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Ward 2: What do candidates say about development and neighborhoods?

The three city council candidates were asked about potential conflicts as development continues near existing neighborhoods.

Ward 2 city council - Candidates combined
Rochester City Council Ward 2 candidates: Mark Bransford, Denise Welte and Michael Wojcik.

Development in Ward 2, especially along Second Street Southwest, has sparked conflicts with nearby neighborhoods in recent years.

The three candidates seeking to represent the ward on the Rochester City Council were asked how they would handle potential disagreements.

RELATED: Rochester City Council Ward 2 candidates discuss development and neighborhoods Three candidates weigh in with views on dealing with potential conflicts amid growth in Rochester
Denise Welte, a business owner, said each development should be handled on a case-by-case basis.

As someone who grew up in the city, she said she’s seen the change and believes development should continue with careful oversight.

“I think it’s really important when we put new next to old or existing, we have to make sure there is green space and there is a buffer zone in between, but I think the most important piece is we don’t stop or table development or put moratoriums on it,” she said.

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Mark Bransford, a software engineer, said the key is making sure all sides of the issue are presented to ward residents and that the ward is honestly represented.

He raised concerns about the process used for approval of the Berkman Apartments, west of Saint Marys Hospital. He said incumbent council member Michael Wojcik failed to represent ward interests and supported the developer.

The concerns led Bransford to file a 2017 complaint with the Ethical Practices Board on this issue. The complaint was dismissed by the board.

Bransford said the upcoming election is a chance for change.

“When faced with conflicting opinions points of view, I will listen to my constituents,” he said.

Wojcik, the only incumbent seeking re-election to the city council, said he has worked with ward residents to help find compromise as developers work on the edges on the neighborhoods. He added that the results are seen in the creation of the Uptown district, as well as other areas in the ward.

“That’s the kind of positive change working on public and private partnerships can have,” he said, adding that he believes neighborhoods are strong due to engagement with neighborhood leaders.

“I believe the way of dealing with this conflict is not to avoid conflict but rather to engage in it and encourage people to truly be heard and see what comes out of it,” he said.

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The three candidates are on the Aug. 11 primary ballot, which will narrow the race to two people for the Nov. 3 general election.

Their complete responses to the question regarding development and neighborhoods are available in 90-second videos posted at https://www.postbulletin.com/tags/ELECTION_2020

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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