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Minneapolis 2040 plan struck down by Hennepin County Judge

The Minneapolis 2040 plan was struck down by Hennepin County Judge Joseph Klein Wednesday after saying the plan did not take adequate steps to consider the plan's environmental impact.

The 10-year development plan, which would have changed the city's zoning laws and expanded public transit, was at the center of lawsuits by environmental and property owner groups since the Minneapolis City Council began its implementation in 2020.

“This court finds that any ongoing implementation of the residential development portions of the City's 2040 Plan is an ongoing violation of [the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act],” wrote Judge Klein in the decision. “Plaintiffs have outlined numerous environmental impairments that are likely to result by virtue of the full implementation of the 2040 Plan. The court finds that such damage to the environment would be an irreparable harm to the environment, the protection of which is viewed by this state as being of paramount concern.”

The plan was set to increase the city’s housing supply by removing zoning to allow the building of multifamily units within the city’s limits. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey touted the plan, saying it “allowed for a diversity of housing options” in every neighborhood. He said the plan would help to address racial disparities and rectify some of the harms done by redlining in the city.

The lawsuit alleged that the plan did not seek to minimize environmental impact, and violated the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act. The city argued that MERA should not be used to restrict “big-vision” plans like the 2040 plan. The City of Minneapolis has also argued that research has shown that high density neighborhoods increase walkability and reduce greenhouse emissions, while single-family homes generate more emissions.

The city has 60 days to revert to its 2030 plan, which sought to expand walking and biking paths, but lacked the zoning modifications of the 2040 plan. The city is expected to appeal the decision in the coming weeks.

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