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Jennissen v. City of Bloomington

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

November 20, 2017

Joel Jennissen, et al., Appellants,
v.
City of Bloomington, Respondent.

         Hennepin County District Court File No. 27-CV-16-10786

          Gregory J. Joseph, Joseph Law Office PLLC, Bloomington, Minnesota (for appellants)

          George C. Hoff, Shelley M. Ryan, Hoff Barry, P.A., Eden Prairie, Minnesota (for respondent)

          Susan L. Naughton, League of Minnesota Cities, St. Paul, Minnesota (for amicus curiae League of Minnesota Cities)

          CFlorey, Presiding Judge; Schellhas, Judge; and Kalitowski, Judge. [*]

         SYLLABUS

         Section 115A.94 of the Minnesota Waste Management Act (MWMA), Minn. Stat. §§ 115A.01-.99 (2016), mandating a municipality's adherence to a specific process when establishing a system of organized collection of solid waste, preempts a proposed city charter amendment to require voter approval before a municipality establishes organized collection of solid waste.

          OPINION

          SCHELLHAS, Judge

         Appellants challenge the district court's summary judgment in favor of the city and the ruling that appellants' proposed city charter amendment to require voter approval before the city establishes a system of organized collection of solid waste is preempted by Minn. Stat. § 115A.94. Because we conclude that by enacting Minn. Stat. § 115A.94 the legislature has preempted the field of legislation on a municipality's establishment of organized collection, we affirm.

         FACTS

         In late 2014, respondent City of Bloomington began the statutory process under the MWMA to change from an open system of collection of solid waste to a system of organized collection. Under an open system, residents are free to hire a city-licensed collector to collect their solid waste; under an organized-collection system, the city contracts with a specific collector or group of collectors to remove garbage in defined areas. Minn. Stat. § 115A.94, subd. 1.

         Bloomington is a home-rule charter city under Minnesota Statutes chapter 410. The city's charter reserves for its citizens the power to bring forth ballot initiatives, referenda, and amendments to the city charter. Bloomington, Minn., City Charter (BCC) §§ 5.01-.12 (2017); see Minn. Stat. § 410.12 (2016).

         In March 2015, appellants, a group of city residents opposed to the city's efforts to implement organized collection, petitioned the city for a ballot initiative on an ordinance that would require voter approval as a prerequisite to the city's adoption of organized collection. The city attorney determined that the MWMA preempts appellants' proposed ordinance and that a ballot initiative for the proposed ordinance constituted a "premature referendum" because it sought to refer an issue to the voters before the city council actually passed an ordinance. In late June 2015, appellants sued the city, seeking an order to compel approval of the petition for a ballot initiative. (Jennissen I).

         After a public hearing on June 22, 2015, the city council resolved to adopt a system of organized collection of solid waste. On December 21, the city council adopted an organized-collection ordinance, effective December 31. On December 21, the city also executed a five-year contract with Bloomington Haulers LLC, a consortium of solid-waste collectors. The contract detailed the types of waste to be collected, the dates and times of waste pickup in specified city zones, and the rights and responsibilities of the parties.

         On April 25, 2016, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of the city in Jennissen I. The court concluded that appellants' proposed ordinance was neither a proper initiative nor a proper referendum because it did not actually propose a new ordinance or refer to an ordinance passed by the city council. The court concluded that appellants' goal to limit the power of the city council could only be achieved through amendment of the city charter under Minn. Stat. § 410.12.

         Appellants next submitted to the city a petition for a proposed charter amendment to be placed on a ballot. Appellants' proposed charter amendment was nearly identical to the prior proposed ordinance and read:

Unless first approved by a majority of the voters in a state general election, the City shall not replace the competitive market in solid waste collection with a system in which solid waste services are provided by government-chosen collectors or in government-designated districts. The adoption of this charter amendment shall supersede any ordinances . . . related to solid waste adopted by the City Council in 2015-2016.

         On June 27, 2016, the city council found that the proposed amendment was "manifestly unconstitutional" because it impaired the city's contract with the consortium, interfered with the city's "lengthy and thoughtful legislative process, " and was preempted by the MWMA. The ...


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