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Townships to State: Don't Take Away Our Local Control

April 12, 2011

HARTFORD, Minn. - Two words that developers dislike: local control. Legislation making its way through the Minnesota House and Senate aims to weaken the power of local governments to enact interim ordinances, which allow townships and counties to quickly put a temporary freeze on major development. Proponents of the bills say interim ordinances delay developments unnecessarily. But local officials say this power is essential when the community is faced with a major proposal, like a big-box store or large factory farm, often from an out-of-state corporation.

Alan Perish, a retired dairy farmer, is a Hartford township officer and spokesman for the Land Stewardship Project, and is worried.

"The legislation will take away the ability for local people to have proper input in what they want their community to look like."

The bills would limit the effectiveness of interim ordinances; require a super-majority to pass them; and slow the process by requiring public notice before enacting the ordinances. Similar bills have been introduced and defeated over the past several years.

Perish says local control is important so that smaller townships have the time to research and collect the local input necessary to make informed decisions.

"Often before a township or the county government is aware of something going on, the proposers of the project have already done all the homework, and they know what they want, and they've kind of caught the local officials on the blind side of things, especially the townships, because they don't have full-time employees."

Perish is concerned that, if left unchecked, the trends of corporate development and consolidation, particularly in agriculture, will continue to squeeze out local farmers, run down livable wages, and leave little incentive for the next generation to remain in rural Minnesota.

A link to HF389/SF270 language is at bit.ly/iiq5o0. A fact sheet on local control is at
bit.ly/e1nnXt

Sharon Rolenc, Public News Service - MN