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LAKE ELMO, MN-Marking a victory for regional interests, this suburb recently lost its fight with the Metropolitan Council when the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled the regional body has the authority to require changes in local growth plans. The decision, which is the third court decision loss for Lake Elmo, says the Met Council can require changes in local comprehensive plans that vary significantly from regional plans and can force the town to connect to the regional sewer system.

In other words, it’s the Met Council, not cities, that has the last word on land use. Lake Elmo had planned for maximum population of 12,500 in 2020, not quite double its current population of 7,000. The town now has nine months to prepare a comprehensive plan to meet the Met Council’s requirements.

The city wanted to control development along Interstate 94 and the southern part of the city, did not want regional residential sewer system and preferred development to be concentrated in Old Village area.

The Met Council, on the other hand, is pushing for a population of 34,000 by 2040. That would include a higher density urban area near Interstate 94 and a regional residential sewer in most of city.

“It’s unfortunate that we were forced to engage in this costly and protracted legal battle, when all along the council felt the region is better served by collaboration and negotiation,” says Peter Bell, the chairman of the Met Council. Diverting “growth from Lake Elmo will increase the burden on wastewater treatment and transportation facilities in other parts of the metropolitan area,” the Supreme Court said in its ruling.

City officials say they plan to lobby the Minnesota legislature for a bill to limit the council’s authority to override local units of governments’ planning process. A bill that would have allowed Lake Elmo to remain rural died last winter in the state Senate.

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