Land service office has many and varied tasks | News

The past year has been a busy one for the Morrison County Land Services Office.

On Tuesday, the director of land services, Amy Kowalzek, gave the Council of Commissioners an overview of what her department has accomplished in 2021. The main areas of service, she said, are assessment, planning and zoning and geographic information service (GIS) mapping.

From an assessment standpoint, there are a total of 30,350 plots in Morrison County.

“In fact, physically we look at each of them on a five-year rotation,” Kowalzek said. “We divide the county into zones and we make sure that all of these parcels are reviewed by our assessors on a five-year rotation. This is where the word “quintile” comes from.

In 2021, Morrison County assessment staff reviewed 6,614 plots. Of these, 3,308 were not improved, meaning that staff had to consult them to verify that no undocumented improvements were made. The remaining 3,306 were on approved plots, where documented improvements have been made since the last visit to the property.

The 6,614 quintile assessments performed in 2021 were higher than those conducted in 2020 – 5,968 – and 2019 – 6,214.

An initiative highlighted by Kowalzek arose out of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a safety measure for both staff and landlords, in 2020 the Land Services Office began sending out surveys of plots due to quintile assessments. The surveys asked landowners for information that appraisers would otherwise need to enter into their homes to properly collect.

Kowalzek said his office had a 60% return rate on quintile polls in 2021.

“One of the difficulties we have when we visit a property is that we go there during the working day,” she said. “Well, everyone is working. We don’t get a chance to go into houses very often, so we make assumptions about finishing the basement, and the number of bathrooms and things like that. It’s really up to the owner to correct this with us if we got it wrong.

She said the survey has been “an extremely useful tool”. Not only does this allow appraisers to more accurately calculate a property valuation, it also gives homeowners a warning that appraisers will be on their property at some point in the coming year.

For the owners, Kowalzek said it also gives them the opportunity to report and clarify to the land office what has happened to the plot since its last appraisal.

“This is something that we have implemented and we will continue with it, because it has been extremely valuable, and it has led to the precision of our quintile work,” Kowalzek said.

However, assessors need to look at more than the properties of the quintile. Whenever there is new construction, purchases, or changes to a plot, this also triggers an assessment.

In addition to the 6,614 quintile visits, the land services office also performed over 1,000 permit assessments. This includes properties within the city limits.

In terms of new construction, purchases and conversions, 1,500 eCRV – certificates of real estate value – were also reviewed last year. This happens every time there is a real estate transaction over $ 3,000.

“This is where we look at the sale,” Kowalzek said. “It gives us our market information to see what the market is doing and what these properties have sold for.”

The county also processed 185 divisions and combinations of parcels in 2021. Once a parcel is split into two or combined with another by a landowner, the land departments reassess the value of the new parcel (s).

The department also manages tax programs through the Department of Revenue, such as homestead or exemptions for blind or disabled residents and veterans. Kowalzek said there were over 1,000 homestead applications in 2021, as well as 305 for special exemptions for agriculture and / or the blind and disabled, and 315 for disabled veteran or spouse exemptions. survivor.

“We also process everyone in our office and make sure that these credits are applied to their package to calculate their tax amount,” she said.

Compared to the previous two years, Kowalzek said the numbers for 2021 were mostly comparable. The fairly even distribution of the quintile ratings helps ensure that the workload remains as even as possible, although there are ebbs and flows for other applications.

Applications were generally on the rise in 2021; especially in terms of exemptions for family properties and veterans. ECRVs were also “on the rise,” according to Kowalzek.

“I think that also tells you what the real estate market is doing,” she said. “It’s a good indicator of that.”

On the planning and zoning side, Morrison County Land Services issued 1,089 permits last year. This only includes parcels outside the city limits of the 16 incorporated towns in the county.

The highest percentage of these permits, 31%, were for ancillary structures such as pole buildings and garages. Another 21% of permits were for septic systems and 10% for dwellings.

In 2021, the Land Services Office issued 95 new addresses.

“When we issue a new address, it means we are addressing this package for the first time,” Kowalzek said. “So that means we have a plot under development. Everything else would have had an address. If they just add a garage, they already have an address. Ninety-five packages had something brand new put on them which led to the need to process them.

The County Development Review Team had 89 agenda items in 2021, which was also up from previous years. This means that the team spoke to 89 people who were proposing something that would require a public hearing. Of these discussions, 68% were about discrepancies. The newly formed Planning Commission / Adjustment Council (PC / BOA) held public hearings on 54 items, 72% of which concerned discrepancies.

Kowalzek said what “really, really” occupies his office are complaints. In 2021, they received complaints about 104 different properties.

“These are valid complaints,” she said. “These are the ones we actually have a file open on. “

She said 26% of them were closed in 2021, meaning nearly three-quarters of them will continue into 2022 while new complaints are filed. She acknowledged that this is a long and tedious process that depends in part on the cooperation of the owner.

A total of five staff, including Kowalzek, handle complaints – the vast majority of which come from neighbors or concerned citizens.

“Usually we don’t look for complaints,” she said. “If we’re on a property and we see a violation, we’ll follow up. “

The Land Services Office is also required to inspect 7% of the county’s feedlots each year. In 2021, this meant that 47 of the 630 registered lots were examined. A feedlot is defined as having more than 50 animal units, with one animal unit equal to 1000 pounds.

In 2021, 74% of inspected feedlots were compliant. The remaining 26% were in conditional compliance, meaning that there were documents that had to be completed in order to come back into full compliance.

“This is the biggest problem we see with feedlots; that they don’t have their manure application records, that they don’t have their soil analysis data, that they don’t have their regular rotation as they should, ”Kowalzek said . “(These are) things that we come back with these feedlots to try and fix.”

For comparison, Kowalzek said the total number of permits was up in 2021 and there were more new addresses filed than in 2020 and 2019. Public hearings were also up from previous years.

GIS mapping, Kowalzek said, is a resource for the whole community that is used in many different ways. His office handled 46 data requests in 2021, which involves the cooperation of the Land Services Bureau GIS Coordinator, Auditor / Treasurer’s Office, County Registrar’s Office, and assessment staff.

The county’s public GIS mapping system, Beacon, recorded nearly 180,000 visits in 2021 – on average, about 15,000 per month and 500 per day.

There were also 341 feedlot map updates. The county tracks all feedlots and their active status. Every four years, owners must re-register so the county knows how many animal units are on the property and if any changes have been made.

The Land Services Department also worked with Morrison County Public Health to operate the COVID dashboard on the county’s website. The dashboard received 42,000 views in 2021, roughly 120 per day.

“A lot of people relied on that to make decisions about where they were going to go with a lot of different things; school districts in particular, ”Kowalzek said.

Commissioner Jeffrey Jelinski said with regard to GIS mapping, there had already been discussions about tracking the destination of manure from feedlots in the county. He asked if this was done.

“Whenever we get a manure management plan, the feedlot officer works with the GIS coordinator to map these fields,” she said. “At a glance, we can see which fields are claimed and by whom.

Gregory M. Roy