Minnesota Cities Magazine
More from Sep-Oct 2018 issue

Two-Way Street: How Did Your City Update Its Ordinances?

City Clerk
Luverne (Population 4,688)

The City of Luverne decided to take on a recodification project after I attended a session on the topic at the International Institute of Municipal Clerks Annual Conference. I learned that recodifying the city code is important, even though we update it each time the city adopts an ordinance.

Help from LMC Codification Services

Our city code was last recodified in 1980, so we liked the idea of doing a legal review to ensure we were still abiding by state and federal laws. Through our research, we found that the League of Minnesota Cities has a codification service that fit our needs. We did not have to start from ground zero, so we chose to have our existing code reviewed and updated. We worked with the League’s codification partner, American Legal Publishing Corporation (ALP).

Examination and updating process

ALP examined our current city code, as well as any new ordinances the city adopted after the review began. This took approximately six months. ALP classified all materials into titles, chapters, and sections; updated all provisions to reflect current statutory and case law requirements; simplified language; suggested new provisions; organized the code in an easy-to-use manual; prepared legislative history for each section; and created a table of contents and index.

Along with the draft manuscript of the code, we received a legal report. The report gave us general comments, questions, research, and analysis of our code, which helped us determine how it needed to be updated. ALP also included sample ordinances from the League’s collection.

We had 60 days to review the draft manuscript and report, and return our answers to ALP’s questions.

Approval process is next

We are now working with our Legal Department on the formal approval process, which includes a public hearing with the Planning Commission, publication and approval of a recodification and summary ordinances for publication in the paper, adoption of the recodification ordinance at a Council meeting, and publication of the summary ordinance in the paper.

Recodification is a time-consuming job, and I am extremely lucky to have talented and knowledgeable department heads that helped me throughout the process. They worked hard to make sure our city code is lawful and enforceable.

City Clerk/Treasurer
Hayward (Population 249)
Hayward is a small, rural city with limited resources, so adopting the Minnesota Basic Code of Ordinances (MBC) made perfect sense for us. The MBC is a complete model of ordinances that small cities can adopt without going through the expense of creating their own ordinances.

The MBC is available through the League of Minnesota Cities (LMC) Codification Services, provided in partnership with American Legal Publishing Corporation. After the initial purchase, updated versions are available every four years at a very reasonable price. The updates follow current statutes and case law.

Adopting the MBC

There is a specific process for adopting the MBC. The instructions are straightforward and fairly easy to follow, but if you need help (as I did), League staff are available to answer questions and provide guidance.

We had the choice of adopting the entire MBC or just parts of it while retaining some existing city ordinances. It’s designed to be a comprehensive ordinance book, and many portions of it help cities comply with state and federal laws, so our City Council decided to adopt the entire MBC.

Making the MBC effective

The MBC, and any supplement to it, had to be adopted by ordinance before it would become effective and enforceable; furthermore, it had to be published according to state statutes.

Even after adopting the MBC, state law dictates that certain sections do not take effect until council passes a resolution to activate them. So, our Council took action on that as well. The final step was letting the League know we adopted the MBC.

A few lessons learned

We did encounter a few hiccups through this process, primarily concerning publication requirements. We thought a city of our small size could post the city code instead of publishing it in the newspaper. That was wrong!

Another concern was the expense involved with publish¬ing the entire code. I talked to other cities and learned that you don’t have to publish the entire thing; you can publish a summary of it. One city shared a summary ordinance that their city attorney drafted. We asked our city attorney if their summary—or something similar—would work for us. It did!

The MBC is everything a small city needs in one handy, well-organized binder. Now our city can rest assured that our ordinances are up to code and enforceable!

Read the Sept-Oct 2018 issue of Minnesota Cities magazine

* By posting you are agreeing to the LMC Comment Policy.