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Potential growth for Northwest Rochester receives initial council support

City staff sought direction Monday as it prepares to update Rochester's growth map to outline expectations for future decades.

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An area targeted for potential Rochester sewer expansion and growth is defined on a map of the city and surrounding areas. (City of Rochester)
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Plans to target future city growth in Northwest Rochester received tentative support Monday.

While two Rochester City Council members — Patrick Keane and Mark Bransford — specifically voiced support for the next step toward sewer extension in the area, none of the other members voiced specific opposition.

“We need to restrict our flow of the city boundary out in all directions,” Keane said during a council discussion of the city’s effort to update the map of future growth areas, showing expectations for future decades.

ALSO READ: New sewer costs vary based on location

Ryan Yetzer, the city’s interim deputy director of development and construction services, said the Community Development and Public Works departments routinely receive calls from people interested in developing areas in every direction, but limited capacity in five of the city’s seven sewer subdistricts means it’s not always feasible.

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“The city’s downstream sewer is designed for a smaller community,” said Matt Crawford, the city’s Public Works project development manager.

Updating the city’s growth map will allow staff to focus on a plan for a specific area.

Public Works Director Wendy Turri said updates will need to be started one subdistrict at a time, with plans calling for the city to pay the initial cost of expanding sewer capacity. Eventually, most of the cost is expected to be recouped as developers target the area.

In the proposed northwest expansion, the city would face an estimated $10.8 million project to add sewer service to 580 developable acres, which means related developer fees would be nearly $15,400 per acre.

Crawford said the cost means actual sewer construction would wait until the city had developer partnerships and commitments to help fund future expansion.

Yetzer pointed out that the proposed expansion is intended to open options, while other growth areas already exist in northern sewer subdistricts.

The two areas that already have sufficient capacity for added development offer 14,580 acres of vacant land for Northeast or Northwest Rochester.

The land would provide enough space for approximately 40,800 units of low-density housing, or 81,640 units of medium- to high-density housing, which exceeds the city’s target for creating 24,000 new housing units by 2040.

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Community Development Director Cindy Steinhauser said limits exist, since any housing development would require a willing seller and willing builder, as well as a plan that works.

Yetzer said support of the proposal to focus on potential northwest growth allows city staff to start having discussions with property owners and others to see whether it’s the right approach before making too much of a commitment.

“It just means we know we can take the next step,” he said, adding that it doesn’t commit to city spending on sewer plans at this point.

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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