City reveals ‘Sustainable Rochester’ development framework

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published March 6, 2018

 Close to 100 people attended the Sustainable Rochester meeting  Feb. 28 at the Royal Park Hotel.

Close to 100 people attended the Sustainable Rochester meeting Feb. 28 at the Royal Park Hotel.

Photo by Mary Beth Almond

ROCHESTER — Around 100 residents, business owners and developers gathered at the Royal Park Hotel Feb. 28 for the unveiling of the city of Rochester’s new Sustainable Rochester development framework.

John Jackson, of the city’s planning firm, McKenna Associates, said he put together his “A-team” to work on the over 50-page document and its supporting materials.

“It was a very ambitious scope — to try to take on, and dig into, some of these complex issues regarding sustainability and the types of projects and issues the city is facing,” he said.

City Manager Blaine Wing said Rochester has been booming with development. So much so, that he asked potential developers to temporarily hit the pause button for the last few months while the city came up with a tool to evaluate potential projects fairly.

Paul Lippens, who managed the project for McKenna, said Sustainable Rochester is a toolkit to help city administrators, elected officials and potential developers understand and communicate about the many, often competing, impacts and benefits associated with development.

“Really, lots of communities are dealing with the ever-changing woe of development — with growth issues, with providing quality of life, with providing resources and providing utilities. These are the things that Rochester, as a mature community, is wrestling with. But also, it is a community that has a high quality of life and a lot of participation from residents,” he explained. “This project is really about maintaining that continued quality of life for residents and businesses in Rochester through sustainable development decisions.”

The new framework, according to officials, will be used to ensure responsible and sustainable development decisions in the city by measuring six sustainability values — environmental health, mobility, fiscal strength, public services, strong neighborhoods and downtown viability.

Within the six sustainability values are a total of 20 development components related to each value, which include development balance, natural features protection, watershed health, walkability, traffic, travel time, nonmotorized infrastructure, tax base growth, development impact, pipe maintenance, pipe condition, public works system capacity, school impact, public safety, housing mix, housing affordability, workforce development, historic preservation, business attraction and parking efficiency.

Each development component is then further divided into indicators — categorized as either local or regional — that officials say measure as many valid aspects of its development component as possible. For example, under the historic preservation component, the percentage of housing structures over 50 years old is the regional indicator and the compliance of sight lines is the local indicator.

Jackson said there was a great turnout for the over two-hour presentation, which he said was a testament to the interest and the commitment of the people of Rochester to the future of the city.

“I think that is going to pay off dividends as the city continues to address the issues it faces in terms of growth and development in the city,” he said.

During public comment, various attendees touched on the need for affordable housing, specifically in the single-family home category, along with traffic concerns, which Wing said the city will further look into.

“As some of the indicators are coming out, there is definitely going to be some passion from some of our residents, so that is why we are including this process,” he said. “ … I’ve been here just over two years, and traffic has been a major thing, along with the affordable housing component.”

Wing said the public meeting was “an important part of the process.”

“We wanted to have a public meeting to gather from residents and developers what the public is looking for and how to address it,” he said.

The City Council, the Planning Commission and the Downtown Development Authority will now consider passing resolutions to adopt the Sustainable Rochester development framework to assist in project evaluation, which Wing anticipates happening within the next three to six months.

 Once approved, new projects in the city will be provided with a sustainability worksheet, or scorecard, to evaluate how the project contributes to each of the 20 development values identified in the framework.

“I think having that level playing field, so that all the new projects coming in are all going off of the same scorecard, will be helpful, and that is basically why we have held off on several projects — so that we have this tool developed,” Wing said.

The Sustainable Rochester framework cost the city about $55,000 — approximately $35,000 from the city and $20,000 from the Downtown Development Authority.

To view the entire Sustainable Rochester document and PowerPoint presentation, visit rochestermi.org/sustainable.