Property owners in the Broadway Local Improvement District (“LID”) just east of Tacoma’s downtown core are reeling after receiving their shares of the cost to improve the area, most of which are many times what was estimated when the city first pitched the idea of forming the LID in 2008.

Many have appealed the methodology the city’s assessor used to determine the values conferred on the individual properties as a result of completion of sewer stubs, water mains, and street and other infrastructure improvements.

Many of the property owners don’t disagree with paying some of the assessed costs, but they are demanding that the City take another look at the way the assessor arrived at the values conferred on their individual properties. Some have compared the city’s methodology to the one used by Sound Transit to assess car tabs earlier this year.

Broadway LID intended to tackle aesthetic and infrastructure issues

Cities have the authority under RCW 35.43 to create special assessment districts to spread the cost of local infrastructure improvements over the property owners who stand to benefit the most from them.

Any particular property owner is assessed his or her share based on the fair market value of his or her property before and after the local improvement. A property owner cannot be assessed an amount in excess of the special benefit that the improvements conferred on the property. Properties not benefited cannot be assessed at all.

State law also provides a right of appeal for property owners who feel the benefit to their properties was incorrectly calculated, resulting in LID assessments that are too high.

The City formed the Broadway LID in 2008 to tackle aesthetic and infrastructure improvements that might attract businesses and residents to areas of town that were showing signs of age. At the time, property owners were told they would have to pay the city based on the increase in value to each individual property.

But then the process lagged, and property owners didn’t hear how much, exactly, they were on the hook for. Some of the property owners sold to new buyers. Those newcomers were told about the LID assessments, but nobody knew yet how much they would be.

Earlier this year, property owners finally received their LID assessments, many of which were a shock. So many property owners appealed the assessments that the process is stalled once again while the city sorts out the appeals.

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