Plans for a senior-living cooperative received an early nod Wednesday,

Rochester’s Planning and Zoning Commission gave unanimous support of a preliminary plan to build 110 housing units near the intersection of West Circle Drive and Berkshire Road Southwest.

“Cooperatives are a for-sale product, so residents purchase equity in their home,” said Dave Young, senior development manager for Minneapolis-based United Properties. “In a sense, they own their home; it’s not a rental. In fact, the bylaws of the cooperative prohibit rental of any sort.”

The proposed four-story complex, which is similar to projects United Properties has been building in other communities since 2005, would require at least one occupant be 62 or older and offer 102 two-bedroom units and eight three-bedroom options.

Once completed a cooperative board would have oversight of the property, similar to a homeowner association.

Young said home values will average approximately $430,000 per unit, which would require at least 20 percent down as an equity payment.

“The balance is then is incorporated into monthly dues,” he said, noting the overall building will have a 40-mortgage, which will be insured by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

He said the typical occupants would be homeowners wishing to downsize while remaining active in the community.

“We’re looking to provide an opportunity for something a little bit different,” he said, indicating market research shows the 110 units are needed.

Mark Welch, a principal engineer for Chatfield-based G-Cubed Engineering, said the proposal comes after considering other options for the nearly 8-acre site.

“This site has been through a number of different looks for how to develop it,” he said. “There were some condominiums proposed at one time. “

He said soil conditions barred use for several options, but United Properties was able to find buildable space for the proposed complex, as long as it’s built as a four-story structure, which is a story beyond what would typically be allowed in the area.

“The building has been placed and sized specific to the soils that are out there,” he added, noting the taller option also allows more area for drainage and landscaping.

The height was among concerns cited by neighbors from the nearby Patio Homes of Meadow Lakes Homeowners Associations.

Tom Kastner, who’s home is closest to the proposed complex, raised concerns about the potential for shadows to be cast on his property, as well as traffic impacts with more residents using the Berkshire Road access to West Circle Drive.

“There are roof heights and grade elevations prior to construction to be considered,” he said. “A building shadow study would be most prudent.”

Additionally, Berkshire Road resident Jim Seward said the project appears to be bigger than is needed in the neighborhood.

“No matter how high the trees are, they are not going to grow 40 feet, so I’m going to be looking at a wall,” he said of the project that is designed to be 50-foot tall.

“It’s like putting a billboard in front of your house,” he said.

Other concerns cited include sewer access, lighting impacts, parking plans and landscaping.

Not all of the approximately 20 neighbors attending Wednesday’s hearing had concerns about the project.

Greg Thompson, who lives in Berkshire Road near the proposed development, said he’s visited similar projects built by United Properties and was impressed.

“I think it would be a very positive addition to the neighborhood,” he said.

Prior to voting to recommend Rochester City Council approval, Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Tom Hill said the project actually has less density than would typically be allowed without council review.

“There’s always going to be a potential to have a structure there,” he said, noting the review is required solely based on building to four stories, rather than spreading the complex over a larger portion of the property.

With the commission’s recommendation, the preliminary plan will head to the City Council for another public hearing and review. If approved, a final plan will be submitted with added details and continue through a similar process.

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