Groups fight city, argue changes will cause lasting environmental damage.
By Miguel Otárola - Star Tribune - January 31, 2019
Hennepin County District Court Judge Joseph Klein, pictured above on Dec. 4, 2018, heard arguments Thursday on whether or not to dismiss a lawsuit against the Minneapolis 2040 Comprehensive Plan.
Attorneys on opposite sides of a lawsuit that seeks to outlaw the recently approved Minneapolis 2040 comprehensive plan stated their cases before a judge Thursday.
Hennepin County District Judge Joseph Klein heard arguments over whether to dismiss the lawsuit, which was raised by three groups claiming the plan would damage the environment. He did not issue a decision, saying it would come “in the near future.”
The 2040 plan, approved in December by the Minneapolis City Council, calls for an end to single-family zoning within Minneapolis. It includes goals to increase density, mitigate climate change and reduce racial disparities.
The groups — the Audubon Chapter of Minneapolis, Minnesota Citizens for the Protection of Migratory Birds and a new organization called Smart Growth Minneapolis — had invoked the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act (MERA) in its argument that the plan is “likely to cause the pollution, impairment, or destruction of the air, water, land or other natural resources located within the state.”
In December, Klein had rejected a last-minute request from the groups to delay the council vote. According to his order, the plan would not immediately lead to new construction, so there was no imminent threat to the environment.
On Thursday, attorneys argued their cases for an hour. The plaintiffs also asked for a summary judgment.
In front of Klein, Assistant City Attorney Ivan Ludmer said the 2040 plan is broad and conceptual, and that future construction spurred by the plan will undergo proper scrutiny.
“We don’t know yet what the actual build-out and development will look like,” he said.
Ludmer said the plaintiffs have not shown causation, only speculation, that upzoning would harm the environment.
“If they don’t like how these laws apply, the place to object is the Legislature,” he said.
Jack Perry, the attorney for the groups, said they object to the plan and would like it to be “revised, rewritten or maybe thrown out altogether.”
“Nobody in the country has tried to do what they’re trying to do,” Perry said. He called it a “massive, citywide densification plan” that needs to show it satisfies MERA requirements.
The 2040 plan was submitted to the Metropolitan Council, which will review it and other comprehensive plans from the region this year.