5×5 Veto

After choosing to not actively participate in a flawed but fair process for 16 months, and giving absolutely no guidance Mayor Brede vetoed the 5×5 proposal.  Had the mayor given direction in the past as to what would pass muster, this building might be occupied today.  It is one thing to veto a decision based of adherence to a plan, rule or vision, however in this case it appears the mayor presented a set of fictitious numbers to support his claims.  While I think the decision to veto this was foolish, I have no interest in overturning a veto without the broad support of the council.  I would have more respect for this veto if the mayor had given leadership or guidance on this issue.

I think all of us understand the comprehensive plan needs updating and we are already starting that project.  After that, zoning will likely follow.

Bad Planning:

At issues here is a conflict between the comprehensive land use plan and underlying zoning.  The comprehensive plan determined that this site should have high density residential.  This could mean a 50 story apartment building.  The underlying zoning calls for a 4-plex at most.  Clearly there is a conflict.  Contrary to the belief of many the underlying zoning is simply zoning that must be followed if you want staff approval.  Other parts of the zoning code such as restricted or incentive development are always available.  Statements like R4 would limit the development to 17 units are false.  It would only allow for 17 units without a higher level of scrutiny.

Recently, 4 council members voted to reaffirm the high density designation on surrounding areas.  I disagreed, but that remains the plan.

Density:

The first statement that the mayor makes is “the proposed development far exceeds the size, scale, and density of other multifamily dwellings in the area.”  This is true in the same way that the statements “the Sun revolves around the Earth” and “the Earth is flat” are.  I have no idea where the Mayor is getting his information.

Actually the development is smaller than almost every other multi-family housing project in the neighborhood.  There are a few cut up duplexes, but if you go West, East, North, or South from this site you find bigger projects.  Any project with a floor-area-ratio (FAR) of less than 1.5 is NOT even high density.  Of other apartment buildings in the area the only ones that have a lower FAR than the 5×5 are projects that have big surface parking lots.  Further every other similar apartment building has MORE units per acre than this one.  The points that follow are similarly flawed.  The mayor’s statement is an exercise in creative writing sans facts.

  • Other apartment buildings in the SW are also on blocks dominated by single family housing.
  • This is a 3 story building not for, units were added to the basement parking level to make the building more pedestrian friendly.
  • Setbacks on apartment buildings are very similar throughout the neighborhood.
  • Parking complies with the standards APPROVED by Mayor Brede.
  • This apartment is being added to a site which was a part of 3 consecutive multifamily dwellings.
  • The land use plan calls for high density housing in this location.

Follow the rules:

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

-MLK Jr.

I can’t escape the feeling that the veto of the project has less to to with facts than emotion.  I try to communicate the following, but there seems an inability recognize or accept this.  I have 50,000 reasons to not like Mac, but I’ll fight for his rights under the law as though they were my own.  The state supreme court has ruled that if a project complies with requirements it MUST be approved.

City councils you have great ability to shape and change laws.  As such I have been able to push a number of pro-neighborhood policies like complete streets, boulevard street trees, and neighborhood plans.  However, it is vital when we are weighing compliance to a law we CAN NOT arbitrarily change the requirements of the law, even if we disagree with that law.  And I do disagree with this law.  The rights of people or projects that we like must be treated as equal to those we don’t.

-Michael Wojcik

In this case the ONLY point of contention is whether this apartment building is compatible with the neighborhood.

Neighbors make many great points like:

  • Many of the other apartments are on busier streets.
  • Many of the other apartments are on blocks that aren’t dominated by single family housing.
  • Many of the other apartments are closer to downtown.
  • Many of the comparable apartments predate current land use and zoning.
  • The character of this block is different.

These are all true, these are all things that we probably should consider, however these are not factored into the law determining whether this should pass.

As an aside if someone were to vote against a project because they disliked the process, but it complied with all requirements for approval that person would be violating someones rights…

“Could this happen in any neighborhood?”

No, what is unique about this situation is that the comprehensive plan calls for high density residential in this area.  If you live an an area that is considered low density, this would not be an issue.  I have had people that live in the middle of suburban developments thinking that this could happen next door to them.  The only reason that this can be considered here is that the plan calls for it.

“Would the a City Councilmember allow this in their own neighborhood?”

Yes, though the current land use plan would have to be changed.  I prioritize quality over density and understand that developments like these can be scary but and more to vibrancy and livability than they take away from continuity.  That said, I am sure some my neighbors would fight this like Orchard Hills Villas and Fox Hill Villas.

One comment

  1. You criticize the first statement that the mayor makes:”the proposed development far exceeds the size, scale, and density of other multifamily dwellings in the area.”…
    and say
    “Actually the development is smaller than almost every other multi-family housing project in the neighborhood. There are a few cut up duplexes, but if you go West, East, North, or South from this site you find bigger projects.”

    You compare it with ‘multi-family housing projects’, and compare it with ‘few cut up duplexes’. The ‘cut up duplex’ is actually a very common form of a multi-family dwelling. Would like to see numbers, but my bet is that in numbers there are more of those duplexes, than large housing projects in Rochester, including this area of town, thus making the building that looks like a single-family house the defacto norm for a multi-family dwelling in Rochester. (I would consider in lieu of a revised plan/zoning, that maybe the intention of the zoning always was to allow cut up duplexes.)
    Hence, with all due respect – you might have picked your reality here also.

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