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Apartment developments delayed, denied

Two projects, both including development of apartments in Rochester, were reviewed by the City Planning and Zoning Commission on Wednesday, but neither project received the commission's recommendation for approval.

The commission recommended denial of a request for an amendment to the Riverfront Commons Special District and general development plan, and decided to continue a public hearing at its next meeting for a restricted development preliminary plan for Northside Flats, an 18-unit apartment development on Seventh Street Northwest.

The Riverfront Commons project proposes special district amendments that would allow for 157 residential units and 70,000 square feet of retail space.

Property owner Georgia Toogood, developer 988 Rochester LLC and consultant Momentum Design Group of St. Paul sought to increase residential space and decrease commercial space on the 9.88-acre lot at Mayowood Road Southwest and 16th Street Southwest.

The Riverfront Commons Special District, approved in 2009, allowed for only 36 residential units with 80,000 square feet of commercial space. It had been designed as a "town center" with an emphasis on pedestrian-oriented development and comprehensive planning, according to a planning staff analysis.


Two representatives of Stone Barn Estates Homeowners, a group of homeowners neighboring the development, spoke at the meeting and described the proposal as far removed from the site plan presented in 2009 when the special district was approved.

Planning and Zoning Commission members agreed.

"I don't feel that these proposed amendments are in solidarity with the original intent of the special district," said commission member Lindsey Meek.

A motion recommending denial of special district amendments passed unanimously, as did a subsequent motion recommending denial of the general development plan.

The requests will be sent on to the city council for another public hearing.

Northrop neighborhood proposal

The Northside Flats apartment development, owned by John Guyse and Sandra Guyse, proposed to build an 18-unit apartment complex in the Northrop neighborhood on the site of two existing triplexes owned by the Guyses.

Planning staff brought the preliminary plan to the commission with a recommendation for denial, based on the plan's failure to meet several components of restricted development criteria.


The staff report found the development out of compliance with traffic study requirements, height impacts, internal site design and density, and general compatibility with the neighborhood.

"We were frankly shocked when we saw that the staff report was negative," said Sean Allen, of Midwest Landing, a consultant on the project.

The property owners and development team organized four neighborhood meetings to solicit input from residents and made modifications to their plans to be accommodating, Allen said, though no meetings were required.

"We really feel that this isn't significantly different from other projects that have been approved," Allen said.

Several neighboring property owners raised concerns for parking availability and noise, but for every comment expressing concern there was a comment supporting the project.

"The developers have been quite accommodating," said Tim Schmitt, leader of the Northrop neighborhood group . "They presented alternatives and asked what we'd like to see."

Allen and the developers asked for more time to address staff's concerns. The commission agreed to continue the public hearing and review of the preliminary plan to August 12.

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