Elk Run aerial

This 2017 aerial photograph shows U.S. Highway 52 as it passes through the Elk Run property near Pine Island.

The Rochester City Council on Monday postponed a decision on a request to support the Prairie Island Indian Community Land Trust, which Includes Elk Run property.

Last year, the Prairie Island tribe paid $15.5 million for an estimated 65 percent of the former Elk Run development land near Pine Island, citing a need to build more housing for its members.

As it prepares to seek federal approval for designation as tribal land, the Prairie Island Indian Community is asking for confirmed support from neighboring communities.

Olmsted County commissioners approved a letter of support in May.

Rochester Mayor Kim Norton and Council President Randy Staver have met with Prairie Island President Shelley Buck to discuss potential city support, but Council Member Michael Wojcik voiced concern Monday about lingering questions.

“I’m being asked to support a resolution for which I’ve had no opportunity or awareness to engage the requesting party. The council has had no opportunity,” Wojcik said, noting developing the area as tribal land could provide competition for local businesses.

He said he wants to make sure the proposed development can be supported by the city and still be fair to local businesses.

He said he’d like the opportunity for public discussion before making a decision on the requested support.

“I would like to be able to offer support to Congress but also express what the concerns are and what we need to do to protect our community as part of this process as well,” Wojcik said. “I think we can do both with that, if we dig into the issue a little bit more.”

Council members indicated a desire to return to the issue as soon as more information can be obtained.

CIRCULATOR STUDY GETS NOD

The City Council unanimously approved criteria for developing a planned transit circulator to serve the city’s downtown core.

However, council members asked for more details regarding the mode of transportation and future impacts.

Council Member Nick Campion said he wanted to see an assessment of how the city could avoid being locked into a specific technology, in case needs or options change in the future.

The proposed circulator would provide dedicated public transit along two corridors. An east-west route is planned for Second Street, but study continues between two potential north-south routes between Second Street and a proposed transit hub in the Graham Park area, which could include the former Seneca canning plant site.

Also in question is whether to use a dedicated bus or a rail system to serve both routes.

Council Member Shaun Palmer voiced support for a fixed-rail option, noting it provides improved options for future development.

“You need to think big,” he said. “The fixed tram makes sense to me.”

Council Member Michael Wojcik said he wants more information before making a decision that could greatly boost the project’s cost.

“If the data backs the speculation, I’m on board,” he said.

With council approval of criteria, the results of the evaluation and an implementation concept is expected to be presented to council members next month and to the Destination Medical Center Corp. board in September.

The city plans to file a letter in September, officially announcing its intent to seek federal funds for the circulator project.

ALLEY RELEASED TO CHURCH

An alley decision that divided Rochester’s Planning and Zoning Commission didn’t cause the same split for the Rochester City Council on Monday.

The council was unanimous in its decision to release any claim on an 18-foot-wide public alley splitting Trinity Lutheran Church properties on Third Street Southwest, between Fifth and Sixth avenues.

The alley heads north from Third Street and ends at a private alley between the church and the nearby Rochester Towers condos.

The Rev. Nathaniel Schwartz, senior pastor for Trinity, said the move will allow the church to work with Rochester Towers as plans are made for a future reconstruction project.

“We work together very well,” he said of the neighbors who share the block.

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Local Government Reporter

Randy is the Post Bulletin's local government reporter, covering the city of Rochester and Olmsted County, as well as Destination Medical Center efforts. He joined the Post Bulletin staff in 2014.