Replacing former Perkins with apartments might need new approach – Post Bulletin

ROCHESTER – A potential 115-unit apartment building might not be on the right path for approval.

That was the message from the Rochester Planning and Zoning Commission as it unanimously recommended the Rochester CIty Council deny a requested zone change for property that includes the former Perkins Restaurant at 432 16th Ave. N.W.

“I definitely do not want to see us lose this development because of a technical issue,” commission member Randy Schubring said, urging the developer to consider other options to get the project approved.

The 1-acre site is primarily zoned for commercial use, and Sioux Falls, South Dakota-based developer Nate Stencil said he’s asking for a switch to the city’s Transit-Oriented Development zoning to allow for construction of a four- to five-story apartment complex.

“(Transit-Oriented Development) is really just the path that gets us there, that makes the density of the project work,” said Stencil, who’s Stencil Group has built several apartment complexes in Rochester.

Rochester Community Development planner Emma Miller-Shindelar. said the proposed zoning change is the wrong fit for the site.

“(Transit-Oriented Development) is a style of development that is strategically located around transit stations and along transit lines,” she told the Planning and Zoning Commission.

While the proposed site is near a bus stop, she said the relatively new Rochester zoning option is intended to be closer to the site of future transit development, most notably the bus rapid-transit system planned for Second Street Southwest.

With a 0.72-mile walk between the site and the nearest proposed rapid-transit stop, Miller-Shindelar said it doesn’t meet city expectations for the zoning change.

Additionally, Allison Sosa, Community Development planning supervisor, said the proposed zoning change provides more flexibility that does not fit the site by reducing parking requirements and increasing potential apartment density.

Three neighbors of the site told the commission parking and traffic are concerned, since the neighborhood already struggles with congestion.

“Parking right now is an ongoing issue,” said James Clark, who lives on nearby 13th Avenue.

Stencil said he won’t build something that doesn’t fit the location and provide parking needed for the tenants, since his company will continue to own the building.

“We know we have to design something that works,” he said.

Instead of seeking a zoning change, commission members said they’d like Stencil to seek special permission to build the proposed apartment complex on the site.

“We know we have a housing shortage,” commission member Asif Hossain said. “We want more multi-family housing developments.”

The process means the commission, as well as Rochester City Council, would review preliminary and final plans. If approved, the developer would be given permission to build on the property, regardless of the defined zone.

“It would essentially be a negotiation with the commission and council in order to achieve the style of development the applicant is looking for,” Miller-Shindelar said, noting the review process takes at least 120 days once plans are submitted.

A third option would be to wait until the city’s planned Unified Development Code is adopted, which Miller-Shindelar said is expected to include zoning changes that could make Stencil’s proposal possible.

The code is expected to be adopted as early as January.

Stencil said he’s not likely to wait that long.

“We’re in the middle of a very strong development cycle,” he said. “We’re definitely not going to be sitting here in eight months, waiting to do this project. If we can’t find a path forward to do it in this calendar year, probably starting construction in the summer or fall, we are going to look at other development opportunities.”

Commission members said they’d be willing to work with Stencil on the route toward special permission without a zoning change.

With the commission’s recommended denial of the zoning change, the next step will be review by the City Council, which will include an additional public hearing on May 2.

In other business, the commission:

Recommended CIty Council approval of a change to development requirements that will allow for a proposed 1,000-square-foot addition to Stone Barn Dentistry, 615 16th St SW.

Recommended CIty Council approval of a permit amendment to allow adding an 18-space parking lot on the northeast corner of Fourth Avenue Southwest and Sixth Street for the use of commercial customers at the Residence at Discovery Square building, 511 Third Ave. SW.

Recommended City Council approval of a zone change on 4.64 acres located north of 41st Street Northwest and 31st Avenue Northwest, which will make way for the potential development of an apartment complex.

All items reviewed by the commission on Wednesday are slated to be reviewed with public hearings during the 7 pm May 2 Rochester City Council meeting in council chambers of the city-county Government Center, 151 Fourth St. SE.

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