market activity on Saturday morning.
Saturday mornings by by the parking ramp, Mound has had a fairly successful Farmer's market for a few years now. Last year they added music every week, which really added to the events.

On a related note, I personally am working on adding kids activities in the Greenway near the Farmer's Market's on Saturday mornings. I'm working on having a Bike Rodeo, some impromptu athletic activities, and other fun ideas. If you are interested in hearing more about what I'm working on, please let me know!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Why the silence

At the joint City Council/Planning Commission meeting two weeks ago, the topic of financial impacts of development was discussed at my request. You can see the minutes from the discussion below...

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I have been struggling with this for two weeks. Is it really inappropriate for me, as a sitting member of the Planning Commission, to continue to speak out publicly on this issue? I can understand how city officials don't appreciate being chided for for simply doing their jobs as believe best, but to ask me to stop seems wrong.

When I agreed to stop talking on the point about financial impacts of development, I let myself, and the purpose behind "A Place in Mound", down. I apologize to all of you who have participated in the conversations here.


Friday, February 8, 2013

Quicknotes

- WECAN Omlette Breakfast is this Sunday, 9-noon at the American Legion. Tickets are $9.00 and are available at WeCAN or call 952-472-0742.

- The Mound/Westonka Special Education Advisory Council (SEAC) is having a FREE Family Open Gym for families of children of Special Needs at Grandview Middle School on Saturday, 3-5. This council is made up of staff and parents from the school, and are doing great things to help make our school and community a great place for people with disabilities.

- Thursday, Feb 21st at 6:30 another meeting on drug abuse in our community will be taking place called, "Heroin: It's in Our Community". This meeting will be mostly the chance to break out in smaller groups, and get information and have a discussion that may relate directly to your situation. It will be held at the Gillespie Center.

- Westonka Community and Commerce (formerly Celebrate Greater Mound) is having their monthly luncheon Thursday next week at Bethel United Methodist Church at 11:45.

- A unique meeting is happening Monday night at Mound city hall. The Mound Planning Commission (which I sit on) is having a joint meeting with the Mound City Council to discuss a couple of issues. I am looking forward to discussing some of the financial aspects of developments I have written about here a couple times. Unfortunately the idea of discussing "Complete Streets" was not included on the agenda. I was a little slow to suggest the topic, so it's probably my fault, but I intend to keep pushing the issue... especially as we are about to rebuild several of our MSA streets. Look out Three Points Blvd, you're first on the docket!

- Everytime I talk about the Open Mic night at Threshold with someone, their eyes light up. It will be cool to be hanging out in Downtown Mound on Saturday night, starting at 7:30. Please come and enjoy some snacks or drink, and watch our talented youth perform. It will be a fun night!

- It's been a great week, and I've already shared how humbled I have been by Strong towns earlier this week. Here's a video of a speech Chuck Marohn, from Strong Towns, did a few weeks ago. As much as I am uplifted by how he shares my story, the bigger message is important. The message that we can continue to improve and make Mound a great city, a great place.

Please watch this video, not because it has pictures of me in it, but because it's about the possibility of the things we can do together. Especially if you are a Mound city official.

Mission - Flowers on Emerald Drive

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Emerald Drive, between Avon and Glendale Drive. A pleasant place to walk.
This is a place my daughters walk through every day, to and from school. This is Emerald Drive... the part of Emerald Drive you can't drive on. It was originally platted to be a street, but the city, in its wisdom some time ago, decided to just have it be a simple walking path as you can see above. It's fairly short... less than a hundred feet... but it's a safe place for people.

The city does a decent job clearing snow from it. The neighbors take a bit of pride in it, and often clear it before the city gets there. Below someone cleared a path before my daughters headed to school on the day this photo was taken.

It also is marked by four sign posts, or stakes. I suppose they are there to mark the path so a snow plow will know where exactly to go. After a while, my daughters and I started talking about the sign posts, and how they should have signs! We joked about making "No Parking" signs, which lead to "No Running" and "No Licking Ice Cream" and other obnoxious things.

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A pretty place, but those stakes are kind of obnoxious.

The more we talked about it, the more I realized this would be a cool neighborhood beautification project.  My daughter's school "Imagination Fair" (like a Science Fair) was approaching, and my 8 year old, Maeve agreed to make this her project, or mission.

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She takes on the task to give this sign posts some purpose! Let's call her "Agent Maeve"!

So we had a discussion about what kind of signs she wanted to create. She thought about making pictures of snacks and food (I think she was hungry while we were talking) and we talked about making pictures of kitties, stars, rainbows, and finally settled on making pictures of colored flowers.

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Agent Maeve showing off her signs.

She wanted to do blue, green, red and yellow flowers. She created three drafts, and than a final product.

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"I did this!"
   Her father secured the signs firmly to the posts for all to enjoy.

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Maeve showing Mound some love!
 Is this Guerrilla Urbanism? Is Maeve a Tactical Urbanist?

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Maeve showing her work at the Imagination Fair. Great job Sweets! (photo from Kristyn Hewitt)

No matter what, she makes her daddy proud with her efforts to make our neighborhood a better place.

Mission Success!