Minnesota Cities Magazine

Ask LMC: Handling Complaints About a Neighbor’s Property

Illustration: propertyConditional Use Permits
Q: How do we handle a resident who is voicing strong opposition to a conditional use permit for his neighbor’s property?
LMC: First, it is important to recognize that neighbors have legitimate interests. While property owners may develop expectations about the regulation of their own land, they also develop expectations of neighboring property. For example, if a city’s zoning ordinance states a neighborhood will remain residential, homeowners in the area rely on that information. However, even though neighbors have legitimate interests, their rights are limited. Residents do have a right to participate in the process through a public hearing, where they can present evidence, ask questions, and argue about the correct interpretation of regulations. Residents do not have the right to dictate the terms of use for someone else’s property. The role of the public (residents and non-residents) is not to offer opinions about the best or preferred uses of property, nor is it to present a wish list of things they would rather see. The role of the public is to present factual evidence to city decision-makers. For more information, read the LMC information memo at www.lmc.org/neighbor.

Library Board
Q: Can our city council serve as the library board?
LMC: The answer differs depending on the type of the city. For Statutory Plan A cities, the answer is no. For those cities, state statute requires that the library board operate independently from the city council, and the board has exclusive control of the expenditure of all money earmarked as the library fund, of interest earned on that money, of the construction of library buildings, and of the grounds, rooms, and buildings provided for library purposes. This includes establishing compensation for library employees, as well as removing employees for cause. However, the Minnesota Court of Appeals and the attorney general view cities as the employers of library staff in limited instances of collective bargaining and personnel policies. Worth noting, a jointly established library created by an agreement between a school district and a city is also run by an independent library board on which, again, only one member of the city council and one member of the school board can serve. For Statutory Plan B cities, no authorization for creation of a library board exists, and state law requires the council to govern and administer the library.

Human Resources
Q: I want to make sure we have all the correct employment posters displayed. How can I find out what posters are required?
LMC: The U.S. Department of Labor offers information to help determine which posters apply to your city at http://webapps.dol.gov/elaws/posters.htm. The good news is that the required federal and state employment posters are available online and can be downloaded for free. For federal posters, visit www.dol.gov/oasam/boc/osdbu/sbrefa/poster/matrix.htm. For state posters, visit http://www.dli.mn.gov/ls/posters.asp. Generally, the law requiring the labor law poster will indicate for whom it must be displayed. Some posters must be displayed in places available to job applicants as well as employees. So, in addition to placing posters in the workplace and on an intranet, some cities post a notice on their website stating, “Applicants have rights under federal and state employment laws,” and then link to various employment posters.

Property Taxes
Q: As we think about changes in our city’s tax base over time, what are the major categories used for classifying property within the city?
LMC: City and county assessors classify each parcel of property into one of dozens of property use categories delineated in statute. Generally, the major categories are agricultural property, homestead property, commercial-industrial property, and non-residential homestead property. Within each of these categories are very specific subcategories. For example, there are more than 20 different use categories for agricultural property. The classification depends on the size of the parcel, whether there is a homestead on the land, whether it is forested land, etc. For residential homesteads, there are separate use categories for different value homesteads. In addition to those four groupings, there are many other highly specific property classifications, such as marina, bed and breakfast, railroad, public utility land and buildings, and golf courses. The League’s annual Property Tax Report (available at www.lmc.org/propertytax-reports) shows for each city a breakdown of all property value into five categories: agricultural, homestead, commercial-industrial, non-residential homestead, and other. The Minnesota House of Representatives’ Research Department provides full listings of all the property classifications, available at http://bit.ly/2fGuOTu.

Got questions for LMC? Send your questions to choffacker@lmc.org.

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