City Council approves tax exemption

August 23, 2019

The City Council approved a five-year tax exemption for Epic Companies of Fargo for the top four floors of the planned UJ Place on the campus of the University of Jamestown on a 4-1 vote with Councilman Dan Buchanan dissenting.

The action came in a special City Council meeting following the regular Jamestown Public Works Committee meeting.

Buchanan urged a no vote on the exemption, calling it unfair to other taxpayers who would have to pay the taxes that would be due by Epic Companies without the exemption.

UJ Place is a planned five-story structure to be built north of Harold Newman Arena on the University of Jamestown property. The main floor will contain commercial space and be subject to property tax. The upper four floors will be used for student and staff housing and would be exempt from property tax.

Susan Roemmich, a University of Jamestown graduate and an area resident spoke against the exemption, saying the city, county, and public school district was all short of funds.

Polly Peterson, president of the University of Jamestown, said 80% of the university’s students live on campus and the school is facing a shortage of student housing.

“We saw a way to serve our students,” she said.

Peterson said the university is already an investor in the project and plans to purchase the building in five years. Once UJ Place is owned by the University of Jamestown, the student housing area would be tax-exempt as educational use.

The resolution to approve the tax exemption was amended to include wording that the housing could only be used for University of Jamestown students and faculty on a 4-0 vote with Buchanan abstaining. Buchanan did not provide a reason for abstaining.

Epic Companies has started site preparation for the project but was not able to start construction until the tax exemption issue was resolved.

In other business, the Jamestown City Council approved a revamped stormwater fee structure.

The council had rejected an earlier proposed fee structure that set a $3 per month minimum for residential properties and calculated fees for non-residential parcels based on property type and acreage.

The adopted fee structure maintains the $3 per month fee for the residential property through the end of 2020. The non-residential property would pay fees based on the amount of impervious surface, roofs, parking lots, paved roads, on the property to a maximum of $204 per month.

The proposal presented Thursday by Shawn Gaddie, financial group manager for AE2S NEXUS the consultant on the project, was for a residential minimum of $4 per month resulting in annual revenue to the stormwater utility fund of $530,000 per year. This was an increase from a $3 residential fee in earlier discussions.

Jamestown Mayor Dwaine Heinrich and Councilman Steve Brubakken said the city had notified residents the fee would be $3 and said they felt ethically bound to maintain that rate for at least one year.

The reduction in the residential minimum fee reduces projected revenue to the stormwater utility fee for 2020 by about $60,000.

The City Council also approved a request from the North Dakota Department of Transportation to approve a demonstration project for a multi-use path in northern Jamestown on Sept. 6-7 on a 4-1 vote with Buchanan dissenting.

Buchanan said the request placed too much responsibility on the city of Jamestown for safety during the event.

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