Citizen involvement drives developments
Five development projects moved through the Rochester City Council at a Monday evening meeting and the contrast between those with neighborhood support and those without it was clear.
Council members took time to recognize the importance of citizen engagement with developers early in the process of designing and proposing projects that will eventually be vetted by the city council.
"If anything we saw a great contrast of early neighborhood involvement versus late neighborhood involvement," Council Member Mark Bilderback said.
Those projects with early neighborhood involvement moved smoothly through public hearings and evoked little or no disagreement between council members. One project that involved citizens later in the development process faced harsher comments and split council votes.
The city council has considered text amendments to its ordinances that would increase citizens' opportunities to participate in the development process.
One text amendment would require more thorough notification procedures to alert neighbors to upcoming public hearings for projects in their area. Another amendment would mandate developers interact with neighborhood associations as part of the development process.
"At a minimum I think the message to developers is that it is clearly in their best interest to engage neighborhoods early and often. It will save them time and money and a whole lot of heartache, it would seem," Council President Randy Staver said.
"I think the projects have indicated that those that engage the neighborhoods and reach, hopefully, a compromise have a much greater chance of successfully getting through the process," Staver added.
The council took action on the following projects:
A group of developers including real estate agent David Marris moved forward with a 62,515-square-foot commercial space at 55th Street Northwest, Chateau Road and Villa Road. The development has identified a Walgreens drug store as one business and five other commercial lots are available for retail, restaurant and other businesses.
The city council on Monday approved a final plat for the lot layout and took action on three related items it had tabled — approval of a Chateau Circle Special District ordinance, a development agreement with Chateau Circle LLC and a second reading of an ordinance establishing the special district.
Marris previously told the council that the plan had been changed to accommodate neighbors' concerns so much that it was "no longer a Chateau Circle plan — it is a community plan."
Lofts at Mayo Park
Property owner Helen Rowland, of the George F. Pougiales Trust of Minneapolis, and Snow Kreilich Architects continued to earn the praise of city council members and some residents for their work on a 29-unit apartment building at Sixth Avenue Southeast, neighboring Mayo Park.
The development will replace four single-family residences with a four-story building overlooking the Zumbro River and downtown Rochester.
One neighbor, Sean Kettelkamp, protested the contemporary design of the building, which she said clashed with the historic neighborhood.
"I'm stunned, to be perfectly truthful … the whole thing looks so out of place," Kettelkamp said.
Kettelkamp also said she had been left out of neighborhood discussions and that other residents were "floored" to hear the development was planned.
Council Member Michael Wojcik said he could not remember ever having seen another project with more opportunity for public input and that Snow Kreilich and local firm Midwest Landing had gone "above and beyond" to involve neighbors early and often in the development process.
The council unanimously approved the developer's final plan. Architect Matt Kreilich said the team hopes to break ground on the project this fall.
After a city council text amendment last month rendered a previous branch plan unallowable in the city's Core Development District, Associated Bank developers presented a new plan for the 434 Broadway Ave. S location.
Drive-through lanes in the developer's original plan were replaced with an eight-space surface parking lot and green space in a new rendering presented Monday night. Owner Doug Harber and applicant Craig Britton sought approval for a conditional use permit to allow the parking lot in the Downtown Parking Overlay District.
Citizens raised concerns with the surface parking lot and with the bank branch's design and conformity with Destination Medical Center plans; two were members of the city's Committee on Urban Design and Environment, two were Historic Southwest Neighborhood Association members and one was a City Planning and Zoning commissioner.
The council acknowledged the developer had faced a tight timeline to redesign its plans, but some council members also called for continued flexibility and willingness to work with neighbors and residents.
"I think what we heard tonight, some of these things could have been resolved had we had early neighborhood involvement with the development team," Bilderback said.
The council approved a conditional use permit allowing the surface parking lot on a 6-1 vote with Wojcik dissenting.
New Horizons Academy
A plan to expand New Horizons Academy at Kutzky Court Northwest and Fourth Street Northwest received council approval for conditional use permits.
The permits allow one variance to the landscaping requirement and two design modifications for the new two-story childcare building expansion.
According to project engineer Peter Hilger, the developers drastically changed plans to accommodate the interests of neighbors and the neighborhood association.
The council approved the conditional use permit 7-0.
Summit Pointe Fifth
The council approved a final plat for Arcon Development, of Excelsior, and Intrepid Development Corp., of Mora, that subdivides 16 acres into 21 lots at 65th Street Northwest and 50th Avenue Northwest.
Wojcik opposed the city adopting a public road in the development that uses cul-de-sacs, calling the investment an eventual money-loser. The council passed the plat on a 6-1 vote over Wojcik's minority vote.