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DMCC board tweaks its meeting options

February 10, 2017 GMT

Two and a half years after its first meeting, the Destination Medical Center Corp. board is tweaking its process.

With the number of regular meetings was reduced to four this year, the board supported proposals Wednesday to add informal meetings and form an executive committee to provide direction between the quarterly meetings.

The executive committee is authorized under the original DMC legislation, and Wednesday’s resolution puts Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, Board Vice Chairman R.T. Rybak and Treasurer Jim Bier on the committee, which can act on behalf of the full board between regular meetings to avoid delays.

“I think it will help ensure our board operates effectively and efficiently,” said Smith, who is the board’s chairwoman. She noted any executive committee meeting will be posted as public.

Board members also voiced support for planning informal meetings to take deeper looks into key issues. While the creation of the executive committee was on the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting, the proposal to add informal meetings was prompted by the amount of data given to the board days before its meeting.

Board member Susan Park Rani noted she felt more time was needed to study the approximately 120 pages related to transportation studies, which was already condensed from more than 1,000 pages of gathered information.

The need for more detailed discussion was highlighted as board members discussed the limited capacity on some streets into downtown Rochester.

Jim Bier, the Olmsted County Board representative on the DMCC board, said he understands the push for encouraging alternate modes of transportation to move more people into the city, but he objects to reducing lanes of traffic.

“I don’t think it’s realistic to assume the number of cars coming into Rochester is going to go down,” he said.

He added: “I don’t think we should eliminate existing lanes. We should add things but not at the expense of existing lanes.”

Rani, however, sought an alternate perspective, noting that the future workforce will likely want more flexible options.

“You are going to have to have some bikes, and you may have to do it at the expense of some cars,” the president of Rani Engineering said.

Rochester Public Works Director Richard Freese noted it doesn’t have to be an either-or decision. He agreed with Bier that the number of cars may not drop, but he said the goal is to increase the percentage of people who bike or bus into the center of the city.

In the end, Bier noted the topic is ideal for the proposed informal meetings.

“I think this is a discussion we need to have in smaller groups,” he said,

Rybak also suggested using the time to help narrow options based on data. Among such options are where potential transit routes would exist to move people throughout downtown.

Freese suggested taking First and Second avenues out of discussion for north-south routes, but Rybak said he believes First Avenue could be ideal to move people through downtown with some sort of circulating transportation.

Freese raised concerns about cutting through the Heart of the City subdistrict, but Rybak said he hasn’t seen evidence that a problem would exist.

“Let’s use the data to take options off the table,” he said.

Smith indicated such discussions should proceed in a timely manner.

“I think the onus is on us to get together to discuss all this data we have,” she said, again noting any meeting would be posted as public.

In other business, the DMCC board:

• Approved the Urban on First project as a public infrastructure project, making it eligible for tax-increment financing. The $38 million, six-story mixed commercial and residential development by Titan Real Estate and Investments and Opus Group will include 156 apartments on First Avenue, south of the U.S. Bank branch on Fourth Street Southwest.

• Held a public hearing on expanding the DMC district for the Alatus project on Second Street Southwest. The expansion was approved, making way to include the 23-story mixed-use project in DMC efforts.

• Approved the report to the Minnesota Legislature, which will be presented Feb. 15.

• Received updates on the Mortenson Project in the Discovery Square subdistrict and design efforts related to the Heart of the City subdistrict