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Harwick House debate changing course

An appeal seeking to divide a property in the Pill Hill Historic District won't be considered by the Rochester City Council as planned, but is likely headed to district court.

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The Harwick House is pictured on Thursday, November 19, 2020, in southwest Rochester. (Traci Westcott / twestcott@postbulletin.com)

The final fate of a Pill Hill Historic District property appears to be headed to district court.

The latest appeal linked to a proposal to divide the property that includes the Harwick House at 912 Eighth St. SW has been referred to the district court after initially being scheduled for a Rochester City Council review.

“In my opinion this appeal should NOT go to the City Council, rather, it should be made in the District Court,” Rochester City Attorney Jason Loos wrote in a memo Monday to Rochester Community Development staff.

The issue was initially up for a public hearing with the city council on Monday.

RELATED: Harwick split denied: Work on house continues

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Loos said the September request to divide the 30,796-square-foot lot in Southwest Rochester would typically be handled without city council involvement under city policies, which do not give the city council jurisdiction to hear the appeal, based on the type of application.

An earlier appeal based on the application came after the city’s Community Development staff approved the split.

Neighbors Sara Hylwa and Chris Deufel filed a formal appeal, with a petition supported by nearly 100 neighbors and other residents.

The proposed property split would create two lots -- one with the home that is being renovated and the other a space for a potential new home.

Neighbors say the split would interfere with the neighborhood’s historic nature and goes against past interpretations of city regulations on the subject. They also claim city guidelines on the topic are vague.

On the other side of the issue, Mike Macken said he and his business partner, Dale Jech, have said they believe the guidelines support the ability to split the property and think they were targeted based on their careers as much as his plans for the lot, which they purchased for $630,000 in August.

Macken, a plumbing contractor, has said the goal is to restore and renovate the Harwick House, which was built in 1922. He said the home is expected to be resold and the future buyer would be given the option to buy both lots.

Earlier this month, Macken and Jech appealed the Planning and Zoning Commission decision, seeking to restore permission to split the property, but they received word Monday that the council would not review the appeal.

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He said Friday that he anticipated his attorney would file the appeal in district court that day, using arguments similar to those cited in the appeal to the city.

Related Topics: GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
Randy Petersen joined the Post Bulletin in 2014 and became the local government reporter in 2017. An Elkton native, he's worked for a variety of Midwest papers as reporter, photographer and editor since graduating from Winona State University in 1996. Readers can reach Randy at 507-285-7709 or rpetersen@postbulletin.com.
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