May 13, 2024 - News

New ruling revives Minneapolis' 2040 plan, but the legal drama over housing development isn't over yet

Illustration of the facade of a triplex being held up by wooden beams.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Minneapolis' "2040 Plan" — which legalized duplexes, triplexes, and more housing density citywide — is back in effect after a new court ruling Monday.

Why it matters: Mayor Jacob Frey has argued housing development that brings density is key to Minneapolis' push to keep prices and rents down. For now, the ruling means certain multi-family housing projects promoting this goal will be able to move forward again.

  • An earlier decision by a lower court had thrown those projects into limbo.

Yes, but: The long-running saga is far from over — and the plaintiffs suing the city have vowed to appeal, their attorney Jack Perry told Axios.

Catch up quick: In 2021, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that Perry's clients were entitled to challenge city land-use plans like "2040" under state environmental laws.

  • Last fall, Hennepin County Judge Joseph Klein issued an injunction against the city's use of the 2040 Plan, ordering it to revert to an older zoning plan while the legal drama or further environmental studies played out.

Driving the news: The Minnesota Court of Appeals decided that the lower-court judge erred, ruling that Klein should've demanded proof from the plaintiffs that returning to the older plan was any better for the environment.

  • Following the decision, city spokesperson Greta Bergstrom confirmed to Axios that Minneapolis officials are "planning to resume permitting multifamily projects under the 2040 Plan."

What they're saying: In his own statement, Frey called the ruling "a step in the right direction" but urged state lawmakers to act on a proposal that recently passed the Minnesota House which would effectively end the lawsuit.

  • "The battle we've been fighting in the courts highlights the clear need for a change in state law," Frey said.
  • The ruling "does not end the litigation," Bergstrom added.

The other side: Perry argued that the logic behind the newest ruling was backward, saying someone with concerns that a policy could cause environmental harm shouldn't need to pay for expensive studies so they can proceed with a legal challenge.

  • "This ruling would gut" the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act, Perry said. "Unless this is a billionaire statute, then it's worthless."
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