From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:
In St. Paul, officials have waived the tax rule so property owners can clean up.
By Jeffrey Meitrodt Star Tribune AUGUST 13, 2020 — 7:54AM
In Minneapolis, on a desolate lot where Don Blyly’s bookstore stood before being destroyed in the May riots, two men finish their cigarettes and then walk through a dangerous landscape filled with slippery debris and sharp objects. The city won’t let Blyly haul away his wreckage without a permit, and he can’t get a contractor to tell him how much it will cost to rebuild the store until that happens.
In St. Paul, where Jim Stage’s pharmacy burned down during the same disturbances, crews have already removed the bricks and scorched timbers. A steel fence keeps out trespassers. Stage expects construction of his new Lloyd’s Pharmacy to begin later this month.
The main reason for the different recoveries is simple: Minneapolis requires owners to prepay the second half of their 2020 property taxes in order to obtain a demolition permit. St. Paul does not.
“Minneapolis has not been particularly friendly toward business for some time,” said Blyly, who prepaid $8,847 in taxes last week but still hasn’t received his demolition permit. “They say they want to be helpful, but they certainly have not been.” …
“We don’t feel like we have an ability to block these permits, and I don’t see why we would,” said Derrick Hodge, one of the managers in Hennepin County’s property tax office. “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.”
Local business owners are appalled by the finger-pointing, noting that nearly 100 properties in Minneapolis were destroyed or severely damaged in the riots following the death of George Floyd. The vast majority of those properties are either still standing or have been turned into ugly and often dangerous piles of rubble. Owners say the lack of progress is discouraging reinvestment and sending customers to other parts of the metro.
Cleaning up that mess is expensive. Most property owners must pay $35,000 to $100,000 to clear their sites of debris, with larger tracts — such as strip shopping centers — costing as much as $400,000, according to property owners. 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.