A compromise removing a possible veto of planned parking at the former Kmart lot has added tension to the mix.
Rochester’s two top elected officials found themselves at odds this week after developer Patrick Regan agreed to limit the exclusive use of the site for contract parking.
"They called me and made an offer," Mayor Kim Norton told Rochester City Council President Randy Staver after he criticized a meeting she had with the president of Camegaran LLC, which owns the property.
"I don’t like the behavior," Staver responded, pointing out that Norton called council members opposed to the parking plan but left out those who supported it.
An agreement to waive an option to extend a planned parking lease beyond seven and a half years is slated to be presented to the City Council for approval Monday.
Staver said he plans to vote against it.
"Seven years, to me, is a fairly short amount of time," he said, adding that redevelopment projects frequently take longer to secure financing and move forward.
Camegaran has indicated it plans to redevelop the site, but officials have said no specific use is planned.
As part of the lease approved last week, the property owner and Mayo Clinic, which plans to eventually lease nearly 1,400 parking spaces at the site, will help fund a small-area planning effort. The plan will identify what could be built in the area that stretches north from Ninth Street Southeast to Fourth Street Southeast.
Staver said the new document complicates matters, since the lease already allows Camegaran to end the arrangement at five or seven and a half years.
The original plan and related lease was approved in a 4-3 vote last week, calling for a five-year use with two possible 30-month extensions, taking it to a potential 10 years. Staver was joined by council members Patrick Keane, Shaun Palmer and Michael Wojcik in approving the lease.
By the end of 10 years, the lease calls for a $4,000 monthly penalty, if another use for the former retail site is not in the works. Mayo Clinic also could face quarterly penalties if it fails to identify parking alternatives within a set time period.
Norton stated last week she would consider a veto on the issue, citing concerns about potential 10-year use.
She also voiced concern about being left out of conversations regarding the lease agreement.
"It seems like they would have brought me along, too," she said.
Norton said Regan initiated the meeting Monday with a proposal for a potential compromise to stave off a potential veto.
The effort worked.
Norton opted against issuing a veto this week, based on Regan’s willingness to reduce the time frame.
"He said he will not come back and ask," Norton said, noting nothing in the agreement modifies the lease approved on Feb. 19.
Staver called the mayor’s effort to modify the agreement "a misstep," saying her options were to accept the agreement or veto it.
"We have to respect our respective boundaries," he said.
Rochester City Attorney Jason Loos said the waiver of a second extension signed by Regan doesn’t technically need City Council approval.
"Camegaran has the sole authority to waive the extensions," he said.
Council acknowledgement is not a legal necessity, he added. The proposed action merely makes it part of the official council record.
Camegaran officials declined to comment on the agreement, but a Mayo Clinic representative said the agreement met the organization’s needs,
"We are pleased to have resolution on this interim parking solution and look forward to continuing to work with Camegaran, the neighborhoods, the City, and Destination Medical Center going forward," said Erin Sexton, director of enterprise community engagement at Mayo Clinic.
While Norton and Staver are at odds regarding the length of use, council member Nick Campion revealed a proposal he had been pitching behind the scenes.
On Tuesday, Campion posted a plan to charge Camegaran for an extension beyond five years, putting a $500,000 price tag on the first two-year extension. A second two years would cost $700,000, and the price would be $1.1 million after nine years. He suggested fees could fund public improvements.
He said Wednesday he presented the concept to city administrators with less detail, asking them to take it to Camegaran and Mayo Clinic for consideration.
"I didn’t necessarily get a whole lot of feedback," he said.
Deputy City Administrator Aaron Parrish said the concept was presented to Camegaran and Mayo Clinic, but it gained little traction.
While the approved lease agreement doesn’t include Campion’s guidelines, he pointed out it does set potential penalties for failing to meet milestones, including the goal of demolishing the former Kmart building by the end of 2022.
"That made it more complicated," he said of the included milestones.
Norton and Staver said they hadn’t seen Campion’s proposal until this week, but Campion said he had "unstructured conversations" with other council members who provided feedback but indicated they were waiting to hear from Camegaran and Mayo Clinic.
"They settled on a timeline-based approach," he said.