Pop quiz time. Can you own property in Minneapolis? The answer is no. You can rent property in Minneapolis but that rental is subject to paying property taxes and utilizing the land in a manner that is expressly approved by the city council. If that last part sounds a bit strange it’s because you down own a surface parking lot. You see, the city council of Minneapolis has a dream. In that dream Minneapolis looked like Mega City I from Judge Dredd. Surface parking lots can’t pack in a million people so they’re on the list of properties to be axed.
So far the city council has been playing a cautious game but that looks like it may change:
It was a routine briefing of a Minneapolis City Council committee on a seemingly unrelated topic, but it offered the chance to rouse a long-simmering issue in Minneapolis:
What can the city do to rid itself of the acres of surface parking lots in and around downtown?
While development activity has seen many of those lots disappear, many remain — too many, according to Council Members Lisa Goodman and Jacob Frey, who used the May 11 briefing to press city assessor Patrick Todd to do something about it.
Like what? Goodman thinks the city should use state requirements that require property be assessed on its “highest and best use” — and not on its current use — to incentivize owners to either develop the land or sell to someone who will.
Because parking is scarce in Minneapolis a person can make pretty decent money with a surface parking lot. That really bothers certain council members such as Lisa Goodman. It bothers her so much that she wants to change the rules to make them unprofitable. That rule change is a simple one. Instead of assessing a parking lot as a parking lot for property tax purposes she wants to assess them as if they were being used for her vision of their best use. Since her vision is high density apartment complexes the assessment would jack up the property taxes to, she hopes, a level the owners can’t sustain. In fact she flat out says that they must not be paying enough taxes:
“If they’re making enough money by selling parking downtown,” she said, “then they’re not being taxed high enough, and they’re certainly not being taxed high enough for a potential Class A office use.”
Do you know what those surface parking lots were taxed enough for? Funding a study to decide on how best to destroy them:
In 2013, amid planning for the new Vikings Stadium, the group HR&A Advisors conducted a $40,000 study of ways to reduce the number of surface lots in Minneapolis. Several council ordinances have sought to force beautification of parking lots, something that could have also increased the costs associated with operating them. And a bill introduced by state Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, would allow Minneapolis and St. Paul to impose a per-stall fee on parking, with revenue going to public plazas, transit lines, bike facilities and pedestrian improvements.
This is another reason you should avoid paying whatever taxes you can. When you pay taxes they are often used to fund your destruction.
What we have here are central planners run amuck. Consumers have already spoken and they want surface parking lots. How can I say this since there hasn’t been any kind of vote? Unlike voting, the market actually indicates what consumers want. Because there are enough consumers paying to use these surface parking lots to make them profitable we know for a fact that those lots are in demand with consumers. Goodman doesn’t like them and instead of offering to buy those lots herself she’s using tax dollars to fund studies to determine the best way to destroy them… in a manner that requires the denizens of Minneapolis pay for it.
In the end I predict that the city council will get its way because it will just keep cranking up the taxes until it bleeds surface lot owners dry. Then those lots will sit empty because if developers really wanted those lots they’d have already bought them.