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Neighbors of proposed Manor Hills apartments raise water-management concerns

Group is appealing variance approved for site at southern entrance to the Country Club Manor neighborhood.

01-Terry and Steve Fields
Terry and Steve Fields stand at the edge of their property along 1st Street Northwest, just beyond where a proposed apartment complex will be built along Country Club Road Southwest Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021, in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER — Neighbors are asking the Rochester City Council to repeal flexibility for a proposed affordable housing project on the southern edge of Country Club Manor.

“A number of local and, now we have discovered, state laws are being ignored as they are trying to do too much on a small site that has a history of flooding issues,” said Terry Fields, whose home sits near the northern edge of the proposed development.

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Titan Development is planning a 72-unit apartment complex, dubbed Manor Hills, near the intersection of 36th Avenue Northwest and Country Club Road. The project has been approved to receive state tax credits and local tax-increment financing to keep rents below market rates.

On April 20, the Rochester Board of Appeals approved development leniency to allow a greater-than-normal amount of impervious surface within 300 feet of Cascade Creek, which lies south of the site and across Country Club Road.

Existing limits restrict the amount of solid surface, such as buildings, sidewalks and parking lots, to 25% percent of the defined area, but the developer asked to increase the percentage to 60% for the impacted portion of the property.

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Fields and 15 other neighbors north of the proposed apartment building appealed the allowed variance , and the City Council is expected to hold a public hearing on the issue during its June 6 meeting.

Terry and Steve Fields
Terry and Steve Fields stand at the edge of their property along 1st Street Northwest, just beyond where a proposed apartment complex will be built along Country Club Road Southwest Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021, in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

With a City Council decision uncertain, the neighbors have hired a lawyer to write an opinion for council review and potentially take the matter to court.

Fields said neighbors have paid a $5,000 retainer and launched a Go Fund Me online fundraiser to seek community support. As of 10 a.m. Tuesday, the fundraiser had generated $95 toward its $5,000 goal.

The neighbors contend that the proposed development will not be able to meet state requirements related to restrictions for development near Cascade Creek and site concerns about the potential for increased flooding of their property.

Since a development plan hasn’t been produced, the April 20 variance came with conditions that included the developer must prove the ability to comply with existing storm water regulations.

Terry and Steve Fields
The site of a proposed development along Country Club Road Southwest Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021, in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

“The applicant has not fully demonstrated that exceeding the 25% impervious surface requirement will not be materially detrimental to other properties in the area,” states a comment from the city’s engineering team. “However the same could be held true at this stage in the development process even if the proposed project complied with the 25% impervious surface requirement.”

Dennis Fields, a city planner in another community, has been working with his parents Terry and Steve Fields in their opposition to the development. He said the city’s conditions don’t go far enough, since state laws appear to restrict what would be allowed with the variance.

“The variance in itself is a violation of state law,” Terry Fields said.

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Rochester Deputy Director of Community Development Ryan Yetzer said the council's review will be limited to the variance for allowable impervious surfaces, and other state and local issues will be addressed as development plans are submitted.

"The rest of the standards have to sort themselves out," he said.

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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