By DREW HOWARD
Rochester City Council members dispelled a widespread rumor claiming condos would be built on or near the Rochester Community House during their latest meeting on Monday, Feb. 13.
“There has never ever been a discussion about building condos in the park,” Mayor Rob Ray told the crowded audience. “I would encourage you, if you ever hear a piece of news that seems unsettling or very surprising, to reach out and contact anyone here on council.”
Mayor Ray explained that the city received a letter from the Paint Creek Center for the Arts expressing interest in relocating. He made it very clear that no serious discussions have taken place.
“Other than accepting the letter, there’s been no formal discussion about serious consideration,” Ray said. “If anything, deferment and preference has been given to the community house to vet out what improvements can be made and how we can make it better.”
The Rochester Community House is a non-profit 501(c3) organization. In addition to housing an active food pantry, the venue has become a popular choice for event rentals such as weddings, class reunions, graduation parties, and much more.
Despite council’s insistence that no discussion has yet to take place, several residents expressed concern that the daily operations of the community house would be compromised if another organization moved in.
“All the years I was on council, we budgeted in order to maintain the upkeep of the community house,” a former Rochester council member and mayor said. “I don’t know what has happened in the years since and why this has become such a problem for maintaining the upkeep of the community house. I surely don’t want to see anything happen to it.”
Mayor Pro Tem Kim Russell argued that the community house should adapt to the needs of the community. “I don’t think the community house is going to go away anytime soon,” Russell said. “But I see opportunity… Look at how the community house has changed over the years – we need to grow and continue to develop what the community house is.”
Russell continued: “Don’t be fearful we’re going to sell it and build condos, but we want to service the community to the best of our ability.”
At the request of a Rochester Community House board member, the council approved the creation of a joint committee of members from the city and the community house who will address the needs of the building.
Later on, council member Dean Bevacqua announced the council will vote on two sections of an amended smoking ordinance at the next meeting. The first addresses smoking in public areas to include non-tobacco products such as vape pens, e-cigarettes and hookah. The second amendment outlines where a retail establishment is allowed to operate if their primary product is smoking paraphernalia. Both amendments were recently approved by the Rochester Planning Commission.
The Rochester City Council will meet next on Monday, February 26. You can watch city council meetings in full by visiting the “City Webcast” page at www.ci.rochester.mi.us.