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Court orders Minneapolis to halt 2040 plan

Several groups filed a lawsuit against the city, arguing the plan failed to outline its environmental impacts, demanding it comply with the Environmental Rights Act.

MINNEAPOLIS — On Wednesday, Minneapolis environmentalists won a major victory in Hennepin County District Court with their 2018 lawsuit to stop the City of Minneapolis from implementing its 2040 Plan until it complies with the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act (MERA). 

Smart Growth Minneapolis (SMG) and its co-plaintiff, the Audubon Chapter of Minneapolis, argued that the City violated the law by not identifying the environmental effects of the plan, which up-zoned virtually the entire city. 

It's a win for the environment if you asked David Hartwell, a former board member of the Minneapolis Audubon Chapter. 

"The concerning factors are that it up-zones the entire city," said Hartwell. 

The plan, approved by the city council back in 2018, included goals like adding more residents and jobs, public transit and affordable housing.

"You can now build a triplex on any lot in the city. You can build a 10-story apartment building on any transportation corridor — no special use permits — it adds huge density to the city," explained Harwell. 

Which is why Hartwell and several other environmental groups filed a lawsuit against the city arguing the plan failed to outline the environmental impacts, demanding it comply with the state's Environmental Right's Act. 

"We're not anti-development, but you know we want the city to be livable for everyone," explained Hartwell. He went on to ask, "Do you want a city that doesn't have any yards, that's built out completely? Do we want to go to a Chicago or a New York model and then have all the resulting air pollution, water pollution, water quality issues that go with that?"

Minneapolis Deputy City Attorney Erik Nilsson said in a statement: "We are still reviewing the order and, while we anticipate filing an appeal, will consider all options."

"I just would hope that the city would come to their senses and say, 'Let's do what's best for everybody in the city and understand the consequences of what we're doing from an environmental standpoint," said Hartwell. 

The city has to decide whether or not to conduct an environmental review of the 2040 plan, which the court has ordered, or they'll have to redo it entirely.

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