A requested Northeast Rochester zoning change needed for a proposed 66-unit apartment complex was put on hold Monday.
The Rochester City Council unanimously opted to delay a decision until April 19, following a public hearing and discussion that took nearly two hours.
“I think it is the council getting our act together to have a motion that we have time to look at,” said council member Patrick Keane, adding that he doesn’t anticipate new information will be available but council members will have a better grasp of the issues.
Plans for the proposed apartment complex, which would be funded with state tax credits designating it as affordable housing, has met with neighborhood resistance.
On Monday, three council members voiced opinions that appeared to agree with the neighbors.
“A 42-foot (tall) building in this area is just not appropriate,” council member Shaun Palmer said, suggesting the change in allowed land use be denied.
The vacant 2.5-acre property is zoned for commercial use and sits behind the Kwik Trip at the intersection of East Circle Drive and 26th Street Northeast, as well as north of an existing strip mall.
Neighbors who own townhomes to the west and north of the site said they’d prefer to see additional businesses take up the space.
“All these residents — current ones and future ones — are going to need a place for services,” said Kevin Lucier, a neighbor of the proposed project. “We would like things like a restaurant eventually, and a supermarket, or even a coffee shop.”
Ryan Schwickert, representing Joseph Development and MWF Properties, said the lot has sat empty for many years, which would indicate it’s not best served as a commercial space.
Additionally, he said the developers secured the tax credits based on the location and size of the development, which would require half of the proposed apartments to have rents affordable for households earning 50% of the area median income or less, and the other half be affordable to households earning 60% of AMI or less.
“That funding would have to be returned to Minnesota Housing and used in other communities,” he said.
Council member Kelly Rae Kirkpatrick said she opposes the plan and believes other local options exist, pointing to alternate locations for a large complex or the ability to build a smaller building at the northeast site, which would fit current zoning.
“I think the location where you are seeking to put this building is the wrong location,” she said.
Other council members discussed the complexity of the issue without indicating which way they might vote.
“This is a really hard one that doesn’t have a clear answer,” said Council President Brooke Carlson.
With plans to delay the decision on the zoning request, the council has approximately 60 days to make a final decision or the request would be automatically approved.
Rochester Community Development Director Cindy Steinhauser said city staff will watch the deadline closely, but she wants to be sure the council has time needed to make the decision based on available information.
“If it’s not clear, we want it to be clear, so it’s transparent,” she said.
The council also opted to wait for a future meeting to discuss the city's seasonal parking ordinance, as well as the creation of a tri-government committee that would include members of the Olmsted County Board and the Rochester School Board.