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Rochester development code work continues into third year

Reworking of code will include more neighborhood information meetings.

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ROCHESTER — Creation of unified development code to guide zoning and building in the city is entering its third year.

The Rochester City Council continued discussion of the process Monday afternoon, following the rollout of the third and final installment of the code last month.

“We are maintaining our timeline,” said Ryan Yetzer, the city’s interim deputy director of development and construction services.

The timeline calls for review of a final draft of the full code by the end of August, with several months set aside to enact it after council approval.

The new code will replace the existing land-development manual, which guides current development approvals in the city.

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Don Elliot, a director with Denver-based Clarion Associates, said the goal of the new code is to streamline approval processes and help ensure consistent approaches for review.

The new code is being developed by the city’s Community Development staff and consultants from Clarion.

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Streamlining doesn’t mean limiting public comment, even though it is expected to reduce public hearings in front of the Rochester Planning and Zoning Commission or the City Council.

Elliot said the proposed code increases the types of notifications needed for development, in many cases calling for neighborhood information meetings before an application is made. Those meetings will allow developers to address residents’ concerns before seeking approval.

He said the city could adopt a policy outside of the code that better defines how those meetings are held and how community input is reviewed during the application process.

Deputy City Administrator Cindy Steinhauser said Community Development staff members are already looking for ways to ensure dialogue continues with neighbors and other residents throughout the new process.

“We want to see what we can do, because we think that’s an important part around the neighborhood engagement,” she said.

Elliot said such engagement is intended to add flexibility for developers, as well as residents, since the public hearing process often happens after it’s too late to make significant changes to a project without added costs or city staff effort.

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He said it’s a change that’s being made throughout the country as cities ponder their development requirements.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve been asked to write a code that requires more public hearings,” he said.

Council President Brooke Carlson said the change means it is important to make sure the new development code reflects what is desired to be built in the city.

Yetzer said Community Development staff has used outreach efforts during the past two years as portions of the code have been released since Sept. 28, 2020.

Since then, the city staff has held 77 hours of related community events and 77 hours of meetings with stakeholders, along with four special presentations to members of Rochester Area Builders. Another meeting with Rochester Area Builders is set for later this month.

Information regarding new public engagement efforts will be posted on the project’s website, https://tinyurl.com/4hwpahjh .

Related Topics: GOVERNMENT AND POLITICSROCHESTERCLOQUET CITY COUNCIL
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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