A proposed charter amendment by a group of Bloomington residents trying to halt the city's garbage collection plan was kicked to the curb Monday by the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
The 3½-year legal battle has seen victories for both the city and the residents' group Hands Off Our Cans, which sued Bloomington after it adopted organized trash collection without putting it up for a vote. The group then sued to amend the city's charter and put garbage collection on the ballot.
Monday's Appeals Court ruling said the group's charter amendment was unconstitutional and an improper referendum.
Gregory Joseph, who represents plaintiffs in the case, said he had mixed feelings about the ruling. He said the group was happy that the court recognized the city's contract with Bloomington Haulers, a consortium of garbage collectors, is void due to a termination clause. And now the group will decide whether to again petition the state Supreme Court to fight the lower court ruling that the referendum was improper.
In June 2016, the city rejected a petition from Hands Off Our Cans to amend the city's charter and put garbage collection on the ballot, arguing that the process was controlled by the Minnesota Waste Management Act.
The group sued the city, but lost in district and appellate courts. It appealed to the state Supreme Court last December, which ruled that the Management Act didn't control the process. The Supreme Court returned the case to the Court of the Appeals to address unresolved issues.
Bloomington launched its organized trash system in October 2016, taking upon itself the coordination of trash collection rather than having residents contract individually with haulers. It currently has a contract with a group of six haulers that pick up trash in one section of the city each day of the week.
City officials said they switched to organized collection to reduce the number of garbage trucks driving on local roads and to mitigate air and noise pollution.
"We are happy with the Court of Appeals' ruling," City Manager Jamie Verbrugge said. "It upholds organized garbage and recycling collection in Bloomington — a service we believe improves quality of life for our residents."
As a result of the court's ruling, the current garbage and recycling collection services in Bloomington will continue and the proposed charter amendment will not be on the upcoming ballot, he said. The organized collection of garbage and recycling remains in place for the foreseeable future.
Bloomington's charter allows for residents to bring forward ballot initiatives, referendums and amendments to the city charter. The Hands off Our Cans amendment included language that said the amendment would supersede any ordinances related to solid waste. The repealing language is an attempt to submit the organized-collection ordinance to the voters, making it an improper referendum, the ruling said.