BY MINDY MATEUSZCZYK
When the city of Champlin enacted a new vacant building registration ordinance, Mark Saliterman, chairman of Vision Bank, was one of the people impacted by the decision.
In order to comply with the new ordinance, Saliterman had to register a vacant office space unit he owns in a commercial building on Zealand Avenue. Per the ordinance, the city charged him a $500 registration fee for six months.
When the city debated the ordinance earlier this year, the thought behind the fee was to offset the $75,000 cost the city incurs managing vacant properties. Deputy Administrator John Cox says the cost comes from site visits, carrying out involuntary water shut-offs and enforcing code violations.
Despite the city’s logic, Saliterman is displeased with the fee. He has filed a lawsuit against the city in conciliation court.
"They are charging a fee we find to be excessive and unreasonable. You can register a corporation for $145. This $500 is just so expensive," said Saliterman, whose bank also owns properties in Brooklyn Park and Hudson, Wis. "We’ll let a judge determine if it’s legal."
Cox said Champlin is joined by 15 other cities that have a similar ordinance. But this is a first for Saliterman.
"I’ve never encountered a vacant land registration fee. It’s absurd," said Saliterman. "It is unreasonable to be charging people this when they are having trouble enough and they don’t need the city to tack on a $500 fee. We have a property and we pay our taxes. We make sure the property is well-maintained."
Saliterman continues, stating they are required to pay an association fee whether the unit is vacant or occupied.
"The Association represents all of the condo owners. They own the land and are responsible for maintaining the property. The city doesn’t have to do anything."
He questions if the city will charge an apartment building owner $500 for every vacant apartment unit also. Cox said it is not based on units within a building but rather on individual property identification (PID) numbers.
Vision Bank’s property has a separate PID from other units in the same building.
Cox said he realizes that some people may be upset with the city’s new ordinance but they feel they set a reasonable price.
"Some cities have their fee set as high as $6,000," said Cox. He also said that while there have been some people unhappy with the new ordinance, there hasn’t been as much pushback as the city anticipated.
"To be honest with you, people understand," he said. "Our concern is trying to shift the cost from taxpayers to those with the vacant properties."
A judge will hear the issue June 8, in Minneapolis.