Orchard Hills Villas Updates

There have been a number of concerns raised about how work is being done at Orchard Hills Villas.  In addition, an ethics complaint was filed.  I will not comment on that complaint while it is progress.  I will say that I am grateful that we now have an independent ethics commission that can address these complaints.  The person who filed this complaint also previously filed a complaint that was thrown out dismissed.

Edit, per Ray Schmitz, whose goal in life is to keep me honest:

Under unfinished business, the Orchard Hills Neighborhood Group complaint was further discussed. A clarification was provided that the issue was not the decision with respect to the zoning of the land; rather it was the actions of the Rochester Olmsted Consolidated Planning Department employee. It does not appear at this point that any type of preliminary investigation has occurred regarding the actual complaint Mr. Schmitz commented that he is not comfortable with any action until an investigation occurs. Ms. Batchelder posed the question whether the issue was a personnel issue or an ethical issue.
The document presented by Orchard Hills captured their allegations. Everything that occurred was done in the public view and there is no indication that anything was done otherwise. City personnel were present throughout the discussion of the issue. There does not seem to be any malfeasance, there was no collusion to benefit anyone or anything, and the public process was followed, as it should be. It was the conclusion of the Ethical Practices Board that this issue is a well documented Human Resources issue.
In reviewing RCO Chapter 13 of the city ordinance, the Orchard Bills Neighborhood Group complaint is outside the purview of the EPB, and should be forwarded to Human Resources for a possible discussion among the supervisors of the Consolidated Planning Department. Phil Wheeler, director of Olmstead Planning, was present for this portion of the meeting. The board encouraged him to look at this as a HR performance issue as well as a systems issue. It was recommended that the department do what is necessary to make sure the system is not used or abused in such a way to affect the performance of any of their employees as they fulfill their duties and responsibilities to the city and to the county.
A motion was made by Ms. Batchelder and seconded by Mr. Schmitz indicating the Ethical Practices Board has determined the Orchard Hills Neighborhood Group complaint is not within the purview of this board. If Orchard Hills wishes to pursue this complaint further using other avenues, they are certainly welcome to do so. At this point, the complaint is dismissed from further comment by the EPB. A letter will be drafted by the chair of the EPB and sent to the Orchard Hills Neighborhood Group citing our decision and indicating other available avenues. Motion passed.

Given the complaints that I have heard, I requested a report on what complaints have come forward and how the city has handled them.  From what I have seen of the development, it looks like the developer is doing a pretty good job and the city is forcing them to meet their submitted plans.  It is difficult to know if there are real issues or if we are just dealing with people who don’t want lesser people living by them.

Doug Nelson, who is a member of public works did an outstanding job of putting together a report of what issues were raised and how they were resolved.  Here is his report.  Most items have been resolved, there appears to be no special favors, and the city is still aware of some issues to be addressed.

Orchard Hills Villas


Key Dates:  Background:

Tree Removal Plan Approved:                                                                  July 25, 2011

City Owner Construction Plans Approved:                                             Aug 22, 2011

Pre-construction meeting (City Inspector in attendance):                  Aug 30, 2011

Grading Plan Approved:                                                                             Sept 1, 2011

Site Grading Work Started:                                                                        Sept 6, 2011

City Owner Contract RCA approved by City Council:                           Sept 7, 2011

ROW Obstruction Permit Issued:                                                            Sept 8, 2011

City Owner Public Infrastructure started – Storm Sewer:                   Sept 12, 2011

ROW Obstruction Permit Revised / Reissued:                                      Sept 23, 2011

City Owner Contract fully executed by City:                                          Sept 29, 2011

City Owner Public Infrastructure started – san sewer / water           Sept 30, 2011

Since beginning site work there have been several issues:

  1. Traffic control / plan and implementation issues:  Contractor did not have in place prior to starting work, all items identified on the traffic control plan prepared by the owners’ consultant, G-Cubed Engring.  The placement of Jersey barriers were called for on the plan, the contractor requested and received permission from Public Works Traffic staff to substitute Class 3 traffic barriers.  The plan was revised by G-Cubed to reflect the traffic control devices, agreed to, and approved by Public Works staff.
  2. Erosion / sediment control – installation of fencing:   Contractor’s subcontractor responsible for installing silt fencing and other storm water BMP’s was slow to get all minimum measures in place prior to grading activities.   Public Works staff made numerous requests to contractor and consultant to have subcontractor properly place BMP’s.  This continues to be an open issue / item as work progresses; BMP’s must be monitored and adjusted continually to the on-going work.
  3. Use of Fox Chase Rd by contractor.   This item was agreed to the owner / consultant and is documented on the plan prepared by G-Cubed Engring.   During the pre-construction meeting conducted by G-Cubed, the consultant and contractor reiterated the request to have vendors; private utilities and others use Gates Drive to access the construction site instead of Fox Chase Rd.  During the initial days of work at the site, the contractor and his subcontractors abided by this access restriction.  This will be an open item as final roadway work – concrete and bituminous placement will most likely necessitate the use of Fox Chase Rd for delivery of these materials.
  4. Use of Fox Chase Rd by others (i.e. Gas co., Charter, RPU, etc.).   Though requested by the consultant and site contractor to avoid / minimize using Fox Chase Rd by private utilities, many of them did you use Fox Chase Rd.  Several of the private utilities cited work efficiencies for the reason they used Fox Chase Rd., they had several sites to visit / respond to and routing efficiency was better for them using Fox Chase Rd.
  5. Alleged Encroachment by contractor on adjoining private property:  It was brought to Public Works staff attention that the contractor had encroached on adjoining private property.   Staff visited the site often, but could find nothing to substantiate this claim.   They did view “others” (i.e. private utilities and landscapers working for others) planting trees, marking utilities, etc…
  6. Installation of utilities:   Public Works staff has provided oversight of public utilities being installed at Orchard Hills Villas site.   Public storm sewer, sanitary sewer and watermain have been or are being installed under this City Owner contract project.   Some issues have surfaced, as is customary during this work.   Specifically, there is an issue with the sanitary sewer work; it turns out, past work done under a previous project was done incorrectly, requiring some rework.   Public Works staff continues to work through this item toward a satisfactory settlement.
  7. City Oversight – city inspector on the site daily:   Though not a normal policy; City Administration has requested that Public Works have a continuous / daily presence on site.  As such, a Public Works inspector makes a visit to this site every work day (Monday through Friday), interfaces with the contractor and the consulting engineering staff (responsible for site survey, staking, and inspection).   The inspector routinely consults with Public Works Engineering management staff on the items / issues brought up and documented here.
  8. Sidewalk issue:   A recent issue has surfaced concerning the placement of sidewalk on the Erickson property.   The consulting engineer, G-Cubed Engring, included this sidewalk on their City Owner Construction plan and placed it consistent with City Engineering Standards.   The typical placement of sidewalk is a relational placement to the top of the street curb.  This allows surface water to drain across the sidewalk and boulevard and collected in the street gutter which flows toward a storm sewer system.   In a telephone conversation with the Erickson property owner, he voiced concern regarding this “typical” sidewalk placement and that it would necessitate grading on his property.   Public Works staff recommended they work with G-Cubed staff toward a satisfactory placement of the sidewalk.
  9. Observation:   Cooperation among parties — All parties seem to be trying to cooperate; however, the relationships are strained and there is limited trust or confidence among the parties.

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