From the Minnesota House of Representatives Public Information Services office:
House votes to ease restrictions on zoning variances
The House voted 79-52 to allow local governments greater latitude to grant zoning variances, but some said more work was needed on the legislation.
Sponsored by Rep. Joyce Peppin (R-Rogers), HF52 would modify the authority for cities, counties and townships to grant zoning variances. It now goes to the Senate, where Sen. Gen Olson (R-Minnetrista) is the sponsor.
The bill is designed as a response to a 2010 Minnesota Supreme Court decision. In Krummenacher v. City of Minnetonka, the court interpreted state law to say that cities cannot grant variances to property owners if their properties could be put to reasonable use without a variance.
In effect, the decision made it next to impossible for cities and townships to grant variances, except in rare circumstances. Supporters say the bill would merely clarify the current law so that local governments can go on using the same standards that have been in place for decades.
“The Krummenacher case actually took what was in practice here for a number of years in the state of Minnesota and made it illegal,” said Rep. Tim O’Driscoll (R-Sartell). He added that $45 million in construction projects in the state are being held up because of the decision.
Opponents said the bill does not have support from key stakeholders like the League of Minnesota Cities, who argue the bill’s language creates disparities in the relative authority of cities, counties and townships to grant variances. They argue the legislation would trigger more court cases.
“What we should be doing is actually getting the compromise worked out… creating a bill that’s ‘peace in the valley,’” said Rep. Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley).
Rep. Mike Beard (R-Shakopee) said the relevant stakeholder groups are in the process of negotiating a compromise. He said the plan is to incorporate their agreement into the Senate version of the bill, which would then be sent back to the House for approval.
– Nick Busse
Kudos to freshman Rep. Doug Wardlow (R-Eagan) for speaking up in support of the Supreme Court’s Krummenacher reasoning, even if we disagree on the proper remedy.
(Rep. Winkler explains in the video below a bit on the League of Minnesota Cities position, which is not without merit)
As I’ve said before and I still believe, professionally and personally, that H.F. 52 is a bad bill. It’s bad policy and lazy planning—and it gives NO investment-backed expectations, and grants far too much discretion to unelected Boards of Adjustment. Score 1-0 for the Good Old Boys vs. the Rule of Law. Round 2 moves to the Minnesota Senate, S.F. 13.
(As always, these views are mine and mine alone, and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer, boards, commissions, or municipalities with which I may work.)