Protesters set fire to a car lot on the corner of Lake street and Park Ave. on Friday night, May 29, 2020. Protesting continues for a third day in response to the death of George Floyd.

Source:  Hank Berrien

The city of Minneapolis is demanding that businesses devastated by the rioters and looters this summer have to pay all their 2020 property taxes to the city before they can remove the debris from their suites and rebuild with the aid of a demolition permit.

“Most small businesses don’t have insurance, and most insurance policies only cover risks that can be modeled (such as fires, natural disasters, etc), not riots. Even in a best case scenario where a business does have insurance and is fully able to recoup the dollar value of everything stolen, the business still suffers a loss during the weeks or months they spend waiting to be paid out by insurance,” writer Matt Palumbo noted.

“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,” the Minneapolis Star-Tribune pointed out. “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.”

In the midst of this situation, the city of Minneapolis and Hennepin County officials have engaged in blaming each other; the law requiring taxes be paid before a demolition permit can be secured is supposed to be enforced by the county, but Derrick Hodge, one of the managers in Hennepin County’s property tax office, claimed, ““We don’t feel like we have an ability to block these permits, and I don’t see why we would. 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.”

Steve Poor, the city’s director of development services, countered that he met with officials from Hennepin County a few weeks ago, adding, “They said they will not sign off on a wrecking form unless they are satisfied, and they said satisfied means the taxes are paid in full.”

Hodge insisted that county officials informed city officials that Minneapolis could approve the demolition permits and didn’t need approval from the county, asserting, “It is up to them to decide whether they need to involve us. But if they choose not to involve us, we are not going to take offense.”

“Owners and insurance experts estimate the costs of the damage could exceed $500 million. That would make the Twin Cities riots the second-costliest civil disturbance in U.S. history,” the Star-Tribune reported on June 6 of the effects of the riots.

Don Blyly, who owns a bookstore in Minneapolis, told the Star-Tribune,  “Minneapolis has not been particularly friendly toward business for some time. They say they want to be helpful, but they certainly have not been.”

Developer David Wellington, whose family saw properties it owned devastated by the riots, added, “When it first hit my desk, I was flabbergasted that this was a requirement. We need to make noise for people who really need the help and, frankly, it isn’t us … People are suffering pretty dramatically, so this is a considerable ask.”

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