Elsewhere online
May 13, 2015

Minneapolis Churches Balk at Tax Assessment for Mall Project

Several large, primarily religious nonprofits in Minneapolis are raising legal objections to a proposed special property-tax assessment for major improvements to the city's Nicollet Mall shopping district, MinnPost reports.

The groups, among them the Basilica of St. Mary, the University of St. Thomas, and the YWCA, have advanced what one lawyer for the city called a "creative and novel" argument to reduce levies in support of the $50 million downtown project.

Minnesota's constitution exempts nonprofits from regular property taxes, but under established case law they can be charged assessments to fund improvements adjacent to their property, such as work on streets, sidewalks, or sewers. The church groups contend the Nicollet Mall project "go[es] beyond basic public infrastructure" and thus falls under the constitutional provision, as a lawyer for the basilica wrote in a letter to city officials.

The nonprofits say they support the Nicollet Mall improvements but are calling for a 50-percent reduction in their assessments. City officials say adjacent property owners will reap benefits from the project, including increased property values, that exceed the amount of the assessment.