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County lake parcels' valuations 'float the boat'

Big Sand Lake is fourth among Hubbard County lakes in taxable market valuation. Water-influenced properties comprise 60 percent of the county's overall taxable market value. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

The importance of Hubbard County's waters came into clarity Wednesday as Assessor Bob Hansen unveiled the economic clout lake properties wield.

Of the county's 23,796 real estate parcels, 8,949, or 37.6 percent, are "water influenced," meaning they're on a lake, river or pond.

That 37.6 percent of parcels comprises 60.6 percent of the taxable market value (TMV) of all Hubbard County properties with some minor exceptions.

Hanson's staff prepared a township-by-township, lake-by-lake look at where the county's wealth lies, excluding tax information. The presentation before the Hubbard County Board of Commissioners reinforced lake preservationists' mission to protect the county's water quality.

Lake Emma Township has the largest TMV, at $415,699,500; Steamboat River Township, because of the large amount of tax-exempt land, has the lowest TMV, $56,065,900.

Long Lake eclipses other lakes' TMV at $210,726,500 compared to the second ranking Lake Belle Taine at $133,049,400.

"It was the kind of thing we need to look at, use to work with the county, to protect our lakes," said Hubbard County Coalition of Lake Associations president Dan Kittilson, who attended the board meeting with other COLA members.

"That demonstrates the value and the economic viability that our lakes have on our county," Kittilson said.

"Lake properties float the boat," said commissioner Kathy Grell.

"They are an important part of our economy," Hansen agreed.

Grell asked the assessor to further delineate various property groups to see what impact commercial properties have on the overall valuation, while suggesting the emphasis should be on preserving the lakes as an asset to the county.

Hansen said newer means of segregating property valuation data allow his staff to isolate segments of the county's property base, but the complicated system of Minnesota property taxation can be cumbersome.

"There's so many classes of taxation," said commissioner Lyle Robinson. "Every time they try to straighten it out they screw it up more," he said, referring to Minnesota lawmakers.

Hansen said he's increasingly hearing grumbling about why two parcels of land that appear identical have different valuations, why some valuations are going up and some down.

"We try to equalize it," he said, shaking his head, admitting it was frustrating to hear from residents constantly asking the county to justify values.

The state has "shrunk the conversion factors in the classifications but there's so much tiering within the classes," he said.

Property owners can get tax breaks under a "new plat" law that phases taxes in over a seven-year-period, a "this old house" exclusion for rehabbing older properties; there are exclusions to various taxes if you are a disabled veteran and some properties enrolled in the Green Acres program and a rural preserve program are taxed differently, he said.

Those exceptions are factored in to the overall TMV, subtracted from the estimated market value of the property. The TMV does not include tax exempt property, Hansen said.

Kittilson said even though many resorts have converted to Planned Unit Developments, selling to permanent residents and changing their tax status, "We need to keep our resorts, as many as we can," he said. "They have a place in our state. I think they're important. We're going to the PUD concept but I think the resorts are still part of our culture."

Some counties, including Douglas County, are grappling with diminishing property valuations due to aquatic invasive species that have invaded their lakes.

COLA members and lake associations have launched aggressive campaigns with the state Department of Natural Resources, to prevent that from happening in Hubbard County.

Kittilson said COLA requested similar information from the assessor in 2009, so Wednesday's presentation did not come as a surprise.

"The next step is to find out how much tax revenue is generated from the different types of properties," Kittilson said. "It would be a good think to know."

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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