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Bill would let city stay rural

Lake Elmo's local legislator, Rep. Eric Lipman, has recently introduced a bill in the House of Representatives that would allow the city to stay rural. Sen. Brian LeClair, has introduced a companion bill in the State Senate.

The bill (H.F. 1737) was introduced in the House on Feb. 2 and refereed to the Local Government and Metropolitan Affairs committee. The senate bill (S.F. 1770) was introduced on Feb. 5 and referred to the State and Local Government Operations committee.

The bill states that, "the city of Lake Elmo: (1) may adopt and implement a long-term comprehensive plan that maintains rural densities; and (2) must not be required to construct a local sewer system to be connected to the metropolitan disposal system."

That means that if the bill is passed and signed into law, the Metropolitan Council will not be able to force the city to construct a sewer system.

The city is currently in the midst of a legal battle with the Met Council in regards to the council's ability to require the city to both modify its Comprehensive Plan allowing for more growth at higher densities, and install a regional sewer system.

So far, an administrative law judge and the Minnesota Court of Appeals have both ruled against the city.

When Lake Elmo lost its appeal, much of the court's decision hinged on language in the state statute. The statute states that the Met Council must show that the city's plan "may have" a substantial impact, not that it "has" a substantial impact.

That wording was changed this past legislative session to say that the plan "is more likely than not to have a substantial impact." But because the new wording was just adopted, it didn't have any bearing on the case before the appeals court.

Lipman said the new law would give Lake Elmo the same rights that were extended to other cities last legislative session with the wording change.

"We're not willy-nilly taking on a court decision we didn't like," Lipman said, adding that the hope is to retroactively give Lake Elmo the same rights as other cities now have.

The city is also in the middle of appealing the Court of Appeals decision to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Now that the bills are in committee, the next step is getting a hearing. To help with that, Lipman will be contacting each of the committee members to discuss the issue.

Lipman said he hopes to get the bill passed this legislative session.