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Council approves Rochester 2034 plan

The City of Rochester has a new comprehensive plan.

Tuesday night, all nine members of City Council voted to adopt Rochester 2034, the plan developed by the city to guide its land-use and development decision-making over the next 15 years.

The new plan will replace the city's previous comprehensive plan, which was completed in 1999. The plan was a massive undertaking and was shaped by thousands of public comments submitted in writing and during numerous public meetings.

Mayor Lovely Warren said Rochester 2034 lays out "how we're going to manage our community for growth."

"It's really going to make our community stronger and better," Warren said shortly after Council's vote.        

The plan recommends some law and policy changes to meet key goals, such as greater emphasis on place-making, improving transportation options for residents, encouraging a greater variety of housing development as well as affordable housing, and supporting small business.

State law requires that municipalities' zoning laws are consistent with their comprehensive plans.

Many aspects of the plan aren't controversial. Neighborhood groups have supported its suggestions for maintaining parks and open spaces, development of vacant land, brownfield clean-up, and preservation of the city's historic and cultural resources.

The plan calls for greater emphasis on biking, walking, and public transit. That aspect received enthusiastic support from neighborhood groups and cycling, transportation, climate, and children's advocates.

But other parts of the plan have been criticized.

Some businesses owners objected to the plan's recommendation that the city begin "transitioning away from traditional minimum parking requirements" in some areas. They've said that the change could attract new development and competitors, that it could exacerbate existing shortages of on-street parking, and that it could drive away car-dependent customers.

Prior to the plan's adoption, the city issued a document clarifying "common misconceptions" about Rochester 2034. Several items in the document spoke to criticisms from some neighborhood groups.

For example, some neighborhood groups were concerned about a recommendation to allow "accessory dwelling units" on some single-family properties; they argue it could erode the character of neighborhoods made up predominantly of single-family houses.

The city's document clarifies that the plan isn't recommending changes allowing for those units, commonly known as in-law apartments or granny flats, in the near-term. Rather, it's something the city should consider "in future discussions of how to create strong, healthy neighborhoods with multiple housing options."

The plan also recommends that laws allowing tiny houses be included in that discussion.

Jeremy Moule is News Editor at CITY Newspaper