Bills have been introduced at the Minnesota Legislature to weaken rights needed for effective local democracy. Corporate interests are pushing bills to weaken the rights of cities and townships to effectively respond to unwanted and potentially harmful developments. This in turn weakens our ability as citizens to work through our local government to protect our community. Action is needed now to keep local democracy strong.
The bills weaken the interim ordinance powers of townships and cities. Interim ordinances allow cities or townships to quickly put a temporary moratorium on major development. This power is essential when the community is caught off-guard by unanticipated and potentially harmful proposals, especially those from outside corporate interests. The interim ordinance freezes the status quo and gives the community time to review or create the appropriate zoning ordinances. Corporate interests have long pushed to weaken these rights because citizens have used them effectively to stop unwanted developments like factory farms.
The Anti-Local Control Bills:
- House File 2585: Reps. Jim Nash (R-Waconia), Mark Uglem (R-Champlin), Mike Nelson (DFL-Brooklyn Park), Leon Lillie (DFL-North St. Paul), Paul Thissen (DFL-Minneapolis), Josh Heintzeman (R-Baxter), Jerry Hertaus (R-Greenfield)
- Senate File 2694: Sens. Melisa Franzen (DFL-Edina); Karin Housley (R-St. Mary’s Point)
The bills require a two-thirds super majority to enact an interim ordinance. Currently, an interim ordinance can be enacted by a simple majority — that’s how democratic rights should work.
The bills would delay enactment of an interim ordinance for so long that it will often be ineffective. The bill requires a 30-day notice and a public hearing before a city or township enacts a moratorium on "activities related to housing." The problem with this is that neighbors often don't learn about a proposed project until days before a permit is going to be issued. Under this bill, by the time the township or city posts a 30-day notice and has a public hearing on adopting the moratorium, the project could already be permitted. This provision is particularly problematic for township boards, which only meet once a month and consist of volunteers with no paid staff. For them, meeting this requirement will take months. By that time the project could be permitted and the moratorium be ineffective.