Saint Marys Reservoir moving forward - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Saint Marys Reservoir moving forward

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- The city of Rochester is moving forward with Rochester Public Utilities' plan to build the largest water storage facility in the city.

It will replace the one next to Saint Marys Park.

The Zoning Board of Appeals voted to approve a variance request which will allow RPU to build the 3.5 million gallon reservoir.

The request was approved by a 4-2 margin at Wednesday's meeting.

A number of people attended the meeting to speak out against the proposed reservoir which would replace current structure as well as a half million gallon tank located underground in downtown Rochester.

"If you looked at that [tank] what could you do to make it better?" said Wayne Norrie, a neighbor who has been fighting against the proposed reservoir.

If there's one thing neighbors like less than the current Saint Marys Reservoir, its the prospect of a new and bigger one.

"If you're playing with your kids in the park, you're going to have the feeling of being in a park next to an industrial facility," Norrie said.

"I am concerned about the size of it and the impact it might have on the neighborhood and the property values," said George Opsincs who lives across the street from the park.

However, Rochester Public Utilities officials say its time to replace the structure with a newer, larger one to meet the needs of a growing downtown area.

"The existing structure is 87 years old," said Doug Rovang, the RPU Senior Civil Engineer. "It is time to replace it."

The proposed structure does not meet neighborhood zoning requirements, including set back and height requirements. That's why it had to go before the board Wednesday.

The size of the structure is what neighbors take issue with. It's almost twice the size of any other water storage facility in Rochester. While it's location at the top of a hill is useful for water pressure, neighbors argue that its visibility from Highway 52 mars the skyline of a city looking to be a "Destination Medical Center."

"I mean the Plummer building, the Mayo Building, those are all gorgeous buildings," Norrie said. "Who wants a water tank on the skyline?"

Mayo Clinic owns the property and has already signed off on the plan which includes aesthetic improvements to the structure, but neighbors say RPU could have found a better solution.

"Rochester wants to be a 'Grade A' city," Norrie said. "This is not a 'Grade A' solution. This is a 'Grade D' solution. This is the cheap and easy solution, and this is not a fine solution for the city of Rochester."

Neighbors have 10 days to appeal tonight's decision to the City Council, and some have told us that is exactly what they plan to do.

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