Former state senator seeks $2.3M from city over Lansing assessmentPublished 4:55pm Saturday, April 13, 2013
Former state Sen. John Howe is seeking $2.3 million in punitive damages from the city of Austin after successfully appealing an assessment to his former Lansing Township property.
Mower County District Judge Donald Rysavy overturned the $15,000-per-parcel assessments to Howe and two other property owners last month. The three property owners hold land that was part of the 209.5 parcels of land annexed into Austin in 2009 to get connected to the city’s sewer system.
Howe charges the city’s assessments were far more than the project’s total cost. The city stands to collect more than $3.1 million by assessing each of the 209.5 parcels, yet the city estimated in a letter to Howe sent June 28, 2012 that the project would cost about $876,000.
Rysavy ruled in favor of Howe and other landowners last month by overturning the assessment, saying it was unreasonable to conclude the properties would benefit from the sewer project when those landowners showed their properties decreased in value every year since 2009. City workers completed the sewer project in 2011.
Under state law, a city or municipality can’t assess a property for an infrastructure project by more than what the land would benefit.
The owners of 30 other properties also sought to overturn assessments on their properties, which Rysavy granted after the Austin City Council voted to reassess the 33 parcels in question.
City Attorney Steven Hovey said the city will object to Howe’s request.
“There’s no merit to it, he won’t be awarded it, but nevertheless he’s going to force the city to waste time and money responding to it,” Hovey said.
Howe said he was raising awareness about the city’s assessment process, which Rysavy had previously criticized, saying the city failed to give enough information on how it came to the $15,000-per-lot assessment during Howe’s appeal.
“I’m hoping the city of Austin will take another look at this and decide that they’re wasting the taxpayer money in reassessing these properties again, because we’re just going to end up back in court,” Howe said.