A zoning change to make way for a proposed 66-unit apartment complex received a recommendation from Rochester’s Planning and Zoning Commission on Wednesday, despite opposition from neighbors.
“People are going to end up having cars driving in and out 24 hours a day,” said Kevin Lucier, a neighbor of the proposed project for north of 26th Street Northeast, near East Circle Drive.
He said the existing commercial designation limits business hours, which includes the Kwik Trip convenience store next to the site, adding that other development with less traffic would be a better fit.
Other neighbors are concerned about the potential 40- to 45-foot height of the building, adding density near a neighborhood with single-family homes and the potential for closing the median at East Circle Drive, which would force traffic further into the neighborhood.
The proposed project would be funded with state tax credits designating it as affordable housing, but several of the neighbors said that was not their primary concern.
“Affordable housing is important, but I don’t think we should throw out all the rules,” said Mark Hickey, a former Rochester City Council member and neighborhood resident.
He said the objections he’s heard primarily surround how a project with 66 units would fit into the neighborhood.
Emails and comments from at least 30 neighbors during Wednesday’s public hearing largely supported that.
One neighbor did raise concerns Wednesday based on the incomes of the potential residents.
“The proposed development is explicitly proposed as low-income apartment rentals, which is again significantly different than all of the current existing neighborhoods,” said Jim Woodbury.
He said the project would lower property values and increase the crime rate.
“There’s a very well-established correlation in areas with higher income disparities and higher crime,” he said.
Without pointing at any specific comments, former council member Michael Wojcik joined the public hearing to voice disappointment in some of the opposition, pointing to what he called “coded racist, classist kind of language.”
He said similar projects have been successful in the city, and the proposal falls within guidelines that require approval.
Ryan Schwickert of Joseph Development said the residents might not have the income disparities some would assume.
The state support being used for the project requires renting to individuals making less than $42,500 a year or larger families with household incomes at less than $70,000.
At the same time, occupants would be required to prove they have incomes of three times the monthly rents, which will range from $883 to $1,425, making minimal incomes $31,788 to $51,300.
Desmond McGeough, a planner with the city’s Community Development Department, said the location makes the site attractive for housing. The site is two-tenths of a mile from public transit access, within easy access to East Circle Drive and Viola Road and provides a pedestrian bridge connection to Century High School.
The Planning and Zoning Commission voted 7-1 to support the recommendation, with member Tom Hill opposed.
“I think this is a great spot for this site,” said commission member Ben Kall, adding that some clarity on future traffic changes would likely alleviate some neighborhood concerns.
The recommendation will go to the Rochester City Council for a final decision on the zoning change.