Zoning Preemption Bill Sent to Senate Floor

March 22, 2021

Despite city opposition, a bill that would preempt local zoning authority has advanced to the Senate Floor.

Note: There is updated information on this topic. Read the latest article.

SF 915 (Sen. Rich Draheim, R-Madison Lake), which would preempt local zoning authority, was passed, 4-3, by the Senate Local Government Policy Committee on March 16 and sent to the Senate floor.

There is a possibility that this bill may be dual tracked and included in an omnibus bill. The League will monitor for that.

The bill was amended in a previous committee, which removed some problematic provisions, but other problems remain. The bill would still preempt local zoning authority by, for example, limiting planned unit development (PUD) conditions and prohibiting aesthetic conditions.

Cities oppose bill

Prior Lake City Manager Jason Wedel and Elko New Market City Administrator Tom Terry testified in opposition to the bill, along with the League and Metro Cities. City testifiers discussed the importance of local control for zoning.

Cities — not the Legislature — know their communities and are in the best position to address local zoning and respond to local needs, they argued. And while proponents claim otherwise, PUDs are requested by developers, not required by cities.

League staff responded to criticisms of whether cities are doing enough for housing. Cities have been specifically addressing local needs through such measures as tax abatement, tax increment financing, and low- or no-cost land. But even when cities provide zoning related help — such as providing for smaller lots, zoning for tri-plexes and fourplexes, and paying for water and sewer hook-up — developers are often not building needed affordably-priced housing.

There was even one city that had to further restrict how large the homes could be built on small lots because developers were building expensive homes, right up to setbacks, thus not producing the more affordable homes as desired by the city and community.

Changing zoning practices has not resulted in more affordable homes being built. And there is no guarantee if this bill were to become law that it would result in the building of more affordable homes.

Additionally, residential construction has not had any issues, as there was a 32% increase compared to a year ago and there have been more single-family permits pulled since 2005.

Joining the League is opposition to the bill are several city organizations, including Metro Cities, the Municipal Legislative Commission, Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, and Minnesota Association of Small Cities.

Read the joint city letter opposing SF 915 (pdf)

Proponents of the bill

Housing First and the Minnesota Association of Realtors testified in support of the bill, claiming that zoning regulations are the reason residential development is driving up the cost of housing. However, it is widely known that land, labor, and materials are the highest cost drivers — not city regulations.

Read information from Housing First (pdf)

No House hearing

The House companion bill, HF 1840 (Rep. Steve Elkins, DFL-Bloomington), has not had any hearings.

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