Rochester Eastside Neighborhood residents voice concerns at hearing over proposed shelter

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(ABC 6 News) – Residents of Rochester’s Eastside neighborhood made their voices heard Tuesday.

The Olmsted County Board of Commissioners held a public hearing on the Housing & Redevelopment Authority’s plan to purchase Residences at Old Town Hall from owner Jeff Allman.

There were several people who spoke during public comments. Some were for this proposal moving forward, while many others were upset their neighborhood association wasn’t consulted beforehand.

In the week since, Olmsted County HRA announced it’s plans to enter a purchase option with the owner of Residences of Old Town Hall.

“Essentially we give a deposit, the deposit says for six months we can buy the building at this price under these terms,” said Dave Dunn, Olmsted County Planning and Housing director. “If six months goes by and we don’t buy the building, and we don’t renew the option it goes away.”

The purchase option will allow for Olmsted County HRA to apply for a state grant for the building that will secure funding to help turn it into a homeless shelter.

Some residents like David Lewis, are in agreement with the county plans. His home neighbors Oakwood Cemetery where a homeless encampment has sat for the last year.

“And I want to say in that entire time we’ve never had a single problem,” Lewis said. “People were polite. They came and went quietly. They didn’t make noise at night. I know that there is a garbage problem down there. I know there is a sanitation problem down there but for us that wasn’t an issue.”

Lewis believes the proposed shelter will be great in helping the garbage and sanitation issue at hand.

Helen Roland has family history tracing back to the neighborhood over 100 years ago. She spoke on behalf of several other residents and says the planning and execution by the county and Allman has left many voices out and against supporting the decision.

“We think we should solve community problems together,” Roland said. “But rushing a project of such magnitude without consulting the neighbors is simply wrong. While we’re not able to discuss the merits of this proposal at this time because we simply do not have the information.”

Roland, along with 250 other residents of Eastside neighborhood, have signed onto a petition against this move by Olmsted County.

Olmsted County HRA will be sending in their application to the state for grant funding this Thursday.

Dunn has said that if the state rejects the grant from Olmsted County, they will not go through with purchasing Old Town Hall as the city’s next homeless shelter.