Thursday, March 19, 2015

Research Q of the Week: Changing the Name of a Street (3/18/15)

Question: We have a local hero coming home soon. We’d like to rename one of our streets after him. Since we’d like it to do it quietly and make it a surprise, do we have to publish notice of a street name change or hold a hearing?

Answer: Yes and no. State law allows a city to change a street name simply by passing an ordinance. A city need not hold a hearing or publish notice that it intends to change a street name. 

However, no ordinance takes effect prior to publication in the official newspaper, so it can’t be done completely on the sly. You'll still need to publish the ordinance enacting the name change. There’s also a requirement for most cities that the ordinance be recorded with the county, so don’t think you’ll surprise the county records department, either. Depending on the situation, a consolidated plat may also need to be filed with the county.

That said, there are very practical reasons for getting the word out.

While a hearing is not required, public comment could be a great way to help the city make the change easier for everyone. Also, some entities may need to be contacted directly about the street change for logistical reasons. These entities will vary from city to city, but would likely include affected property owners, providers of emergency services, providers of utility services, custodians of property records, local post offices, and those companies that still mail out catalogs you didn’t request.

Actually, you can forget that last one. There’s no hiding from them.

The American Planning Association has published a resource for cities looking to rename or renumber streets. It’s an inexpensive resource recommended to help change any street renaming project from "Difficult Way" to "Easy Street." 

Written by Edward Cadman, special counsel with the League of Minnesota Cities. Contact: ecadman@lmc.org or (651) 281-1229.

This blog post conveys general information. It’s not legal advice. Please check with your city attorney before acting on this information. 

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