Minneapolis demanded taxes before owners of riot-burned businesses can clean up

The old saying has that the only two inevitables in life are death and taxes.

Well, business owners in Minneapolis whose operations were torched during the riots following the death of George Floyd at the hands of city police may have escaped death.

But not taxes.

The Star Tribune reported the city is demanding that owners prepay any remaining 2020 property taxes before they are allowed to have a demolition permit to clean up.

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“Minneapolis has not been particularly friendly toward business for some time,” said Don Blyly, whose bookstore was burned down. The lot still is filled with debris. He’s already prepaid the $8,847 the city demanded, but still is awaiting his permit.

Minneapolis officials claim it’s a state law that forbids removing any structure until “all of the taxes assessed against the building have been fully paid,” the report said. But the responsibility to enforce is left to counties, and Hennepin County said it would not enforce the requirement for riot-destroyed properties.

Officials in St. Paul, adjacent to Minneapolis, have another perspective.

“We don’t feel like we have an ability to block these permits, and I don’t see why we would,” Derrick Hodge, of Hennepin County’s property tax office, said in the Tribune.

“One of our missions in the county is to reduce disparities, and if we took action to block these permits, that would arguably be creating more disparities instead of reducing disparities.”

A commentary at the Gateway Pundit said, “More than 1,500 businesses and buildings were damaged or destroyed in the George Floyd riots.”

One of the buildings that was destroyed was a housing complex that was planned to house 189 low-income families.

The GP continued, “Now the city of Minneapolis is requiring the owners of businesses destroyed in the riots to pay their remaining taxes for 2020 before they will issue them a permit to clean up the remains of their former businesses.”

The newspaper report said most property owners have to pay $35,000 to $100,000 to clear their sites.

“That doesn’t include the money those owners must pay to get their permits. On average, the owners of properties destroyed or significantly damaged owe $25,000 in taxes for the second half of 2020, which come due in October, according to a Star Tribune review of county property records,” the report said.

Developer David Wellington’s family owns several properties where buildings burned.

“When it first hit my desk, I was flabbergasted that this was a requirement,” said he said. It cost his family $188,944 in taxes to get a demolition permit for their burned Hi-Lake Shopping Center.

The unremoved debris also poses a safety hazard, the report explains.

“You can’t just allow a bunch of rubble and hazardous material to sit in the middle of Lake Street,” said Basim Sabri, who owns Karmel Mall. “People could get hurt. Where are our city council members?”

The Minneapolis mayor later said when he found out about the obstacles to businesses, he ordered the tax-payment requirement waived, and officials to start issuing demolition permits.

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