For years, it was illegal in Farmington for an unmarried couple to live together. It was also illegal to distribute literature about venereal diseases. Men were prohibited from mistreating their apprentices, and were also required, if asked, to help police officers in need of assistance.

Not anymore. The Farmington City Council asked staff to go through existing ordinances and get rid of what no longer made sense.

“I think we’re now having ordinances that better reflect the values and laws of the day instead of the ones of several decades ago,” Council Member Douglas Bonar said at a June 15 council meeting.

Farmington Mayor Todd Larson said he’s not sure when the city last went through its ordinances. The process was essentially maintenance, he said.

“This is something we’ve had on our to-do list for a while,” Bonar said.

The city hasn’t put a strict timeline on when it’ll next examine its ordinances, Larson said, though it’s something he said officials expect to keep an eye on.

“It sits there and it collects dust,” said Farmington Police Chief Brian Lindquist. “And if you get a chance to go through it and clean it up, you do.”

Cities have different ways of keeping track of their laws.

In Rosemount, Mayor Bill Droste said ordinance changes come before the City Council on an as-needed basis — about once or twice a year, he estimated. Housing ordinances come up, for example, when the market demands a change in municipal building codes.

For now, the city has no plans to approach these changes more systematically, Droste said.

Cities that do want to take a more systematic approach have encountered roadblocks. In Shakopee, staff members have to digitize city codes before the council can go through them. In Prior Lake, going through ordinances chapter-by-chapter is on the city attorney’s to-do list, but has fallen behind more pressing tasks.

“It becomes one of those things you try to get done, but sometimes it isn’t the absolute top priority,” said City Administrator Frank Boyles.

Many of the ordinances taken off the books in Farmington mirrored state statutes, Lindquist said. Others simply didn’t make sense — a prohibition against placing objects on windowsills, for example.

“Looking at them, I suspect some of them were out of date the minute they were made ordinances,” he said. “I just can’t imagine any of them being enforced.”