Private Property Rights Should Still Exist Downtown The city's downtown agenda clashes with basic private property rights. There is nothing more anti

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Private Property Rights Should Still Exist Downtown

The city's downtown agenda clashes with basic private property rights. There is nothing more anti-business than denying private business owners the right to use their property as the law allows.

June 21th, 2016

American Bank Center Fact Findings

Over the last few months, we have told you about the unfair advantages that downtown businesses have when it comes to garnering special tax favors from the City of Bismarck (see below).

Today, we have a story about a downtown business facing an uphill battle to simply exercise its private property rights.

On the June 22nd, 2016 agenda (starts at Page 64) for the Bismarck Planning and Zoning Committee, American Bank Center is requesting permission to destroy a building it owns in order to provide more parking for its employees and customers.

The city staff is suggesting denial of this permit, not because it violates zoning laws, but because it goes against the “intent” of the city’s downtown agenda.

American Bank Center RZ

The funny thing about this project is that, as the city report shows, American Bank Center has received its own special tax deals using the Renaissance Zone program twice over the years.

The two projects, when approved, were expected to result in over $250,000 worth of property tax exemption savings and $250,000 worth of state income tax savings.

American Bank Center Recs

The question now is: if it was worth over a half-million dollars in LOST property tax and income tax, why does the city have a big problem with this same business tearing down a building it already owns to provide convenient parking for its employees and customers?

This in fact would help alleviate the parking problems downtown and free up space on the street.

The answer may actually be found in the city's own reporting.

In its recommendations it says that the city owned parking lots and parking ramps have rental spaces available.

That's right. The city won't let a business that it granted a half million dollar tax break to, use its own property because the city wants to rent parking spots to them instead.

City Must Want Parking Problems

Seminary Parking Meters

In the last five years, the city has spent millions of dollars building parking ramps.

While downtown Bismarck booms with growth, parking continues to be an issue.

But a brand new ramp is ready to help alleviate the car crunch.

It's a 13 million dollar project that took a little over a year and now, the 6th Street Parking ramp is complete.

Bismarck City Commissioner Parrell Grossman says there are 483 parking spots.

The majority of those will be for Sanford and city employees.

The remaining 70 spots will be open to the general public.

$13 million for 478 parking spots - that is over $27,000 per parking spot.

This issue reminds us of Mayor Mike Seminary's plan to change state law to allow for parking meters in the state.

The city wants the parking issue both ways - they want to stop businesses from providing their own parking lots so they can justify building new parking ramps that apparently have spots left to be filled.

Or they want to charge the public to park on the street, like Mayor Seminary has tried to lobby the legislature to do.

Central Planning Doesn't Work

As with many things, the city's policies are unfair and counter-productive.

If a city cannot find a way to let businesses use their private property rights to provide parking for their own buildings, the taxpayers better get ready to pony up for a lot more taxpayer funded parking lots.

Using the city's math on the latest parking ramp, at $27,000 per parking spot - the 21 parking spot net increase that American Bank Center wants to add would be worth over half-million dollars.

Funny, that's what the Renaissance Zone tax break was worth.

The city wants to "centrally plan" what happens and call it "economic development", but eventually private businesses will grow tired of this control and even the tax breaks won't be enough to entice investment.

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Dustin Gawrylow, Managing Director

North Dakota Watchdog Network