East Regional Development Commission gives annual report

At the Isanti County Board meeting Oct. 4, Robert Voss, executive director of the East Central Regional Development Commission, presented the 2017 annual report.

“This year we have paired it down into work programs that basically have three different major areas—economic development, community development and transportation,” Voss said.

According to the report, in December, the Commission completed and adopted the new five-year Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS). There are a number of ambitious economics development initiatives contained in the CEDS work plan.

“We’ve had regional forums on child care and tourism. We are planning on having them on housing and succession planning,” Voss said.

The annual report also states the ECRDC also partnered with the Minnesota Department of Transportation and local stakeholders on a number of important planning initiatives. Among them were the development of the new regional Transit Coordination Plan which identifies strategies to improve access to transit for older adults, disabled and low income residents of the region and Safe Routes to School Planning.

“One of the highlights this year is that Isanti County was approved for a Safe Routes to School Planning grant through MnDOT,” Voss said. “We will be working with the communities of Isanti, Cambridge and Braham.”

The Safe Routes to Schools provides funding to the community and school groups to make improvements to the routes children use to walk and bike to school and get the exercise they need.

Voss explained the Revolving Loan Fund provides gap financing for businesses looking to open, expand or relocate to Mille Lacs, Pine, Isanti, Chisago and Kanabec counties.
“We have some money. Some loans have been paid back so we are eager to do some lending again,” Voss said. “If you have any small businesses that want to take advantage of our loan program let us know.”

Tax petition
Isanti County Assessor Michelle Moen made a request to the Board to authorize funds for an independent appraisal for a tax petition. The property owner is Cornerstone Development in Cambridge and they have petitioned to have their taxes reduced for taxes payable for 2015 and 2016.

“I’ve been diligently working with their attorney for the last year and a half and have received a broker price opinion which came in at $475,000; which is significantly lower than what our county has for market value of this property at $900,000,” Moen said.

Moen stated she consulted with Assistant County Attorney Tim Nelson, who she works with on tax petitions. After analyzing data she received from other counties on sales of similar properties, she felt it was important they proceed with getting an outside appraisal.

“We have requested to have an outside appraiser do a review on the property before this proceeds to tax court,” she said. “We have done our internal appraisal but it is recommended we have an independent appraisal done before tax court takes place.”

Moen reached out to someone who was highly recommended by other counties and asked for an estimate of an appraisal, along with the completion of the tax court purpose.

“The total fee for the appraisal is $7,500. If he has to appear in court, it would be $300 an hour and we do have a trial date set for April 9, so we do need to act on this,” she said. “I haven’t had a tax petition that had to get this far in 10 years. I just feel pretty strongly on this one, and I think $475,000 for this particular property is way under.”

Isanti County Attorney Jeff Edblad suggested a motion to authorize the County Assessor to enter into a contractual agreement with the appraiser for the fixed cost of $7,500 and $300 an hour retribution cost as it relates to this specific project.

The motion was approved unanimously by the Isanti County Board.