Townships Push Annexation Agenda

March 21, 2022

Two bills drafted by townships would remove city authority and expand township authority related to annexation.

The House Local Government Division had an informational hearing March 16 on two bills giving townships more tools to block and change city annexations.

The bills, HF 4108 and HF 4109, both authored by Rep. John Huot, DFL-Rosemount, are very similar and both deal with removing city annexation authority and providing townships more tools to force land to be detached from cities and to block annexations. The League, the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, and the Minnesota Association of Small Cities all testified against the two bills at the hearing.

Provisions dealing with orderly annexation agreements

One set of proposed changes deals with land included in an orderly annexation (OA) agreement. It says that if a parcel of land is included in an OA between a city and a township, no other city may attempt to annex that parcel, nor may the property owner seek an annexation that is not agreed to in that OA.

This is related to an annexation fight that went to the Minnesota Supreme Court between the City of Proctor and Midway Township. In that case, the township had an OA with a different city saying that they had no intention of annexing any land in the township.

They claimed that the contract to “not annex” prevented the City of Proctor from agreeing to annex parcels at the request of the property owners. The court did not agree and allowed the annexation.

Detachment from city

Another set of changes would allow a township to initiate detachment of property out of a city and into the township in cases where the land did not have water and sewer services provided within five years of being annexed. This would be allowed even against the wishes of property owners.

It does not include any of the tax reimbursement or stranded asset repayment requirements that cities must meet. Property owners can already request detachment through a relatively simple petition if they feel that is appropriate to their situation.

Election requirement

HF 4108 also reinstates a requirement for an election for all affected properties in an annexation. That process was replaced decades ago by the current process that has administrative law judges oversee annexation procedures and determine whether state criteria are met if the case is contested. This provision is not included in HF 4109.

Two city annexation authorities removed

HF 4109 removes two authorities cities can currently use to annex land by ordinance. In one case, the property must be completely surrounded by city land, which obviously makes service delivery and extension a potential concern.

The other deleted authority pertains to parcels of 40 acres or less that are 60% or more surrounded by city land. Townships want both of these types of annexation to move forward only if the township agrees to the change.

City groups oppose the bills

City groups oppose these attacks on city authority to properly plan and manage growth and to honor property owner interests in having their property moved into a city to take advantage of city services and economic development opportunities.

As townships push to get unilateral changes made to annexation statutes, city organizations remind the Legislature that multiple lengthy attempts by the two sides to work on their differences have resulted in only small changes over the past 20 years. The system works well, even though there are occasionally cases where one side or the other wishes they had more authority.

There is no unbalanced flood of annexations being approved against the wishes of the townships involved. That level of conflict is rare. Cities, however, are the appropriate place for development that is urban or suburban in nature to occur, and state law supports that distinction, and that often demands that new parcels be moved into a city.

The League will continue to coordinate with other city groups to oppose changes to annexation law that erode city authority and cities’ ability to plan for growth and development.

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