Eagan City Council members laid out the city's legislative priorities last week in the first meeting between the council and Eagan's newly-elected (and re-elected) legislative delegation.
Legislators at the meeting included House District 51A Rep. Sandy Masin, House District 51B Rep. Laurie Halverson, Senate District 51 Rep. Jim Carlson and House District 52B Rep. Joe Atkins, who represents Eagan's first precinct.
Many of the city's priorities revolved around commercial development in the community. Below is a summary of a selection of the city's legislative priorities, as outlined at the meeting.
State Budget: Do Not Bring Back the Market Value Homestead Credit
The state of Minnesota offers its cities two main forms of state funding—Local Government Aid (LGA) and the Market Value Homestead Credit, which was replaced last year by the Market Value Exclusion program. The funding cities receive through both sources has been inconsistent, at best, due to the state's own budgetary woes.
Eagan weaned itself off of the state's Local Government Aid (LGA) and Market Value Exclusion money years ago. Therefore, the city hasn't experienced the same kind of financial instability as other communities that depend heavily on the state to make ends meet. But the city still has a vested interest in reliable funding through the programs.
To that end, city officials told Eagan's legislative contingent last week that the city opposes any effort to bring back the Homestead Market Value Credit program. City officials favor the state's newer replacement, the exclusion program, which has provided more stability to the city's budget, according to Eagan Mayor Mike Maguire.
Transportation: More Funding for the Cedar Avenue Bus Rapid Transit Route
The development of a massive outlet mall is all but underway in Eagan's Cedar Grove neighborhood, and Eagan officials want to ensure that the project has strong public transportation links. Dakota County and the Minnesota Valley Transit Authority are developing a Bus Rapid Transit route up the Cedar Avenue corridor. Called the Red Line, the route will connect to the already existing MVTA station on Nicols Road in Eagan.
Eagan officials want better access from the station to Cedar Avenue, and they want it soon, before the new outlet mall opens. To do that, the city is asking its legislators to prioritze finding adequate state funding for those improvements.
Land Use: Tax Increment Financing Reform
Tax Increment Financing is a process that allows Minnesota cities to use the increased property taxes generated by a new real estate project to finance the cost of that development. TIF money is primarily used to entice developers and can be used for land acquisition or site preparation—costs the developer would usually pay.
Currently, TIF law favors physical manufacturers over information technology businesses—a fact that city officials would like the state to change in order to promote the development of IT companies in the area.
Housing: Help with Foreclosures
Eagan, like other Minnesota cities, has experienced greater foreclosure rates since the onset of the recession in 2008. Although this trend is not new, city officials still feel they do not have the necessary tools to monitor and protect foreclosed properties.
Eagan officials are urging the legislature to pass legislation allowing cities to authorize water shut-offs to properties whenever cities receive information from utility companies that the property is unheated. Many foreclosed homes are damaged when frozen water pipes burst, but under current laws, cities may not shut off water unless the account is delinquent or the owner consents to it.
Data Centers: Create Tax Incentives for Multi-Tenant Data Centers
Eagan, which may soon be the site of a new multi-tenant data center called the Connexion, wants to see the legislature enact more tax incentives for similar facilities. Although single-user data centers are able to receive tax incentives in Minnesota, multi-tenant projects aren't getting the same treatment, Eagan officials say. Developing legislation that promotes inventives for multi-user facilities will help Minnesota compete with other states in this facet of the economy, according to city officials.
Environmental: Ban Coal-Tar Sealer in Minnesota
Coal-tar sealant—commonly used as a driveway sealant—contains chemicals classified as suspected carcinogens—and those compounds, called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) can wash off driveways and build up in holding ponds. The city has already enacted a citywide ban on the compound, and is now asking the state to implement a statewide ban as well.