A second bid to divide the lot that includes the Harwick House in the Pill Hill Historic District found success while the first request remains in court.
The Rochester Planning and Zoning commission voted 5-1 Wednesday to approve splitting the 30,796-square-foot lot into two parcels. One parcel will continue to include the house built in 1912.
Mike Macken, who purchased the house for $630,000 in August with Dale Jech, said the split will add flexibility as renovations to the house continue.
“I understand how important it is to the neighborhood,” he said of the house.
Neighbors, however, continue to object to the split.
Chris Duefel appealed both efforts to split the property.
“I do think the house can be a glorious house,” he said of the renovation potential, but added that its size requires a larger lot.
Duefel and his wife, Sara Hylwa, were joined by neighbors Jan and Rocky Daly in the second appeal which led to Wednesday’s commission approval.
The appeal argued that a December commission decision to deny a split along the same lines should prohibit Maken and Jech from a second attempt to gain approval.
“We’ve been twice vexed on the same application,” said John Beatty, an attorney with Dunlap Seeger, who was representing the neighbors.
He said Macken and the city staff appeared to be pulling a new card out of the deck after the first approval was denied.
Matt Johnson of Rochester Business Law, who represented Macken and Jech, said it wasn’t an option that was withheld, but an opportunity that emerged after the earlier commission decision.
“The deck was shuffled,” he said. “They had new cards to play.”
Allison Sosa, Community Development planning supervisor, supported that analogy.
She said the commission’s earlier decision led to a new definition of language in the guidelines that govern a potential property split in the Pill Hill District, which requires comparison with surrounding properties.
In the early request, staff considered all parcels in its comparison, but the majority of commission members stated in December that only developed parcels should be considered. Additionally, they redefined how staff would look at the site, opting to compare the new sites separately rather than looking at the original as a whole.
With the new definitions, Sosa said the former seven-step review process required 17 steps but made it possible to apply a modification to requirements, allowing one of the new parcels to be up to 90 percent smaller than the defined minimal size, as long as the other parcel met minimum requirements.
The Harwick site proposal creates one 15,995-square-foot parcel and one parcel of 14,779 square feet, which is 95.8 percent of the minimal size.
Neighborhood resident Kathy Meyerle said the new calculations appeared to be a technical effort to bypass the commission’s earlier ruling, which upheld the intent of unique zoning requirements in the district.
“This neighborhood needs to have large lots with lots of trees,” she said.
Commission member Ian Lochridge also argued that effort went too far as he cast the sole opposing vote in the commission’s final decision.
“We have to use the code, and we have to recognize the limitations of the code,” he said.
In the end, he predicted Wednesday’s decision would land in civil court alongside the appeal Macken filed opposing the December commission decision.
That case remains under consideration, with Beatty asking the judge to dismiss the appeal on the neighbors' behalf.
Hylwa said Thursday morning that the neighbors hadn't met following Wednesday's denied appeal, so she couldn't comment on whether the issue will be appealed in court.