The Power to Retain Local Control in the Face of Corporate Development is in Your Hands

In 2011, corporate interests attempted to weaken township and community rights in Minnesota. Land Stewardship Project helped block that attempt, but corporations are at it again this year.

By law, township, city, or county governments can pass interim ordinances to place a moratorium on large development projects in order to give citizens and communities more time to study their impacts. The ordinances must pass by a simple majority, and they are one of the best ways communities have to put a hold on projects–like factory farms, mines, and housing subdivisions–that may have taken them by surprise.

Often, corporations plan developments far in advance, but lack of communication and disclosure leads to citizens being “blindsided” by a large development until it’s late in the game. The interim ordinance gives citizens–through their city councils, county commissions, and township boards–a powerful tool to say, “hold on a minute!”

Unfortunately, House File 389 and Senate File 270–legislation that would weaken the power of local control–are now making their way through both houses of the Minnesota legislature.

Under the proposed legislation, merely applying for a permit exempts a proposed development from any future interim ordinance. But all too often neighbors do not get any information about a project until AFTER the permit has been applied for. When that happens, an interim ordinance may be needed to freeze the status quo and create time to assess the situation.

The legislation requires a two-thirds vote (a super majority) to enact an interim ordinance. Currently, an interim ordinance can be enacted by a simple majority — that’s how democratic rights should work. There is no reason to make adopting an interim ordinance so difficult. The legislation slows the process for enacting an interim ordinance by mandating public notice and a hearing before an interim ordinance can be enacted. In many cases, a local unit of government — particularly a township — does not get complete information on a proposed development until shortly before approval. In those cases, there can be legitimate concerns that the local government needs to address. [“Keep Local Democracy Strong in Minnesota.” Land Stewardship Project. 1/25/12]

House file 389 is scheduled to be heard TOMORROW, 1/26/12 at 10:15am.  Protect your right to exercise local control over corporate development by calling your state representatives right away!

For more information on the bills and how to contact your legislators, and to read Land Stewardship Project’s press release on the legislation, click here. You can also call or e-mail LSP’s Bobbi King: bking@landstewardshipproject.org or (612) 722-6377.

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