Cities Testify at Zoning Preemption Bill Hearing

March 7, 2022

Several city representatives expressed concerns about the bill, titled “Legalizing Affordable Housing,” which would take away city zoning and land use authority.

City representatives had a chance to testify against HF 3256, a zoning preemption bill, at a House Local Government Division hearing on March 2. This was the continuation of a hearing that started on Feb. 23 but ended before city perspectives were heard on the “Legalizing Affordable Housing” bill.

The bill, authored by Rep. Steve Elkins (DFL-Bloomington), was laid over to allow the committee to continue working on it.

Watch a recording of the hearing on HF 3256

Cities seek to address diverse housing needs

League staff testified at the hearing and shared that, as of the date of the hearing, 65 cities had adopted resolutions stating that:

  • Zoning is best addressed locally.
  • Varied and tailored solutions are needed for the varied housing issues across Minnesota.
  • A state/local partnership is crucial to address important housing needs statewide.

Unfortunately, HF 3256 doesn’t meet these needs. Since the hearing, the number of cities adopting this resolution has increased to 70.

Access the League’s model resolution and see the list of cities that have adopted it

Community-specific solutions needed

Minnetonka Mayor Brad Wiersum testified that cities oppose most of the legislation because it preempts local zoning authority, which is needed to address differing needs of each local community and differences in topography.

Wiersum also shared the importance of state housing policies solutions that work, including:

  • Addressing solutions for the full housing spectrum.
  • Supporting local innovation.
  • Providing incentives instead of mandates.
  • Providing community-specific solutions throughout Minnesota.

Small and Greater Minnesota city concerns

Perham City Manager Jonathan Smith testified on behalf of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities and Minnesota Association of Small Cities.

He expressed opposition to the legislation, saying that it would hamper zoning authority and negatively impact cooperation between cities and developers. He specifically discussed the need for workforce housing in cities with growing local economies.

Concerns about bill’s residential density language

Charles Vander Aarde of Metro Cities also testified at the hearing. He expressed opposition to the established residential density standards, as they would preempt local decision making in housing solutions.

Hugo City Administrator Bryan Bear also opposed the language regarding minimum densities, as the bill’s languages doesn’t adequately consider the impact on current infrastructure.

Metropolitan Council Community Development Director Lisa Barajas also expressed concerns about the requirement for residential densities and believed this should be addressed in the regional planning process through the Met Council. However, she said she supports the repeal of provisions exempting two cities from the regional planning process.

Other concerns

Prior Lake City Manager Jason Wedel also testified from a metro perspective and as a city that is experiencing a lot of growth. He said he opposes the refund provisions in the bill because they would have cities giving back fees before infrastructure should be billed, thus shifting the cost of infrastructure to the taxpayers rather than the developer.

Plymouth Public Works Director Michael Thompson, testifying on behalf of the City Engineers Association of Minnesota (CEAM), expressed concerns with street and right-of-way widths, particularly as they pertain to Greater Minnesota cities.

Support for some provisions

Although cities have many concerns about the bill, city representatives did express support for some provisions. Wedel supported the bill’s language providing authority for street impact fees, so that development pays for development-related infrastructure.

Thompson shared similar support for street impact fee authorization, but preferred the language in HF 527 (Rep. Sandra Masin, DFL-Eagan), a League-sponsored bill that was heard last year by the House. He also supported the language allowing cities to establish street improvement districts.

Senate companion

The Senate companion bill, SF 3259 (Sen. Rich Draheim, R-Madison Lake), has not yet been scheduled for a hearing, but it is expected to be heard. It has been referred to the Senate Housing Finance and Policy Committee.

For more background information about this bill, read a previous article.

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