Mixed-Use Project Faces Skepticism

Four public hearings comprised the Rochester Zoning Board of Appeals agenda last week, but one dominated the proceedings.

James Steidler’s application for a special permit to allow construction of a mixed-use development at 28 Marion Rd., complete with oversized signage and a variance request on an undersized lot, was ultimately continued until the December 12 ZBA meeting. Steidler’s application teetered on the brink of rejection throughout this hearing, as most members came solidly down on the side of the project being inappropriate in both use and scale.

The lot has been used commercially in the past, but the ZBA’s Gilmore brothers – Kirby and Ben – argued that the fire which left it vacant effectively wiped the zoning slate clean, and that there were no demonstrable hardships from Steidler to justify variances. Abutter John McGrath voiced strong opposition to the development, which would include four 24-foot commercial spaces and four one-bedroom apartments.

“I’m completely opposed to this,” McGrath said. “I’m directly across the street, and it will have a negative impact on the value of my property and my privacy.”

Steidler nearly withdrew his application during the meeting, but instead will regroup.

“I thought that this was a good plan for the site,” he said. “But I can see that you guys think it’s over the top.”

The ZBA also continued until December 12 a variance request to allow construction of a single-family home on an unaccepted portion of Snow’s Pond Road.

Elsewhere on the agenda, members approved Joe Rocha’s variance from setback requirements at 237 Walnut Plain Rd. and Joe Mardo’s variance to allow an accessory structure in the front yard that will exceed the height of his home at 1090 Walnut Plain Rd.

By Shawn Badgley


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