Hennepin County feels it shouldn't have to pay the new park dedication fee Minneapolis is charging, so it's planning to deduct any future fee it's charged from youth sports facility grants awarded to the city's park system.
The county faces almost $200,000 in park fees for a clinic building at Hennepin County Medical Center in downtown Minneapolis and a new services center at the Hiawatha-Lake intersection.
Told that, the County Board voted unanimously last week to deduct any future parks fee from state-mandated youth sports grants the county finances from excess sales tax it collects to finance the Twins ballpark. At first, the deduction proposal applied only to Minneapolis, but on a 5-2 vote it was broadened to any city within the county.
Although numerous metro-area communities impose a park deduction requirement paid in money or land, the Minneapolis law that took effect in 2014 is the first to nick a county project. "It seems like sort of a crazy ordinance to me," said County Commissioner Mike Opat.
The 2016 round of county-issued grants includes $600,000 in facility grants to Minneapolis parks or schools, and $33,169 for equipment. An even larger amount goes to suburban communities.
The new county directive will deduct the cost of the park fee only from grants to cities that charge a park fee against the county. In Excelsior, where the county recently built a library, the park fee is charged only for residential projects. In Brooklyn Park, site of another county library project, the park fee is charged much earlier, when a developer subdivides land.
The county's stand is a contrast with other governmental bodies. Minneapolis schools have swallowed the fee for school additions. The city of Minneapolis hasn't paid it for lack of projects since the law took effect, but expects to do so because it even charges itself for its own stormwater fee, according to Greg Goeke, the city's property services director.
The city and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board adopted identical ordinances imposing the requirement that people developing property pay a fee, deed over land, or give an easement for public use of private land such as a pocket park. That's to help provide parks where there's development-induced demand for them.
The county reads the Minneapolis ordinance to apply only to commercial, industrial and residential development, not that by institutions. But that's a misreading because the fine print clearly covers charging the fee against government units, according to Brad Carter, the city's development coordinator.
One way around the issue would be for the county to dedicate land at either development site for public use. That's planned at the Hennepin-Lake project, according to Michael Noonan, a county land management administrator, but not until a subsequent phase of the project. He noted that the developer of housing units in the first phase will pay the fee. The county is planning a pocket park at the downtown clinic consolidation project but doesn't want to commit to maintain it in perpetuity, as required.
The biggest planned 2016 youth sports grants to the Park Board are $225,000 to rebuild seven Bossen Field diamonds and $75,000 for field and ice rink work at McRae Park. The school district would collect $150,000 each for remodeling and new fitness equipment at Washburn and North high schools.