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City examining proposed amendment to its charter

Worthington city officials are considering a proposed amendment to the city’s charter that would enable the approval of written zoning-related requests within the 60-day period mandated by the state. The city’s charter currently requires that the city council approve all written zoning requests by ordinance, and each ordinance must have at least three readings over the course of successive regular council meetings. These requirements create a best-case scenario in which the fastest amount of time in which an ordinance could be approved by the city council is 64 days, which exceeds the state requirement by four days. State statute supersedes any component of city code. Compounding matters is additional language in state law indicating that if an entity such as the city of Worthington fails to deny a written zoning request within 60 days, that lack of action means the request is approved. As a result, city officials are concerned about the potential for a lawsuit that might come in the event of the city denying a request when it was in fact already approved under state law. Minnesota allows seven different ways for a city to amend its charter. While six of them require a public referendum being put to city voters, a seventh option allows the city council — in concert with the charter commission — to update the charter without a public referendum. In the interest of saving taxpayer dollars, this is the option city officials are considering. With the proposed charter amendment, ordinances now subject to the 60-day state rule would not be subject to the three readings currently required. The 60-day rule has been on the books in Minnesota since 1995, but Worthington’s charter hasn’t updated to reflect this change. The Worthington City Council will conduct a public hearing on the proposed amendment on Monday, Aug. 9. The council may take action to approve the proposal that evening, in which case the proposed amendment would be published as required by law on Aug. 18. From that date, a 60-day window begins during which a petition for referendum may be submitted to the city clerk. In the event of no petition being filed, the proposed amendment could then be officially adopted on Nov. 16.

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