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Minnesota Legislature

Smarter, greener land use

Published (3/6/2009)
By Nick Busse
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A proposal working its way through the House would ask local governments to do their part to mitigate climate change — and possibly save themselves some money in the process.

HF1035, sponsored by Rep. Larry Hosch (DFL-St. Joseph), would modify land use statutes by limiting rural development and allowing cities to establish planned growth areas in neighboring townships.

The goal is to slow suburban sprawl and encourage cities to develop in areas where there is already a relatively high population density. Hosch said the bill evolved from findings of the Minnesota Climate Change Advisory Group, which recommended the changes to stop fragmentation of agricultural land and reduce the number of vehicle miles driven in the state, both of which contribute to global warming.

But supporters say the bill could have other benefits as well. Focusing development around already populated areas would mean that cities would spend less money on extending roads, sewers and other services. Bradley Peterson, a lobbyist representing the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, said more compact growth areas will save taxpayers money.

Others interpret the bill’s provisions quite differently. Kent Sulem, an attorney for the Minnesota Association of Townships, said the bill would give virtually unilateral authority to municipal governments that want to annex land in neighboring townships.

“This bill is simply an anti-township annexation bill trying to be guised in the arena of environmental policy,” Sulem said, adding that he supported the greenhouse gas reduction goals of the legislation.

The House Local Government Division approved the bill on a 6-4 vote March 2 and referred it to the House State and Local Government Operations Reform, Technology and Elections Committee.

Sen. Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook) sponsors the companion, SF913, which awaits action by the Senate E-12 Education Budget and Policy Division.

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