Minneapolis Holds Up Permits for Burned Out Businesses Hoping to Rebuild

Just when you might think it couldn’t get any tougher for riot-ravaged small business owners in Minneapolis, city bureaucrats dream up a new way to make their comeback even more difficult.

Rather than waive the requirement for businesses to pay the second installment of 2020 property taxes before rebuilding, Minneapolis continues to hold store owners hostage by insisting they pay their taxes up front before receiving a city permit to clean up their property and start over.

The Star Tribune reports on what amounts to a new low even for a city already infamous for its callous treatment of small businesses.

“Minneapolis has not been particularly friendly toward business for some time,” said [bookstore owner Don] 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.”

City officials say their hands are tied, pointing to a state law that prohibits the removal of any structures or standing timber until all of the taxes assessed against the building have been fully paid.

The law, however, leaves enforcement to the county, and Hennepin County officials said they made it clear to the city of Minneapolis this summer that they would not enforce the requirement for any riot-damaged properties.

In fact, St. Paul has waived the property tax payments, providing businesses a big head start on their counterparts left in the rubble in Minneapolis.

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.

Besides being an impediment to rebuilding Minneapolis following the second worst riots in U.S. history, the piles of debris and junk present a public safety threat.

Other investors worry about public safety. Basim Sabri, owner of Karmel Mall and other real estate on or near Lake Street, said he has filed three complaints with the city in recent weeks about safety hazards in the neighborhood.

“You can’t just allow a bunch of rubble and hazardous material to sit in the middle of Lake Street,” Sabri said. “People could get hurt. Where are our City Council members? What are they doing? Have they seen it?”

The hold up could make all the difference in helping business owners decide whether to take another chance and rebuild or simply relocate outside the city.

Stage said he would have thought twice about rebuilding in St. Paul if the city had asked him to prepay $11,793 in property taxes when he applied for a demolition permit in June.

“It would have been a little insulting, considering the circumstances,” said Stage, who paid $65,000 to remove the rubble left from the destruction of Lloyd’s Pharmacy. “I’d say, ‘Do you really want us to build back in your city?’ That’s how it makes you feel.”