A proposal from Ald. Devon Reid (8th) to attempt to impose a fee on the city’s 42 private owners of lakefront property failed to advance at Monday’s City Council Planning and Development Committee meeting.
Reid cited a study by a planning firm called Urban3. It compared Lake Minnetonka west of Minneapolis — where essentially all lakefront land is in private hands — to a section of the Chain of Lakes region just south of the city — where the water is surrounded by public land.
The study concluded that the value per acre of land within 1,000 meters of the lakes with complete public access was more than twice as great as that of the lake with only private access.
Based on that study, Reid claimed the city should charge lakefront landowners what he called “a public access cutoff fee.”
But Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd) said comparing that study to Evanston was like comparing “apples to basketballs” because Evanston has five public beaches, a public boat launch and in addition the Northwestern University campus is accessible to the public.
Reid suggested that his proposed fee, if it were $2,400 a year, would generate over $100,000 in new revenue that the city could use for “reparations or some other equity initiative.”
But Wynne suggested that imposing the fee would just be buying a lawsuit from the lakefront property owners that would likely cost far more.
“This has a 100% certainty that the city would be sued,” Wynne said, adding that she doubted such a fee would be legal.
Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th) said he appreciated “the progressive sentiment” behind Reid’s idea, but noted that lakefront property owners already pay far more that other homeowners in the city in property taxes.
Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) said the concept could be worth further research but “this isn’t the right time for this.”
Community Development Director Johanna Nyden said city staff doesn’t have the resources to study the proposal anytime soon and that the city needs to focus on developing a request for proposals to conduct a comprehensive plan for the city during the first few months of next year.
Reid then proposed to table the proposal until June 13, but that motion failed on a 2-2 tie vote. The committee ended up taking no action on the concept.