1. Rochester is facing a severe housing shortage in all segments of the market. What do you believe are the best steps for the city to take to address this issue? Do you believe the city should play an active role in addressing the community’s housing shortage in broader sense?
We indeed have a housing shortage, and the city should play a vital role in digging us out of a hole it is largely responsible for putting us in. This is in no small part due to unreasonably large increases in regulatory fees. These increases are calculated to make development outside the city center as expensive as possible to reduce “sprawl”, which is a false narrative. In Rochester outward expansion is nothing more than natural growth. We need to stop the ideological and start letting the market dictate.  

1. How do we finally make headway? Simple political willpower! The city succeeded in high-end housing downtown due to laser-beam focus and funding. Finally: let’s make that happen for our lower and middle-class who are getting price out.

2. Add a line item in the budget to put the money where our mouth isReduce permit and access (sewer, water , electric) fees.

3. The city owns a lot of land within our boundaries. Rather than just cataloguing it for our own budget and maintenance purposes, let’s look hard at putting that land to good use.

4. Lets use TIF for it’s original purpose: fixing blight. There is a LOT of blight in areas, and we must make housing for the lowest income residents. We CAN’T afford to ignore those who need our help the most. It is a moral imperative.

5. Reorganize the development staff to include someone dedicated to housing that working men and women can afford. Let’s fund it, let’s staff it, and it WILL HAPPEN.  
  • The City has undertaken the task of updating the Land Development Manual (“LDM”). Much of that update will happen during your time on the council if you are elected. What areas of the new Unified Development Code (“UDC”) would you focus on as part of that process and why?
Where appropriate:   Reduce setbacks Eliminate minimum lot sizes Significantly reduce lot lines   These are intertwined. Modern zoning codes often require buildings to be set back from property boundaries, and this is harmful to our cities because it rewards creating a coarser-grained development pattern and creates non-places to fill the setbacks with. The smaller your lots are, the greater the percentage of the land that must be reserved for setback. When density abuts traditional neighborhoods green space is desirable, or – at minimum – proper step down. Whether it be single-family homes, duplexes, townhomes, or higher density rentals and condos, setbacks result in small lots having less usable space. Without reduced setbacks, small(er) lots are highly inefficient. When land values go up, as has happened markedly in Rochester, land becomes more valuable so we want to waste less of it.   
  • The City has steadily increased the restrictions associated with accessing TIF for development. Please describe your perspective generally on the use of TIF as a development tool. Additionally, are you concerned the additional restrictions blunt the potential positive effect the utilization of TIF can have on incentivizing development?
We have been rather conservative in Rochester with the use of TIF. A vast majority is being used to create high-end apartments downtown, and with no ownership options. We need to expand TIF for all housing, and use it as a carrot to developers to include condo / townhouse projects downtown, and throughout the city. We also need to use TIF as a means of creating housing that can be afforded by working men and women (e.g. potentially TIF for below market rate). TIF by itself is one tool in the toolbox, but it is an important one. If it is used to build housing that most can afford, and that housing is filled – unlike the high-end apartments downtown – the increased revenues in the form of property taxes will be a very good return on investment.  
  • With so much focus on downtown development and city/state financing for infrastructure in the core of the city while simultaneously increasing the cost of new development in other parts of the City, what can the city do to support development outside the downtown core? Do you think it should? Why or why not?
Before we make any change that would increase the cost of new buildings for their ultimate owners or tenants, we need to determine what the actual cost will be and then analyze whether we believe that costs fit the mission and pillars of what we want to be as a community. From tree preservation, to sewer fees, to added permit fees for different aspects of development, each of these items need to be discussed in the broader context of making more housing and development possible for our community. We have continued to grow in spite of ourselves with the single largest economic engine in the state of Minnesota driving that growth and the associated private development that supports our community.  

Our focus on downtown is actually creating the true sprawl we are attempting to halt. Yes, there is an upfront infrastructure cost. However, market studies and documented demographic shifts clearly indicate creating subdivisions with all kinds of housing outside a city center – especially reasonably priced starter homes – are what people want. Why overbuild downtown when that is not what the market indicates people want? We are forcing people to move into the surrounding communities. 30,000 people commute to Rochester. That is true sprawl, as we are actually creating what is essentially Rochester suburbia. We obviously don’t hook up utilities, but we do get competition for resources, all their traffic, with their paychecks spent elsewhere. This has a far greater negative impact on our economy than upfront infrastructure consolidation. The supposed savings in consolidation of city infrastructure, making building that have low occupancy rates, and loosing potential citizens is a long-term financial detriment to Rochester. It is short sighted, unsustainable, and I am baffled that city planners don’t see this.
  • In talking to the stakeholders in the Short-Term Rental Market, the vacancy rate has declined much quicker than that of hotels in our region. This clearly demonstrates the visiting public’s desire for this niche product. What are your views on Short Term Rentals?
Short term rentals are a great way to take properties and convert them into a product in great demand for the visiting public. However, it does need to be balanced with a neighborhood’s existing character and charm. People have bought into a neighborhood for that character and charm, and that has to be respected. Obviously, we know, and are OK with, some houses being short-term rentals. One way to balance this is for higher density developments and hotels in and around the city center to entertain some percentage of units as short-term rentals. This will take the pressure off the nearby neighborhoods. It also helps to fill units that sit empty because they are too expensive. An example of this is the Berkman that has converted 2 floors to short term rentals. This provides numerous units to help fulfill a need and reduces speculative buying of single-family homes converted into rentals, that many neighborhoods would like to limit.
  • Do you think the City of Rochester is doing enough to support businesses other than those directly related to the medical community? Why or why not? What do you think the City could and should do to support other businesses?
No. For example, the loss of nearly a 1,000 manufacturing jobs from AMPI, Libby’s and Kemps was a poor showing from our city leadership to keep a diversity of employers in Rochester. Because it was too hard (economically) for Libby’s to expand, city leaders should have worked diligently to reduce the costs of that expansion. A successful way forward to keep a major manufacturer in town would have created revenue for developers, added jobs and pumped money into the economy.   We need to lure businesses by significantly reducing taxes on commercial property and give businesses an economic incentive to move here. I have heard from many who have retail space, they are done investing in Rochester because the city is too expensive and leadership is too tone deaf to do anything about it. If we have housing a work-force can afford, the right economic incentives, and political willpower we can attract a much larger cross section of business. Rochester will have the opportunity to truly flourish.