West Fargo tweaks its assessment policy
City will use an "equitable unit" to calculate properties rather than simply square footage
WEST FARGO — The city is amending its special assessment policy to make assessments placed on apartment complexes and large parcels more equitable with single family homes.
City Attorney John Shockley presented the updates to the City Commission at its Monday, June 6 meeting. The policy was originally adopted in 2016 and amended again in 2021.
Shockley said the amendments still keep in place the majority of public notice requirements that were previously approved. But, the policies will now will assess some properties based on "equitable units" which will calculate very large homes or apartment and condo properties differently, rather than simply on square footage of a building.
"It doesn't change how a single family home is assessed," Shockley said. "I get asked, 'Does my house get the same assessment as an apartment building?' and the answer is no," Shockley said. "But it is equitable."
For multi use buildings, such as the those along Sheyenne Street such as Pioneer Place and Sheyenne Plaza, the first floor of the property will be assessed on a commercial basis and the residential floors will be assessed on a multifamily basis, Shockley said.
Shockley said these changes will help the city's overall goal of reducing the use of special assessments and can lower the cost by seeking capital through loans, bonds and other debt instruments.
The policy change means larger properties may also be assessed based on equitable units rather than square footage such as lot larger than two acres. When using equitable units for calculation, the city will also consider the neighborhood and how it has been developed.
"We tried to move away from [using] platting as the sole basis that should be use don what should be assessed," he said.
The city commission approved the policy amendments Monday, June 6 but also asked that Shockley and city staff consider examining if properties north of Interstate 94, which are older are fairly assessed in comparison to the newer, quickly growing south side properties.
"I think there are some challenges with the north south assessments," he said. "We can go back and work on that specific issue. (These changes) were really pressing because there were so many assessments on the south side."
Commissioner Mandy George, who has often advocated against the use of special assessments said the policy amendments seem to be making the city's rules "as fair as possible."