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New public hearings needed for Chateau Circle

The developers of a proposed Walgreens and other commercial development at Chateau Circle in northwest Rochester could be headed back to the city of Rochester's application process and new public hearings.

The Rochester City Council at a Monday committee meeting agreed the most recent plans submitted by the developer differed significantly enough from plans approved in August that the developer would need a new application to proceed.

The council cited the trust of constituents for elected officials and the integrity of the special district development process in giving its decision.

"Fundamentally, I think it comes down to trust," Council President Randy Staver said. "If the neighbors, the neighborhoods, can't trust their elected officials and professional staff to be watching out for the development that occurs in our community, they lose faith. And that is certainly the last thing we want."

The Chateau Circle development plans had envisioned a Walgreens drug store and room for five other lots on a 62,515-square-foot site at 55th Street Northwest, Chateau Road and Villa Road.


The city council and City Planning and Zoning Commission together had heard 25 to 30 hours of testimony in public hearings before the council approved a final plat and special district ordinance for the development, which is led by real estate agent David Marris.

The special district plans included detailed descriptions of architectural design elements, and the final plat showed specific layouts for buildings and traffic flows.

Last week, the Rochester-Olmsted Planning and Zoning Department staff reported a concern to council members: the first site plans proposed at Chateau Circle differed from what the council had reviewed. The department received development proposals from Semper Development — the company that develops Walgreens — and from Biolife.

"Our concern was that the level of change here should come back through the planning commission and council for review as an amendment to the special district," said Mitzi Baker, planning department director.

The site plans reviewed by the department had a different layout of buildings; two buildings had been combined into one, the orientation had been changed, the building elevation was greater and the traffic pattern changed, said John Harford, supervisor of the development review services division.

Council Member Ed Hruska said the changes challenged the integrity of the special district process.

The council agreed, and directed planning staff to request an application for amendment of the Chateau Circle Special District if the developer planned to pursue the changed plans.

The decision was a consolation for neighbors who had poured hours of their time into the special district process.


"It's going to be important for the trust of the neighborhood that (the council) do follow through, and I was glad to hear that they were willing to do that," said Barb Virnig, a nearby resident and neighborhood organizer.

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