Olmsted County commissioners nix land-use change east of Rochester

Neighbors opposed proposal to split ag land for residential use.

McGuire property.JPG
A screen grab from the Google Maps website shows the location of 35 acres owned by John McGuire east of Rochester.
Google Maps

ROCHESTER — A proposal to divide 35 acres into nine residential lots failed to receive needed support from Olmsted County commissioners Tuesday.

Comments from neighboring property owners were credited for helping drive the decision.

“Without the public comments we heard tonight, we would not have the clear understanding that we do about the parcels that are surrounding the proposed land and had a greater understanding on how it would impact the community,” said Commissioner Michelle Rossman, as she was joined by three others to deny a requested land-use change for property owned by John McGuire along College View Road Southeast, approximately 4 miles east of Rochester.

The request to change the land classification from agricultural to residential has been largely opposed by nearby property owners, who point to a desire to maintain the agricultural characteristics of the area.

“This is the top 1% or 2% of farmland in Marion Township,” said Joe Lawler, who farms nearby and cited concerns that a shift in use would damage similar agricultural uses surrounding the property.


While several nearby properties are smaller 10-acre parcels, Lawler and others said individuals owned more than one of the parcels and in all cases they were used as ag-based property, which might conflict with a new residential use.

McGuire, who pointed to his family’s history in the area, said he wants to develop the site for family members, as well as an 8-acre tree farm. He said he has no intention of marketing the property to others.

“I’m quite insulted by the suggestion that I’m going to sell this off,” he said, objecting to comments from neighbors who said the divided lots could be sold to people without connections to the area or agricultural community.

Kristi Gross, an Olmsted County senior planner, said the property scored highly as farmland to be protected, which was part of what prompted county planning staff to recommend denial of the request to change its designated use.

Commissioner Mark Thein, who was joined by Board Chairman Gregg Wright, in opposing the denial, pointed to a development rating in the planner’s report, which indicated the potential for the site was better than another Marion Township property that was approved for a new residential use on Tuesday.

“If it scores higher for orderly development, in my mind, that is something we should look at favorably over something that scores lower,” he said.

Thein had raised the question during a committee meeting earlier in the day, and Olmsted County Planning Director Ben Griffith said the scoring that led to the staff recommendation took several issues into account.

“It’s located in the middle of an ag area,” he said of the property location, pointing out the other site is closer to residential land.


The site that was approved for a use change Tuesday was for 38.5 acres owned by Brendan Meier, Chester along U.S. Highway 14 west of Chester.

Meier is planning to divide the property into 13 residential lots.

With unanimous approval of the land use change, a future development plan will face future review by the county commissioners.

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
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