Anxiety over annexation changes


Opponents fear a proposed change will revive the “annexation wars” between large and small cities, but supporters say it’s better for individual landowners.

Sponsored by Rep. Larry Howes (R-Walker), HF753 would allow property owners whose land sits on a municipal boundary line to petition to have their land detached and annexed from one city to another, providing that at least one city supports the change. Under current law, both cities must support the proposed annexation.

With the support of a resolution from one of the affected cities, a property owner could take his case to an administrative law judge, who would have the power to order the detachment and annexation. Howes said judges would serve as a check against annexations that would be unfair to an affected municipality.

“If (the judge) sees that it’s going to harm one of the cities or that owner or other owners, they’re not going to follow through with that,” he said.

The House Government Operations and Elections Committee approved the bill and sent it to the House floor. It has no Senate companion.

Howes said the proposed change was supported by the recommendations of the Municipal Boundary Adjustment Advisory Task Force – a bipartisan group assembled by the Legislature to review annexation laws. The task force issued its final report in 2009. Howes noted that the League of Minnesota Cities and the Minnesota Association of Townships support the bill.

Opponents included Bruce Messelt, city administrator for Lake Elmo, who warned that the bill could revive the “costly border wars” – expensive legal disputes – that occurred before the law was changed in 2006 to require support from both affected cities.

“We’re very concerned that this would basically create zoning shopping – that if you’re not satisfied in your own community, you simply go to another elected body and create that conflict up front,” he said.