Redoing our long term planning

I am as supportive of this as one can be.

Edit: wasn’t the best cut and paste, tried to fix

FROM:                 Phil Wheeler, AICP, Planning Director

Mitzi A. Baker, AICP, Assistant Planning Director

RE:                        Rochester Planning & Policy Initiative:  Funding the Urban New Normal (F.U.N.N.)

Over the past year, our staff has addressed the needs, inputs, and process for a review of local policies that impact land use and transportation patterns. As mentioned in staff presentations at separate meetings of the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Rochester Olmsted Council of Governments in January, the demographic and fiscal changes affecting our community necessitate a new approach to development and redevelopment. Assessing our policies and their impact on the future of Rochester is an essential step in updating, or developing, local land use and transportation plans and policies.  Expected growth provides great opportunity, but unless we plan – and plan to succeed –the City could fail to capture the best of the opportunities that lie ahead and could jeopardize the long term financial sustainability of the City.

Over the past five years numerous organizations, including the League of MN Cities, Association of MN Counties, and MN Council for Non-Profits, have drawn attention to critical financial challenges facing local government.   Averting financial crisis while providing acceptable levels of public service and infrastructure repair may require abandoning the status quo and quickly adapting to a “new normal.”

Changes in economic, demographic, and environmental conditions, adoption of the Downtown Master Plan, and emerging interest in employment and economic competitiveness demand attention through a collaborative and transparent public process.  Policy analysis, development, and planning are key functions of our Department, and we are prepared to lead a collaborative effort to help prepare the community to succeed. Developments in early 2013 relative to Destination Medical Center are relevant to this proposal and add urgency to the need to move forward in a timely manner.

In concert with this effort, Planning has been coordinating with the Urban Land Institute (ULI) and City Administration to arrange for ULI to conduct a “Navigating the New Normal” workshop with the City Council and other local representatives.  This workshop is scheduled for July 15, 2013 and will be an opportunity to discuss some of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.


The following outlines our recommendation to prepare for and launch this initiative.    The process is intended to provide for informed discussion and decision making that helps the City achieve its best potential for years to come. The outline is illustrative, and not intended to capture detailed steps.

  1. Internal City department collaboration & information development
  2. Establish a preliminary scope and objectives  which may include:
    1. a.      Financial constraints, and long term financial health, of the city;
    2. b.      Strategies for accommodating growth affordably and using existing infrastructure efficiently;

                                                    i.     Identify integrated infrastructure, land use and transportation opportunity areas

  1. c.      Aligning policies to help meet downtown master plan and mobility goals;
  2. d.      Broadway turn-back & corridor opportunities;
  3. e.      Livability and healthy living;
  4. f.       Downtown fringe – areas beyond the RDMP;
  5. g.      Housing affordability and transportation access policies;
  6. h.      Energy efficient development options;
  7. i.       Identify and plan for blocks with concentrations of distressed housing and buildings;
  8. j.       Public policies and public facilities planning
  9. Determine needs and resources (e.g., internal staff, consultant expertise needed, etc.)
  10. Develop and deliver communications to inform the community:
    1. a.      Public presentations, public forums, group discussions
    2. b.      Media engagement
    3. c.      On-line resources
  11. Form a steering committee with representation from community stakeholders; form a technical committee of key city department staff.
  12. Refine the scope & primary objectives develop project tasks, schedule, and responsibilities (i.e. What, when, who)
  13. Execute project tasks – working with the steering committee and technical committee
  14. Develop priorities, goals/objectives for the city
  15. Identify strategies and options for meeting the above in a fiscally responsible and sustainable manner;
  16. Evaluate & determine best option(s)
  17. Develop plan & policy revisions or new/replacement
  18. Initiate a public hearing process


Management of the process should be carried out by the Planning Department, with public forums and other events hosted by the Planning and Zoning Commission. A steering committee should be appointed that would include broad representation from the community, representing diverse interests and views.   Potential representatives include:

School District; Energy Commission; RDA; major employers; higher education institutions; IMAA; Vital Aging Commission; Youth Commission; Rochester Area Builders;  Public Health;  Olmsted County Housing & Redevelopment Authority Board; non-profits; BPAC; Transit Advisory Committee; CUDE; and RNeighbors, as well as neighborhood groups in which detailed studies are carried out.

Costs for consulting services could vary considerably depending on the scope of services.   A relatively quick search of costs suggests $180,000-$250,000 for the core effort needed and up to $500,000 for  more detailed studies. The table below provides a basis for determining the range of costs.


Financial constraints, and long   term financial health, of the city

Core Effort

Strategies for accommodating growth affordably and using   existing infrastructure efficiently

Core Effort

Aligning policies to help meet   downtown master plan and mobility goals;

Core Effort

Broadway turn-back &   corridor study

Detailed Studies

Livability and healthy living

Core Effort

Downtown fringe – areas beyond   the RDMP

Detailed Studies

Housing, affordability, and   access policies

Core Effort

Energy efficient development   options

Core Effort

Identify and plan for blocks with concentrations of distressed   housing and buildings

Detailed Studies

Public policies and public   facilities planning

Detailed Studies

Total Core / Detailed

$180,000 – $300,000

$120,000 – $200,000

If done in house, we would anticipate being able to complete the core effort parts of the project over the next two years. For purposes of comparison, from 2008 through 2011, preparation of the update of the Olmsted County General Land Use Plan took 1,630 hours of staff time at a total cost of $147,400. The 2011-12 update of the County Water Management Plan took 1,510 hours of staff time at a total cost of $116,400.

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