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Bike shop owner granted exclusion from RDA district

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One cog in Rochester Downtown Alliance's 200-member special service district will have no future part in the economic development engine's activities, and as of 2016, it will no longer pay a share of the special service levy.

The property housing Honest Bike Shop , a Fourth Street Southeast business owned by former city councilman Paul Myhrom, was on Monday exempted from the RDA's special service district by a Rochester City Council vote.

The council was scheduled to give its second and final reading to an ordinance establishing the boundaries of the RDA's special service district, first heard at a July 20 meeting . In a late action Monday, the council amended the district to exclude Myhrom's property.

Myhrom, who has been vocal in opposing his inclusion in the district, described the decision as winning the war after losing several battles.

"I've been complaining about this for seven years because the (Rochester Downtown Alliance) has done nothing for me. Not one bit … because that river is a natural boundary," said Myhrom, whose shop is on the east side of the Zumbro River, across the Fourth Street bridge from many downtown businesses.

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The council deliberated whether exempting one business from the district boundary would set a precedent for others.

"I think this should be a concern for all of us," said Council Member Nick Campion. "We can say we're not setting a precedent, but it's clear that the squeaky wheel is getting the attention here, and what's going to happen next when the next property wants out, and the next property?"

Council Member Mark Bilderback, who introduced the exemption to the council's reading of the ordinance, said Myhrom's was the only property he would consider exempting.

Council Member Ed Hruska said he would support the exemption: "I think it's up to us to listen to our businesses and to weigh the facts," he said.

The council split its vote 4-3 in favor of exempting Myhrom's property from the district. Bilderback, Hruska and council members Mark Hickey and Randy Staver carried the motion. Campion and council members Sandra Means and Michael Wojcik were opposed.

"The bottom line is, I ask myself, 'Is this a downtown business?' And the answer is, 'Of course it is,'" Wojcik said.

The RDA provides programming and events that benefit the entirety of downtown businesses, said Jenna Bowman, executive director.

"I think that the work that the RDA has done over the last 10 years, any of those businesses that fall within our 44 blocks could probably see a benefit in the wide variety of programs and things that we do," Bowman said.

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At Wojcik's request, city staff pulled Olmsted County records to show the change in Myhrom's property value over the past 10 years, which is the lifespan of the alliance's special service levy.

Myhrom's property value has increased from $180,100 to $329,500 in that time span, according to Terry Spaeth, city redevelopment director.

According to records accessed by the Post-Bulletin , Myhrom's special service district tax in 2015 was $66.22, based on a property value of $282,600 assessed in 2014. His total property tax bill for 2015 was $5,294.

The RDA's special district levy for 2015 was $232,699. The levy was divided among district properties based on property values.

The RDA also added one property to its district, starting in 2016. Roscoe's Root Beer and Ribs , which is located farther east of Honest Bike Shop on Fourth Street Southeast, asked to be added and the council approved the request during the first reading of the ordinance July 20.

Bowman said she hopes the exemption of Myhrom's property would be an isolated occurrence. The alliance does not set procedures for adding or removing properties from its district, she clarified — that process is defined in state statute.

Myhrom said the council's action was justified.

"The council just did what was right according to the facts that were laid before them," he said. "If people are going to use the term 'squeaky wheel,' I can't prevent that. But if you want to get something done, you have to be a person of action."

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