• 24Oct

    I did, Jesse Welsh did not. She certainly does not deserve the slander & threats that Javon is levying against her.

    Want to know why dark money and hidden contributions are pouring into at least 2 local races? Read on…

    I will share some information, while withholding discussion on how the project may or may not meet required criteria (the quasi-judicial part of this).

    In preparing for the discussion of the now continued project; I reached out to Fresh Thyme. Based on their corporate philosophy and previous developments, I was skeptical of some of the claims that Javon Bea had made. As it turns out Javon and his team made false statements to the neighborhood, community leaders, and Fresh Thyme. I have a world of respect for people like Nate Stencil who are interested in finding consensus with neighbors. While there were a number of false statements made; the most significant was placing the blame for the offset pedestrian intersection and poor design of 16th on Fresh Thyme. Not true, as with any competent firm putting active faces on multiple sides of buildings is not difficult.

    But it wasn’t just city leaders and neighbors that were being told false statements, Javon also failed to communicate neighborhoods concerns to Fresh Thyme. Fresh Thyme was of the impression that Javon had worked with the neighborhood and there were no concerns. I filled in the concerns that Javon left out. I also sent Javon’s correspondences with the neighborhood. I will also say Javon never mentioned that Fresh Thyme was the grocer, but smart people figured that out.

    I can say after speaking with Fresh Thyme I have a great deal of respect for their organization. They are small but growing and have some great people on their team. I suspect the neighborhood would welcome them with open arms into our community. They would be a great addition to Kutzky Park.

    I can also say everyone wanted to work together on the project to make it a success with just a few exceptions. Basically Javon, a city administrator, and some council members (he only talked with 5, deliberately excluding myself and Nick Campion from some discussion) that he thought he could force the project through without addressing reasonable concerns, despite the large concessions he was asking for. The irony is not lost that people who want to pretend to be consensus builders; made no attempt to work towards consensus.

    I am not sure why the hearing was continued only that it was done after one of Javon’s consultants spoke with a couple council members before the meeting.

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  • 09Sep

    The Miracle Mile redevelopment is an incredible opportunity for the entire community. Lets hope we do it right this time. Neighbors are energized and excited about the possibilities. Unfortunately proposed designs to date have left many concerned about both public safety and a lack of conformance to urban design principles. photo Screen Shot 2016-09-09 at 3.09.11 PM_zpsn7nb3waz.png

    The good news is that everyone seems to want to get a redevelopment done, and there seems to be little concern about the added density on that site. Neighbors feel that TIF even beyond what is being discussed could be justified with a proper design. Patrick Seeb has offered to help coordinate work with the University of Minnesota Design standards to address Urban Design issues. Public works is potentially willing to consider a more urban design of that street. I would love to see the utilities cleaned up in the area as part of this and we have experience doing this with TIF.

    The most important facade is the 16th Ave side as that is what faces the community. Currently it is unclear if this will be sufficiently activated. What is particularly frustrating is that the long series of engagements offered to the Slatterly Park Neighborhood on the “Buckeye” project seems to be missing from this process. I fear there is an attempt to simply gain the support of 4 council members behind the scenes rather than have meaningful collaboration. I suspect that consensus could be reached by simply rotating the current proposal 90 degrees, placing retail on 16th and the grocer entrance on Center Street, and lining up the intersection correctly. However I certainly can’t speak for the neighbors. Further I suspect that this type of design would be more likely to justify TIF to help with public realm improvements. Side parking lots are common in for grocers in communities with form based codes.

    The proposed intersection of Center Street & 16th Ave SW currently suggests a jog of up to 15 degrees which is both unnecessary and dangerous for pedestrians, especially children, seniors and those with a disability. An activated 16th street will likely require on street parking both to service retail and buffer traffic. According to our bicycle master plan 16th should also get some sort of bike treatment. In this case, protected lanes running on the East side of the roadway would probably best connect cyclists to Kutzky Park.

    Here are a couple of fantastic images created by a neighbor. This design would fit nicely in the the available space.

     photo Screen Shot 2016-09-09 at 2.48.30 PM_zpsrf0tvyje.png

     photo Screen Shot 2016-09-09 at 2.48.49 PM_zpsnhhasjyh.png

    This should be easy for the council to accomplish… Unless there is a majority just willing to ignore the issues and pass the development without addressing concerns. I would love to have an easy one for once… It will be interesting to read the staff report & recommendations as well as the actions of P&Z. Right now multiple neighborhoods seem quite concerned. Strangely the property owner Javon Bea has met with some council members but not others, additionally there was a strange attempt to hide his involvement with the project at a previous neighborhood meeting. There is no need for this as Kutzky Park has a history of supporting good redevelopments.

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  • 25Jun

    Edit: Per the request of some citizens the Traffic Report Can be found here.

    On Monday I will participate on a panel that will discuss the proposed Alatus Development in the Folwell Neighborhood. There is a great deal of fear about this project, which is to be expected with any project this large. I will be a little limited as to what I can say as I am in a quasi-judicial capacity with the project likely coming to the council.

    As a restricted development, any approval must meet the requirements in 62.708 of our land development manual. I will bold the sections that are likely of particular interest to neighbors as I have received questions. The first time that this comes to us will be as a Preliminary Development Plan as such take a look at Subdivision 2. Subdivision 3 is applicable to a Final Development Plan.

    On all of these criteria, staff will prepare a report making recommendations, the Planning & Zoning Commission will then review it, and finally the council will make a decision. This is the case for both the Preliminary & Final Plans.

    62.708 Criteria for Type III Developments: Subdivision 1. The Commission and Council shall approve a type III incentive development plan if it determines the plan satisfies all of the Preliminary Development Plan findings provided in subdivision 2 and all of the Final Development Plan findings provided in subdivision 3.
    Subd 2. The findings for the approval of a Preliminary Type III Development Plan are as follows:

    A. Capacity of Public Facilities: The existing or future planned utilities in the area are adequate to serve the proposed development.

    B. Geologic Hazards: The existence of areas of natural or geologic hazard, such as unstable slopes, sinkholes, floodplain, etc., have been identified and the development of these areas has been taken into account or will be addressed in the Phase II plans.

    C. Natural Features: For developments involving new construction, the arrangement of buildings, paved areas and open space has, to the extent practical, utilized the existing topography and existing desirable vegetation of the site.

    D. Residential Traffic Impact: When located in a residential area, the proposed development:

    (1) Will not cause traffic volumes to exceed planned capacities on local residential streets;

    (2) Will not generate frequent truck traffic on local residential streets; and

    (3) Will not create additional traffic during evening and nighttime hours on local residential streets.

    E. Traffic Generation Impact: : Anticipated traffic generated by the development will not cause the capacity of adjacent streets to be exceeded, and conceptual improvements to reduce the impact of access points on the traffic flow of adjacent streets have been identified where needed..

    F. Height Impacts: For developments involving new construction, the heights and placement of proposed structures are compatible with the surrounding development. Factors to consider include:

    (1) Will the structure block sunlight from reaching adjacent properties during a majority of the day for over four months out of the year; and;

    (2) Will siting of the structure substantially block vistas from the primary exposures of adjacent residential dwellings created due to differences in elevation.

    G. Setbacks: For developments involving new construction, proposed setbacks are related to building height and bulk in a manner consistent with that required for permitted uses in the underlying zoning district.

    H. Internal Site Design: For developments involving new construction, the preliminary site layout indicates adequate building separation and desirable orientation of the buildings to open spaces, street frontages or other focal points.

    I. Screening and Buffering: The conceptual screening and bufferyards proposed are adequate to protect the privacy of residents in the development or surrounding residential areas from the impact of interior traffic circulation and parking areas, utility areas such as refuse storage, noise or glare exceeding permissible standards, potential safety hazards, unwanted pedestrian/bicycle access, or to subdue differences in architecture and bulk between adjacent land uses.

    J. Ordinance Requirements: The proposed development includes adequate amounts of off-street parking and loading areas and, in the case of new construction, there is adequate landscaped area to meet ordinance requirements.

    K. General Compatibility: The relationship of the actual appearance, general density and overall site design of the proposed development should be compared to the established pattern of zoning, the character of the surrounding neighborhood and the existing land forms of the area to determine the general compatibility of the development with its surroundings.

    L. Non-Vehicular and Alternate Modes of Travel: The proposed development incorporates pedestrian oriented-space, provides direct and convenient pedestrian access to the building entrance(s) from public trails, public sidewalks, and on or off-site parking areas, incorporates appropriated pedestrian safety features, provides convenient pedestrian access for transit patrons, or, if appropriate, access for transit vehicles, and provides adequate bicycle access. Consideration shall also be given, to providing designated motorized scooter parking if appropriate to the context of the development (the use, location, type of individuals served).

    Subd. 3. The findings for the approval of a Final Type III Development Plan are as follows:
    A. Public Facility Design: The design of private and public utility facilities meet the requirements and specifications which the applicable utility has adopted.

    B. Geologic Hazard: Engineering means to deal with areas of geologic hazard have been incorporated into the development plan or such areas have been set aside from development.
    Page 258 September 1, 2011

    C. Access Effect: Ingress and egress points have been designed and located so as to:

    (1) Provide adequate separation from existing street intersections and adjacent private driveways so that traffic circulation problems in public right-of-ways are minimized; and

    (2) Not adversely impact adjacent residential properties with factors such as noise from accelerating or idling vehicles or the glare of headlights from vehicles entering or leaving the site.

    In addition, where the preliminary development plan identified potential problems in the operation of access points, plans for private improvements or evidence of planned public improvements which will alleviate the problems have been provided.

    D. Pedestrian Circulation: The plan includes elements to assure that pedestrians can move safely both within the site and across the site between properties and activities within the neighborhood area, and, where appropriate, accommodations for transit access are provided.

    E. Foundation and Site Plantings: A landscape plan for the site has been prepared which indicates the finished site will be consistent with the landscape character of the surrounding area.

    F. Site Status: Adequate measures have been taken to insure the future maintenance and ownership pattern of the project, including common areas, the completion of any platting activities, and the provision of adequate assurance to guarantee the installation of required public improvements, screening and landscaping.

    G. Screening and Bufferyards: The final screening and bufferyard design contains earth forms, structures and plant materials which are adequate to satisfy the needs identified in preliminary development plan for the project.

    H. Final Building Design: The final building design is consistent with the principles identified in preliminary development plan relative to Height Impact, Setbacks, and Internal Site Design.

    I. Internal Circulation Areas: Plans for off-street parking and loading areas and circulation aisles to serve these areas meet ordinance requirements in terms of design.

    J. Ordinance Requirements: The proposed development is consistent with the requirements of the underlying zoning district for similar uses in regards to signage and other appearance controls, and with general standards such as traffic visibility and emergency access.

    K. Non-Vehicular and Alternate Travel Modes: The proposed development incorporates pedestrian oriented-space, provides direct and convenient pedestrian access to the building entrance(s) from public trails, public sidewalks, and on or off-site parking areas, incorporates appropriated pedestrian safety features, provides convenient pedestrian access for transit patrons, or, if appropriate, access for transit vehicles, and provides adequate bicycle access. Consideration shall also be given, to providing designated motorized scooter parking if appropriate to the context of the development (the use, location, type of individuals served).

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  • 19Feb

    Edit: I noticed website traffic is through the roof today. Just a friendly reminder that if you a appreciate a strong protector of public money please consider a campaign contribution. 2016 campaign limit is $600 per person, most people donate between $25 and $100, $100 or less is anonymous: donate here

    Upon some reflection this evening here are my thoughts on this doomed project.

    Bottom line: I am disappointed, but integrity and fiscal responsibility will always be more important to me than any on project. I think the public will be excited to see some of the other projects being proposed in this area.

    I suspect the site will not be quiet long with the clock ticking on the alley vacation.

    So the Holiday Inn is now dead and I am left shaking my head over what could have been. A series of issues that could have been addressed early on, seemed to keep coming back and plaguing the project. I haven’t been able to say much about the project previously because we were in a quasi-judicial capacity. Now that I am no longer in that capacity I will say that I suspect the project would have passed the council with minor changes at most and a 7-0 vote. In the latest iteration the project was probably the nicest large non-Mayo project the city would have had in that area. The real death of this project came by way of the heavy public subsidies that they were asking for. The first time I saw the project, I thought the biggest potential objections had already been addressed.

    There were a number of things that conspired to cause problems and for once I have to say that the city council was not one of them. In fact, Randy Staver, who I have certainly had some issues with this week, accepted my invitation and sat with the developer and neighbors in an attempt to work out some issues. Multiple times… And we did for the most part…

    Here are some of the issues the project ran into:

    • A lack of planning (zoning) – The incentive development process, poor underlying zoning, and the continued inability to produce a 21st century zoning code that actually works in urban areas. No excuses for this. I have been asking for a zoning code refresh for 8 years, and continue to. We have a good 2nd street plan with no way to implement it. While we are updating the comprehensive plan, staff has talked the council out of acting on zoning until the plan is done. I feel that current zoning is so bad for both neighbors and developers that I wanted to override staff’s recommendation and do it any way, but I was on the losing end of that vote.
    • A lack of planning (infrastructure) – We don’t have a good plan for 2nd street Phase IV yet. Further staff still can’t answer the question of what the most efficient and cost effective tunnel system would look like in that area. It is really hard to design around infrastructure when you don’t know what it will be. It is also hard to justify public subsidies without a plan for public benefit.
    • Poor Communication – Staff really did little to engage vested parties, I personally felt left out of their loop and actually had to point out numerous errors in interpreting the 2nd street plan. It appeared to me that there was more of an attempt to contort to the development than make the development fit a vision. In fact, I was surprised to learn that the city administrator was willing to double TIF, because he never told the council.
    • High land acquisition costs – I think that the price the developer was paying for the land made it uneconomical, as such they were looking for a ton of public assistance which was hard to justify.
    • Lack of public benefit to justify high subsidies – There would be some benefit from having true public parking, perhaps some from ROW setbacks and streetscape, maybe some from a tunnel, but not enough to justify what they needed to make the project viable. I saw this and DMC also saw this. While the neighborhood had delivered a letter of support, they pulled it after seeing the size of the requested subsidies, with those types of public subsidies they felt like the public should get more.
    • The Holiday Inn brand – I don’t think it is fair to judge the quality of the hotel by the brand name, but the public was not excited about that brand, I suspect neither was Mayo. This might have been the nicest Holiday Inn in the country. The public certainly didn’t want any tax dollars to go into a “Holiday Inn.” I personally think you need to separate a brand reputation and the hotel, but I think that was out there.
    • Larry Brutger – I like Larry, but frankly many neighbors did not. In talking with Larry, I thought he was congenial and pragmatic. However much of his experience was in more suburban developments, this was a very urban development. To his credit he hired a tremendous architect out of the cities which was very capable. I think the issue was he got some terrible advice, rather than working through some issues, he was told to submit plans ASAP. This made many in the neighborhood furious, which was too bad since some issues were minor. The neighborhood fought for many things that were important to them like a neighborhood friendly 1st street and raised numerous issues at the planning level. Further because of the submittal, Larry was limited on changes he could do from that point on.
    • City staff perception by the neighborhood – With all the issues many neighbors came together to have a visioning event at Forager Brewing. Not only to talk about this project, but really the greater area. Perhaps a couple hundred people showed up, including a majority of the council and most DMC staff. However not a single person from city administration, county planning, or public works showed up at this well attended event.

    From the start this project was asking for a ton from the community by way of incentive, variances, and subsidies. In the end it just didn’t look like they were going to get the subsidy then needed.

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  • 06Feb

    I can’t begin to express how outstanding of an event Imagine Kutzky and neighbors put on at Forager Brewing around the topic of the St. Mary’s area.  I remain proud of my neighborhoods.

    Here is a link to the equally outstanding report.

    More than 100 people showed up, I would guess closer to 200 if you count the folks that came and decided it was too busy to stay. The comments were outstanding. Some of them conflict with each other, but in general people want a great neighborhood that prioritizes transit, pedestrians, and bikes. They want vibrant businesses and great public spaces. With the exception of 1 person (who I know) who wanted a 6 lane highway… I would personally lay down in front of the heavy equipment if that was happening.

    Also impressive was the community leaders that showed up. A majority of the city council showed up to listen. Attendees included myself, Mark Bilderback, Mark Hickey, and Nick Campion. In addition most of the DMC team also showed up to listen. I commend them on listening to what the neighborhood had to say. Leaders from the Kutzky Park, Folwell, and Historic Southwest Neighborhoods were also in attendance.

    City Administration, County Planning, and City Public works were not in attendance. A note I sent to meet with public works before the event was note returned.

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  • 17Jan

    Here is a little transparency on the St. Marys area discussion. If we kept up with our own recommendations for planning in the area we wouldn’t be struggling right now.

    Council

    I sent staff my concerns about our recent Holiday Inn meetings and wished to express the same concerns to the council as well. I believe that once again the lack of proactive city planning has led to a situation were rather than implementing a quality plan we are bending to accommodate whatever comes forward.

    Here are my concerns, you will notice that none of them are with the current project its self for which we are still in a quasi-judicial capacity. I see the TIF discussion as being unrelated to the project discussion.

    1) Small group meetings were held in secret away from public scrutiny – There were other topics discussed that clearly can’t be public at this point, but absolutely nothing was discussing regarding the Holiday Inn that could not be discussed in public. While this does not violate the open meeting law, I think it violates the spirit of transparency. Further it removes the ability of the council to interact and control the discussion. I also disagree with this, except when it is necessary.

    2) There seems to be a disconnect between the project needs a tunnel and we need to pay for a tunnel. As with all TIF in this project I will ask staff to show quantitate data justifying TIF before I am willing to support it.

    3) DMCC did the right thing – I appreciate their willingness to ensure that a project meets the design standards for a great neighborhood before supporting it.

    4) The parking bothers me some and I will ask for some independant guidance. The idea of using TIF to build private parking with private revenues but some public oversight is novel. It seems that the cost per spot might be better than we can get otherwise, but again quantitative data is needed.

    5) Planning, Planning, Planning – I have seen how flexible Larry has been to try to get things done. This tells me that if we had done a better job in creating a district plan ahead of time we would probably be done my now. Deciding on your infrastructure and design standards after a plan has been submitted is a terrible way to do business. Building a tunnel system around a connection to a single block that is cutoff from the rest of the area by utilities MAY be a bad practice (or it may not).

    6) Creating a great place – every time we have created a great public place, peace plaza for example the public has embraced it. St. Marys Place can be another great place, but only if the public spaces are inviting. Bisecting the area with fast moving traffic (4 adjacent lanes averaging 12′ apiece) will crush the neighborhood, tunnel or not. My goals would be 1) safety / connectivity 2) Neighborhood / Business Vibrancy 3) Everything else 4) L.O.S.

    7) I am asking some community volunteers to help me create an event to draw attention to the needs for better planning in this area.

    Read more…

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  • 19Feb

    So after 7 years hear is what could bother me so badly I would choose to walk out of a meeting as opposed to saying harsh things to my peers. Hands done the most evil thing I have ever seen the city council do to our community.

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  • 27Jan

    For too long the city of Rochester has been reactive to development instead of being proactive.  I proposed 3 zoning changes, two are now in progress and the third is pending.

    1) Protect the integrity of the Kutzky Park Neighborhood. For nearly a decade the neighborhood has led on zoning to better reflect their neighborhood. We will now weigh whether to apply that CN-NR zoning to the residential areas in yellow.

     photo IMG_4410_zpsfgzlbmnm.jpg

    2) Revitalize, enhance, and protect our investments in the Uptown Neighborhood mixed use district. We spent millions of dollars in trying to revitalize this area. It is now far more pedestrian friendly. The B2 zoning allows for a mix of uses and higher density when done in a pedestrian and neighborhood friendly manner.

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    3) Take steps to minimize the cost of building the DMC public infrastructure. I carefully reviewed DMC Plan in an effort the keep new development from preventing key pieces of public infrastructure from being built. I suspect my work will result in an official map with will save future dollars.

     photo IMG_4414_zpshwxxviyy.jpg

    This is just the beginning. Eventually I seek to protect neighborhoods I represent including Kutzky Park, Folwell, Historic SW, Parkway, and Uptown as historic, mixed use, mixed income quality neighborhoods. We will complete the Comprehensive Plan this fall and I hope to rewrite and reapply all going districts there after.

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  • 16Dec

    Issues:

    • DMC Update
    • Richard signage revoked
    • Minnesota Energy charged deferred
    • Requested Sen. Senjem end state parking tax
    • Vote against the budget

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  • 16Dec

    Probably my favorite comment from another council member at the break was:

    I wanted to allow Mac to speak to see if he would bury himself and he certainly did.

    Mac Hamilton letter to Council:

    Honorable Mayor and council members:

    Item E4 on tonight’s City Council agenda asks you to consider the license agreement granted by the Rochester City Council dated October 27, 2011 to M2R2, LLC, the group that developed the Richard apartments.

    The license was granted by the council in recognition of the fact that the developers conceptualized and entirely paid for the creation of 5 new parking spaces within the West boulevard of 7th Avenue Southwest.  The license issued by the City “allow(s) the owner to install signs at these parking stalls indicating parking is not intended for the general public, but is intended only for residents of the Richard”.

    Council member Wojick was a member of the City Council at the time the license agreement was approved.  It is disturbing that he would encourage other citizens, in direct violation of a legal agreement in which he was a part, to park in these spaces specifically reserved for residents of the Richard.  After repeated violations by one “offender” that, as it turned out was specifically directed to park there by Mr. Wojick, and after windshield notices failed to dissuade this party, our site manager made the decision to tow the “offender”.  Upon learning of that the building ownership instructed the site manager to locate the towed party, apologize and reimburse them for the towing charges.  Upon reimbursement the violator said she believed parking there would be OK as Mr. Wojick suggested she park there.

    We have instructed our staff that towing from these spaces goes beyond the “reasonable steps” to preserve parking exclusivity granted us in the parking license.  We have altered our signage by removing the “violators will be towed” language, as shown in the attached photo.

    We request the council honor the intent of the parking license agreement and permit the agreement to remain in place.

    Thank you,

    Mac Hamilton  CCIM, SIOR, CPM

    Michael Wojcik

    Mac,
    Parking there is OK and continues to be OK, myself and dozens of other have parked there because it is OK. There are no offenders because there is no offense… You understood that as you could see in the video I created. What is not OK is charging people to park in a publicly owned parking spot. That is theft by swindle and I don’t want to be a part of that.
    If in fact I violated a legal agreement you have a legal recourse, have fun with that. If you think I abused my powers we have an ethics commission that can hear that, have fun with that as well…
    Have a good day…
    Steve, for the council.
    Terry, please be prepared to explain why there is not violation of an agreement and why any person can park in that spot any time they would like. This is not a public hearing so this will be staff and council discussion unless Mac receives special favors.

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