Annexation Compromise Adopted in House Committee

A controversial bill introduced late last session was amended to reflect agreement between cities and townships.
(Published Mar 24, 2014)

An annexation bill that received a controversial and contentious hearing after committee deadlines last session was heard again in the House Government Operations Committee on March 21. HF 1425 (Rep. Andrew Falk, DFL-Murdock) was initially drafted to affect annexation cases in Ortonville and Proctor. The bill was not acted on last session, but the committee sent city and township representatives away with orders to find a solution to possible concerns with uses of the annexation by ordinance provision known as the 120-acre rule.

Minnesota Statutes, section 414.033, subdivision 2 allows a property owner to petition a city for annexation by ordinance under certain conditions, including that the parcel be 120 acres or smaller. Concerns were raised by townships that the law contained loopholes that could allow an annexation to occur in a manner not intended by that provision. The League, the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities, and the Minnesota Association of Townships worked throughout the interim to identify areas where the law could be tightened that were acceptable to all parties. The groups came to an agreement, and new language was adopted to replace the language in the bill as it was introduced, and was passed to the House floor.

The bill, as amended, changes the definition of “property owner” to prevent a situation where parcels are split to separate ownership and petition for annexation using the 120-acre rule, but there is an underlying financial ownership interest by a single party that could later assume control of the parcels under common ownership. It also clarifies how the existing 12-month time limit using the 120-acre rule is applied to avoid sections of land over 120 cumulative acres being annexed by ordinance in a 12-month period of time after being split to be small enough parcels to qualify for that process. Finally, it clarifies that the legal description of a property is what is required to be used when a “description of property” or “boundaries of an area” are needed.

The companion bill, SF 1353, is scheduled to be heard in the Senate State and Local Government Committee on March 24. The same compromise amendment will be offered.

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