Minneapolis 2040 Plan halted by judge's order

Minneapolis 2040, a plan approved by both the Minneapolis City Council and Metropolitan Council intended to guide the city of Minneapolis’ growth throughout the next decade, has been halted - for now - by a judge’s order.

As of June 15, the city is "immediately prohibited from any ongoing implementation of the 2040 Plan and shall immediately cease all present action," according to a judgment by Judge Joseph R. Kline of the Fourth Judicial Court.

However, the city will have 60 days to refute claims made by Smart Growth Minneapolis, the Audubon Chapter of Minneapolis and Minnesota Citizens for the Protection of Migratory Birds, that the 2040 Plan violates the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act (MERA) and "is likely to cause the pollution, impairment, or destruction of the air, water, land or other natural resources located within the state." Without satisfying that requirement, the city must return to the "status quo relationship between the parties, as it existed on Dec. 4, 2018, by refraining from its enforcement of any aspect of the 2040 Plan."

"This decision is a pivotal win for the residents of Minneapolis and the environment," Smart Growth Minneapolis executive director Rebecca Arons said in a statement following the decision. "This court victory will prevent mistakes from being made by environmentally blind implementation of the plan. It will provide an opportunity for city leaders to make two important values of our city - environmental sustainability and equity - work together and better achieve the goals of the 2040 Plan."

The 2040 Plan was designed to guide the city’s growth over the next few decades with a goal to address housing, transportation, equity, sustainability and more, but has previously been criticized as being rushed, and favoring expansion over current neighborhood residents. 

As part of the Metropolitan Land Planning Act, the Metropolitan Council prepares long-range development plans for the Twin Cities region every ten years, and local governments adopt a comprehensive plan consistent with the development plan. 

In 2009, the city adopted a comprehensive plan called The Minneapolis Plan for Sustainable Growth, but it did not provide specific guidance on the size of new buildings, which was left to the zoning code and varied depending on the zoning district. 

The 2040 Plan included substantial amendments to the City’s comprehensive plan, and officially went into effect on Jan. 1, 2020. 

Previously, members voted in favor of allowing triplexes to be built where single-family homes are currently located.

"We hope the city will not appeal, and will choose to do what is legal and environmentally right," Arons said. "If the city decides instead to appeal, it will spend months, perhaps a year or more, in court. For all that time, the injunction will be in effect, paralyzing city development, and prohibiting investment at precisely the time the city needs development so urgently."