Hours after throwing a key vote on the Minneapolis City Council in limbo, a judge cleared the way for the council to vote Friday to approve its 2040 comprehensive plan.
Hennepin County District Judge Joseph R. Klein rejected a request by three groups to delay a vote on the city’s controversial development blueprint until an environmental study could be undertaken.
At a hearing Thursday morning, Klein had initially halted the council’s vote, saying he needed up to seven days to make a decision on the lawsuit. The council was already making plans to delay its vote for a week, until word came of Klein’s final order late Thursday afternoon.
Minneapolis City Attorney Susan Segal hailed the decision.
“We are just really grateful for how quickly the judge reviewed our materials, which we only filed at 8:30 this morning,” she said. “We have a firm belief that his order is correct and are pleased that the council can proceed in its meeting tomorrow.”
Three groups — Smart Growth Minneapolis, the Audubon Chapter of Minneapolis and Minnesota Citizens for the Protection of Migratory Birds — had filed a lawsuit earlier this week asking a judge to issue a temporary restraining order on adopting the comprehensive plan until the city had done an environmental review.
In his order, Klein wrote the plaintiffs had failed to prove that the plan would cause “irreparable harm” necessary to stop it from moving forward. Delaying the vote, he said, could force the city to violate statutes and keep the Metropolitan Council from reviewing and possibly improving upon the plan.
Approving the plan would not immediately lead to new construction, and therefore “no apparent environmental consequences will be realized,” according to the order. The plaintiffs also failed to show that the plan would likely cause “pollution, impairment, or the destruction of … natural resources” and an “immediate and full build-out” of the city.
“These facts lead the court to conclude that no imminent threat of irreparable harm exists that would flow directly from the City Council’s upcoming vote,” Klein’s order read.
Council members have previously said they were likely to pass the plan, which has been years in the making. The lawsuit had thrown one final hurdle before its approval.
City leaders had seen Klein’s earlier decision as a temporary delay and said they believed they had followed state requirements throughout the process of creating the guiding document. “We take it as an indication that the judge needed time to write a decision more than anything,” City Council President Lisa Bender said earlier Thursday.
The council meeting to vote on the plan begins at 9:30 a.m. Friday.
“I’m a happy camper at the moment,” Segal said.
Staff writer Andy Mannix contributed to this report. Miguel Otárola • 612-673-4753