Rochester's comprehensive plan heads to City Council

Oct 8, 2019

Credit Emily Hunt for WXXI News

The City Planning Commission on Monday night recommended approval of Rochester's new comprehensive plan.

That recommendation now goes to City Council, which is expected to consider it at its Nov. 12 meeting.

The plan, called Rochester 2034, will guide land-use and development decisions in the city for the next couple of decades. It's partly a presentation of the community’s vision and goals. But it’s also a key government document: State law requires that municipalities’ zoning laws conform to their comprehensive plan. Rochester will revise its zoning code soon, and Rochester 2034 will influence changes in those laws.

During numerous public presentations over the past months, reception to the plan has been mixed. The citywide umbrella group Many Neighbors Building Neighborhoods praises the plan’s suggestions on maintaining parks and open spaces, development of vacant land, brownfield cleanup, and preservation of the city’s historic and cultural resources. And environmentalists say they like the plan’s call for more emphasis on biking, walking, and public transit and for less emphasis on automobiles.

But the plan’s recommendations about parking have raised concerns. The plan says the city should start “transitioning away from traditional minimum parking requirements” in some areas. The plan’s critics say they worry that will increase parking problems on adjacent residential streets. And some business owners say the change could attract new competitors and new development, exacerbating a current shortage of on-street parking and driving away car-dependent customers.

The plan’s discussion of single-family residential areas has also come under fire. The plan recommends loosening restrictions on two-family residences in those neighborhoods, for instance. And it suggests changing the minimum lot requirement and encouraging a variety of housing types, including “tiny houses” and in-law apartments.

The plan’s critics say those and other recommendations in the plan could encourage increased development on single-family properties and erode the character of single-family neighborhoods.

At Monday night's meeting, the Planning Commission also recommended that city officials continue talking to the community about the plan and that they create an "FAQ list" of information about the plan and its process, to address misconceptions.

Towler is a writer for CITY Newspaper.