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By Rachel Carlson, LMC Staff Attorney,

Cities are authorized to adopt land use controls in the form of zoning and subdivision
ordinances by a state law known as the ³Minnesota Municipal Planning Act.´ (MPA).
The MPA requires uniformity with state law for many (if not most) aspects of zoning and
subdivision. Some (but not many) non-substantive provisions do allow minor variation -
but only through a charter provision. There are only 107 charter cities in Minnesota. As
a result, for most Minnesota cities, uniformity is premium and the norm.


The MPA has been in effect since the 1970¶s, but has not been without controversy. As a
result, the MPA is frequently changed and amended, requiring cities to monitor state
law and adapt local zoning and subdivision controls on a frequent basis to be uniform.
Land use controls that are not up to date may create an unwanted (and potentially
expensive) liability for cities. In addition, out of date ordinances may render important
land use controls unenforceable in a court of law, thus leaving the city with no
protections against a problematic development or land use.


As recently as the -  

 important changes were made to the
MPA. If you have not reviewed your land use ordinances since then, there is a possibility
they are out of date.
The following are some common mistakes in land use ordinances.

K    State law sets timelines for review of both zoning and subdivision
applications. Zoning applications must be reviewed under the ³60-Day Rule´ found at
Minn. Stat. 15.99. Preliminary plat applications must be reviewed within 120 days and
final plats 60 days pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 462.358 Subd. 3b. City ordinances that
contain timelines not consistent with these requirements should be updated.

Legal non-conforming uses are uses that do not conform to
the current zoning requirements, but were legal at the time they were commenced. As a
result, the MPA provides non-conforming uses with certain protections that allow for
their continued existence, renovation and rebuilding (but not expansion). The state
legislature amended the MPA provisions on non-conforming uses in 2001 and 2004 and
as recently as the 2009 legislative session. As a result, cities should compare their
existing provisions with the most current version of the law at Minn. Stat. § 462.357
Subd. 1c.

# $  %& The MPA provides that no city zoning regulation
may prohibit manufactured homes that are built in conformance with the manufactured
home building code and otherwise comply with all other zoning ordinances. Cities can
apply architectural and aesthetic requirements to manufactured homes only if the same
requirements also apply to all other single-family homes in the zoning district. In
addition, manufactured home parks are by law a conditional use in any zoning district
that allows the construction or placement of a building used or intended to be used by
two or more families. Many local ordinances do not reflect these state law requirements
and may need to be updated.


Annual review of city land use ordinances is essential to prevent unanticipated liability
in ordinance enforcement. This article highlights only a few areas of frequent concern.
More information about updating your land use ordinances can be found in the LMCIT
article ³Land Use Ordinance Mistakes´ available at:

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Rachel Carlson is an attorney with the League of Minnesota Cities. The League of
Minnesota Cities is a membership organization serving Minnesota cities since 1913.
LMC Codification is a specialized service to help our cities maintain complete, up to
date and affordable code books in a frequently changing legal landscape. The LMC
Codification blog can be found at: