In 1959, Minnesota became the first state in the country to create a quasi-judicial commission, the Minnesota Municipal Board, to hear and decide local incorporation and boundary adjustment questions.
Prior to this, the Minnesota Legislature was confronted with municipal boundary chaos. The spectacular post-World War II growth in large urban centers marked a distinct departure from the previous patterns of a predominantly agricultural age. In just one decade, in five metropolitan counties, 45 new villages were organized: nearly half of them contained under 1,000 people when incorporated; seven contained under 200; and one contained only 43. By the end of the 1950`s, a total of 130 separate municipalities had mushroomed in the seven-county Twin Cities area.
This proliferation of uneconomic villages, which often lacked means to furnish their own police and fire protection or adequate sewage disposal facilities, placed additional burdens on counties and surrounding areas. A 1959 Interim Report to the Legislature complained that "multiplying villages, like rabbits, can outdistance all progress achieved by otherwise intelligent planning."
Before 1959, provisions and procedures for incorporation and boundary changes were haphazard, with no public body to provide order and an overview. In some cases, statutory authority to annex or detach an area, even with the support of everyone affected, was nonexistent. The laws that did exist were scattered and complicated and allowed such abuses as:
Incorporation for the single purpose of obtaining a liquor license, preempting the tax base created by a new industry, or merely avoiding annexation;
Gerrymandered municipal boundaries where those seeking annexation or incorporation might bypass entire blocks or residential areas that were unfavorable to their position;
Islands of unincorporated land surrounded by cities; or
Bisection of cities by new freeways.
Clearly, it was necessary to stem the tide of imprudent incorporations and end the confusion caused by inadequate legal controls. The Legislature recognized the need for a coherent policy to guide urban growth not only in the metropolitan area but throughout the entire state. So, in 1959, Chapter 414 was passed. It was a comprehensive act codifying all laws on boundary adjustment and providing for administrative review by the Minnesota Municipal Board. The principles that form the basis for the law include:
Sound urban development and preservation of agricultural land and open spaces through land use planning is essential to the continued economic growth of this state;
Municipal government most efficiently provides services in areas intensively developed for residential, commercial, industrial, and governmental purposes;
Township government most efficiently provides services in areas used or developed for agricultural, open space and rural residential purposes;
The public interest requires that municipalities be formed when there exists or will likely exist the necessary resources to provide for their economical and efficient operation;
Annexation to existing municipalities of unincorporated areas unable to supply municipal services should be facilitated; and
Long-range joint powers planning or other cooperative efforts among counties, cities, and towns should be encouraged. (2006)
The Board was charged with:
Conducting proceedings and issuing orders to create a municipality, combine 2 or more governmental units, or alter a municipal boundary;
Providing for the extension of municipal government to areas which are developed or are in the process of being developed for intensive use for residential, commercial, industrial, institutional, and governmental purposes, or are needed for such purposes; and
Protecting the integrity of land use planning in municipalities and unincorporated areas.
Just two years after the Board was created, a report of the Committee on Municipal Laws to the 1961 Legislature stated:
"The purpose underlying the philosophy of the law has been accomplished.... the provisions to prevent the multiplication of municipalities have been largely self-executing.... We find the establishment of a statewide administrative commission to apply legislative standards in hearing and determining boundary change indispensable to sound public policy in administering the future urban growth in Minnesota. We have found no expert that disagrees."
The Board was composed of three members, appointed by the Governor, who served six-year terms staggered so that one was replaced or reappointed every two years. Board members had to reside in Minnesota for at least five years before their appointment.
During its existence, the Board:
Strengthened municipal government by providing a means of orderly and intelligent evaluation of proposed incorporations, consolidations, and annexations throughout the state;
Controlled incorporation of uneconomic cities: in the nine years before the Board was created, 62 new cities (averaging only 7.6 square miles) were formed, compared to only 15 new cities (averaging 30 square miles) in the first 20 years after the Board`s formation;
Assisted governmental units in addressing the problems and responsibilities that go with development, such as finances, the environment, delivery of services; and
Encouraged communities to work together to reach mutually agreeable solutions at the local level.
Office of Strategic and Long Range Planning. The Legislature terminated the Board effective in 1999. At the time of its sunset, the Board convened at least once a month and averaged approximately 100 meetings and hearings a year. Board members were paid travel expenses and per diem. In certain proceedings, the local county board of commissioners designated two of its members to temporarily serve as full voting members of the Board. The Board appointed a full-time Executive Director. Staff included an Assistant Director and two clerical personnel.
On June 1, 1999, all of the statutory authority and responsibilities of the former Minnesota Municipal Board were transferred to the Office of Strategic and Long Range Planning, commonly referred to as Minnesota Planning, with the ultimate decision-making authority resting with the Director of that agency. The former Municipal Board staff now operated as Municipal Boundary Adjustments.
Working in concert with local government associations and others, the agency established an alternative dispute resolution process to handle contested case annexations, detachments and concurrent detachments and annexations. The process strongly encourages local governments to jointly plan for fringe areas. If joint planning efforts fail to resolve disputed issues, the affected parties will have an opportunity to use alternative dispute resolution processes, including mediation, to try to resolve contested issues prior to entering the administrative hearing process.
Department of Administration. In 2003, with prior approval of the Governor, Department of Administration Reorganization Order No. 188, transferred the functions, powers, duties and responsibilities of the Director of the Office of Strategic and Long Range Planning pertaining to municipal boundary adjustments, to the Department of Administration. The Commissioner of Administration became the decision-maker for boundary adjustment proceedings.
Office of Administrative Hearings. In 2005, again, with prior approval of the Governor, Department of Administration Reorganization Order No. 192, transferred the functions, powers, duties and responsibilities of the Commissioner of Administration to the Office of Administrative Hearings. The Chief Administrative Law Judge is the ultimate decision-maker in boundary adjustment proceedings. The purpose of this transfer was to consolidate within the Office of Administrative Hearings the administrative, alternative dispute resolution and hearing functions relating to municipal boundary adjustments.
The vast majority of requests initiating boundary change come from property owners, with the remainder coming from cities and townships. All adjustments affect local government and have the potential for conflict or agreement. The Municipal Boundary Adjustment Unit (MBAU) works with other state agencies and local governments to make the most efficient use of available resources.
The MBAU seeks to serve and provide local governments with:
In Fiscal Year 2012 (July 1, 2011 - June 30, 2012)
In Fiscal Year 2011 (July 1, 2010 - June 30, 2011)
For more information on the current procedures for municipal boundary adjustments, review the detailed explanation of the Process Overview.