On Friday, December 7th, the Northfield Downtown Development Corporation convened a Regional Summit on Real Estate Taxes and their impact on historic downtowns in Greater Minnesota. The purpose was to determine the geographic extent of the issue and to unite behind strategies for addressing it.
Downtown Northfield has averaged thirty percent annual real estate tax bill increases since 2007. We can’t take any more and we’re looking for allies.
Representatives from Faribault, Hastings and Owatonna attended the event. Red Wing was unable to attend at this time and connections with property owners in Stillwater were only made at the Summit. Both towns will be represented in future efforts.
The group made a number of determinations. First, that all older downtowns in the region are experiencing this issue to some degree, many suffering double-digit increases for several years. Second, although there are a number of reasons for rising real estate taxes, the bottom line is that the burden is not being equitably shared between residential and commercial property. Finally, something must be done now as the economic viability of older downtowns is seriously threatened.
The gathering also agreed on a multi-faceted strategy to address the issue. The ultimate goal is to build a state-wide coalition to achieve legislative action in the upcoming session. Specifically, we are advocating that defined districts be established in older downtowns for special commercial property tax treatment.
We must implement our plans by the February 18th, 2008 start of the legislative session. We plan reconvene, with our additional allies, and our work completed, in late January or early February and be ready to take our proposal to St. Paul.