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Judge delays vote on Minneapolis 2040 plan

December 6, 2018

A judge blocked the Minneapolis City Council’s vote to approve the 2040 Comprehensive Plan, the city’s development blueprint that was expected to be submitted Friday.

Hennepin County District Judge Joseph R. Klein said on Thursday he may need up to seven days to make a decision on a lawsuit raised by an opposition group earlier this week, which claimed the comprehensive plan would likely have negative environmental impacts.

“The deadline [to approve the plan] is Dec. 31, not Dec. 7,” he said. He added he could issue his decision as early as later Thursday.

The City Council was planning to vote and likely submit the plan to the Metropolitan Council on Friday. Another council meeting for next week was canceled.

Even though the 2040 plan takes aim at climate change with denser development that reduces the need to drive, opponents sought a hearing to say that the plan should be studied further to see how whether it harms habitat for birds and wildlife and environmental effects.

Jack Perry, an attorney for plaintiffs Smart Growth Minneapolis, the Audubon Chapter of Minneapolis and Minnesota Citizens for the Protection of Migratory Birds was elated following the hearing, in which he said the city had not done its due burden to have an environmental review on a plan that could make “irreparable harm.”

“[Klein] needs time to issue a thoughtful, reasonable decision, which is what a good jurist does,” he said.

After Klein issued his decision, Minneapolis City Attorney Susan Segal interjected, asking him to reconsider and not interfere with tomorrow’s vote.

In a statement, Segal said this was a “temporary delay” and that they were grateful for the care the court is taking.

“Due to the short turnaround time, the City’s brief was filed with the Court only a little over an hour before the oral argument,” she said. “We remain of the firm belief that the City’s process has been in full compliance with all state requirements.”

Council President Lisa Bender, who has led much of the work on the comprehensive plan, said Thursday that the council would probably adjourn its Friday meeting to discuss the plan next week.

“We take it as an indication that the judge needed time to write a decision more than anything,” she said.

John Goetz, an injury attorney and president of Smart Growth Minneapolis, said he formed the group over the summer with the idea of taking legal action on the plan. He then contacted Perry’s firm about a month ago, and the other two groups joined about two weeks later.

“Our mission... is to support evidence-based city urban planning,” he said, adding that he was pleased with Klein’s decision Thursday.

The plaintiffs had hired Sunde Engineering, a civil and environmental engineering firm based in Bloomington, which conducted an environmental review of the plan that was attached in the lawsuit.

During Perry’s arguments, he mentioned the work done by Kirsten Pauly of Sunde Engineering, whom he referred to as a “good looking woman” who was seated in the audience. Once court was adjourned, Segal walked up to Perry and pointed at him.

“You’re a sexist,” Segal said.

She then exited the courtroom. Perry later said he should not have commented on Pauly’s appearance, and that Pauly told him she was not offended.

This is a developing story. Check back with startribune.com for more updates.

Miguel Otárola • 612-673-4753

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