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Proposed Country Club Manor apartment project spurs zoning change

Rochester council acknowledges neighbors' concerns, but cites need for more affordable housing.

Terry and Steve Fields
The site of a proposed development along Country Club Road Southwest in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER — A zoning change to make way for a proposed 72-unit apartment building on the southern edge of Country Club Manor received unanimous council approval, but also a nod to neighbors’ concerns .

“This a life-changing situation for the people who live near this,” Rochester City Council member Mark Bransford said Monday.

As the council member representing the ward that includes the site, he said he understands the opposition from First Street Northwest residents whose backyards are adjacent to the property, but also answers to constituents who support the project.

Steve Fields, who is one of neighbors whose property connects to the site of the proposed three-story apartment building, told the council that he and others see the plan as a detriment.

“The building’s size does not fit the surrounding neighborhood,” he said in a message shared by five other Country Club Manor residents, who also cited concerns about traffic, potential flooding and a lack of privacy related to the proposed building at the intersection of Country Club Road and 36th Avenue Northwest.

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Brian Haack, Titan Development’s vice president of development of affordable housing, said the planned building’s size is required to meet the goal of providing apartments that are affordable for families earning 50% and 60% of the area median income, which is $51,500 to $61,800 a year for a family of four.

“To make it economically feasible, we need to have the density,” he said of the plan to create 72 apartments on the 2.3-acre lot with the help of state tax credits.

He added that 75% of the proposed apartments will be two- or three-bedroom units, catering to families.

Council member Molly Dennis said the proposal meets the need to develop more affordable housing in the city, but said she understands the neighbors’ concerns.

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“I don’t want it in my backyard,” she said. “No one wants it in their backyard.”

The Rev. Dan Doering of People of Hope Lutheran Church, which is selling the property to Titan, said the project was sought by the church’s congregation as a way of filling a specific community need.

“There is absolutely an affordable housing crisis in Rochester,” he said, noting many Rochester residents struggle to pay rent in the city.

Church member Annette Homburger said it wasn’t a direction taken lightly by the congregation.

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“We have been a part of Country Club Manor since 1999, and we never forget we are neighbors,” she said.

The council’s decision isn’t the last word on the development.

With the zoning change, Titan Development will present plans to the city’s Community Development staff for review, which will require addressing stormwater concerns, as well as landscaping and other requirements aimed at providing a buffer between nearby homes.

Jason Scrimshaw, a Kimley-Horn project manager designing the project, said efforts have been taken to address neighbors’ concerns and they will continue.

“We’re very committed to working with the neighbors,” he said.

Fields and others said concerns linger, since the zoning change would leave options open for other development if the Titan project falls through.

Community Development planner Emma Miller-Shindelar said zoning decisions aren’t project based, which does leave the site open to other qualified development.

“A zoning change cannot be conditioned,” she told the council.

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Doering, however, said the People of Hope congregation placed conditions on the future sale of its extra property.

“We have somewhat of a final say of whether we go through with that sale or not,” he told the council. “We are not interested in developing anything other than affordable housing at the corner of our property.”

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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