‘Fifth on Fifth’ barely gets council approval

New Rochester Apartments

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ROCHESTER, Minn. — Rochester continues to develop and grow, but some recent development plans are not moving forward as smoothly as most.

Not long ago plans were brought to the Rochester city council to turn a now empty lot on 5th Street SW and 5th Avenue SW into an apartment complex, but it was not without its speed bumps.

“Even though they found some little quirk in the wording that says, hey, we can do this. In reality they should not be able to do it,” said neighborhood resident, Ed Rust.

The city council’s decision was not an easy one. In fact, three of the seven members agreed with Rust and did not want the plans to move forward.

“The biggest factor that I looked at was the compatibility of the neighborhood and when you look at the overall picture of the single block that this is located on there’s nothing but single family homes there,” said 1st Ward city council member, Ed Hruska.

The proposal started with a 52-unit apartment complex last year. This time around it is at 39 units, which is about twice the amount the current zoning rules allow.

Wednesday’s decision allowed that to be the exception and Hruska does not agree with it.

“I’m big on what’s called neighborhood integrity. You buy a house and you expect that the city’s going to take care of you and protect you to make sure it all works with what’s reasonable for your neighborhood,” Hruska said.

The four who placed yes votes included City Council President Randy Staver. He said he felt the developer abided by the guidelines that the city gave him.

“The developer chose to use a restricted development, which uses a fairly high level of criteria and I thought the developer and the project proposed met the criteria,” Staver said.

Plus he said it goes along with what Rochester has planned for the future.

“In this case the project and what it hopes to achieve, the multi-family housing and proximity to downtown, just seemed to be a good fit for what we’re trying to achieve in the downtown area,” Staver said.

Neighborhood residents like Rust say the impacts will be felt outside of the downtown area.

“That affects the entire city, because any neighborhood that is R2 now, they’ve got a precedent that says hey, we can put whatever we want to there,” Rust said.

Because of the close 4-3 vote, Mayor Ardell Brede can veto the project. His veto would have to be placed by Monday.

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