Uncle Hugo’s Don Blyly
Makes the Front Page

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune ran a photo of Don Blyly standing amid the ruins of Uncle Hugo’s bookstore in the August 12 issue to highlight its story “Mpls. keeps landscape of rubble as city wants taxes before permit”.

Blyly’s predicament shows the Twin Cities are quite different in the way each applies a state law.  

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] 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.

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.

Across the river, recovery is moving much faster:

In St. Paul, officials have been issuing demolition permits in as little as a week, records show.

Don Blyly shared full details of all the permit and other problems in a recent newsletter: “Save Uncle Hugo’s: August Update”.

[Thanks to Jack Lint for the story.]

7 thoughts on “Uncle Hugo’s Don Blyly
Makes the Front Page

  1. I wonder what the reaction would be if he (and maybe some of the other 100 owners) presented a check for $0.00 — or even a bill for negative taxes — on the grounds that the city’s action has at least zeroed the property value?

    Maybe this will get some unprintable to either move or be moved (depending on how high up the decision was made); sunlight can be a good disinfectant. (There’s a local consumer-help columnist who has a considerable run of companies paying rebates owed once he calls and/or puts the story in the major newspaper — sometimes it doesn’t even have to be printed, just webbed.)

  2. Pingback: Pixel Scroll 8/13/20 There’s A Right Way To Pixel, A Wrong Way To Pixel, And There’s The Scroll Way To Pixel | File 770

  3. I love the line in the StarTrib article “Fingerpointing is not helpful.” ISTM that somebody in authority did the right thing in St. Paul, and none of the corresponding people in Minneapolis did, which suggests that somewhere there’s one or more middle-to-upper managers needing swift kicks (assuming the mayor is correct in claiming that he just found out about the problem). But at least now there’s movement.

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