Blaine council reviews park dedication fees

by Tim Hennagir
Life Editor

Park dedication fees would increase for the first time in three years March 1 if Blaine City Council members approved a staff recommendation.

The fees are adjusted annually according to the percentage of increase in the fair market value of undeveloped land; any increase cannot exceed 10 percent.

Park dedication fees are required of all new residential, commercial and industrial development within the city. The revenue collected funds park improvements.

Jim Kappelhoff, park and recreation director, presented a first reading of the proposed increase and ordinance change during the council’s Feb. 16 workshop.

Park dedication fees are placed in the city fee schedule and updated annually by ordinance rather than resolution. The council also conducts a public hearing.

The Blaine Park Board originally recommended the council consider the fee increase, Kappelhoff said.

According to information supplied by the Anoka County assessor, Blaine’s development pace for unimproved land remains ahead of all other county cities. Additionally, Blaine is ranked 12th out of 13th among Twin Cities metro cities in a recent survey of residential park dedication fees. Blaine is ranked in the middle of cities surveyed when it comes to commercial fees.

According to Kappelhoff, a Blaine planning analysis based on the city’s 2030 comprehensive plan shows the city’s estimated development should average 319 residential units annually for the years 2010 to 2015. Thirty acres of commercial and industrial property should be developed annually during the same period.

Future park, open space and trail development should keep pace with this growth through measured annual increases in park dedication fees, Kappelhoff said.

Sixty-five percent of the residential fee is allocated to parks and 35 percent to open space. All commercial and industrial fees (100 percent) go to city parks.

During discussion Feb. 16, Councilmember Dick Swanson asked Kappelhoff and Bryan Schafer, community development director, about the overall fee impact.

As recommended by city staff, Blaine residential park dedication fees would increase 5 percent this year (from $2,435 a unit to $2,557 a unit), a $122 increase.

Kappelhoff said commercial park dedication fees would increase by 3 percent from $7,163 an acre to $7,387 an acre, a $215 increase.

Industrial fees would also increase by 3 percent, from $4,870 an acre to $5,016 an acre, a $146 increase, he said.

Specifically, Swanson wanted to know if such fee increases would make Blaine a less viable competitor for development when compared with other communities of similar size.

“I don’t believe the changes we’re talking about will have an impact,” Schafer said. “I don’t think it will be a deterrent.”

Swanson then mentioned an early February Blaine City Council retreat workshop that featured discussion about a 10 percent residential park dedication fee increase and asked if that type of increase would have an impact on development.

“That would put still put us below $3,000 a unit,” Schafer said. “I don’t believe those numbers will have an impact, either. The developer pays these fees [up front] and makes the decision to develop.”

With a second reading of the ordinance scheduled for the council meeting yesterday evening (Thursday, March 1), Swanson said he wanted an amendment to increase residential fees to 10 percent.

Councilmember Russ Herbst wanted go with staff’s original recommendation for 2012 park dedication fees.

Swanson reminded Herbst of the retreat discussion.

“We discussed kicking it up 10 percent because the park board was planning to come back with another 5 percent next year,” Swanson said.

“They didn’t feel they could ask for that and at the rate lots are going, if we do the 10 percent increase now, we can get additional revenue up front without a raise next year,” he said..

Herbst told Swanson he hated to see the council jump away from a city staff recommendation.

Tim Hennagir is at [email protected]