Minneapolis City Council Committee Resurrects Water Park Development Against Activists’ Will



A Minneapolis City Council committee voted Wednesday to reinstate long-standing plans to build a new water maintenance facility in the East Phillips neighborhood. Although the new plan sets aside several acres for community development, the vote infuriated residents who lobbied to turn the entire site into a large urban farm and neighborhood hub.

The old warehouse at Roof Depot, the site of the city’s new water park, has been in dispute for years as environmental activists in East Phillips lobbied for an alternative project that would include aquaponics, a kitchen community, small stores, solar gardens and affordable housing.

Wednesday’s vote in the Policy and Government Oversight Committee is in favor of demolishing the Roof Depot and cutting the 7.5-acre site in half so that the Public Works watercourse can be built while 3 acres could be sold for community use.

The proposal was presented as a compromise by Council Member Kevin Reich, who supports Public Works staff leaving the old water park at 935 5th Av. SE. to make way for a new fire station.

Board member Alondra Cano, who represents East Phillips and led a semi-successful effort last month to undo all work on the water park and transform the entire Roof Depot site, near Hiawatha Avenue and 28th Street E., at the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute via an exclusive rights deal, lambasted Reich for unveiling his motion in committee, without notice.

“It would probably be one of the worst government processes undertaken by the city, if approved today, due to the big gap in transparency and due process,” she said. “The inequalities in this whole conversation really trigger me, just because I see how the white supremacist weight of the entire city of Minneapolis is militarized to end conversations with a community trying to figure out the future of their. own vision. “

The President of the Council, Lisa Bender, who has repeatedly underlined the budget impact to cancel a city project that has already committed $ 12.9 million in planning, urged council to stick to its 2018 unanimous vote to give the water park the green light.

A city tax analysis showed that Minneapolis could repay the Water Fund by increasing the proposed tax levy increase for 2022 to 8.7%, or 3.25% above the increase proposed by the mayor by 5.45%.

This is unlikely to happen, Bender said, leaving the city exposed to potential lawsuits from suburban water customers who have contributed to the Minneapolis Water Fund to ensure the maintenance of water distribution infrastructure. water, and not to subsidize neighborhood development projects.

“For a very long time, I think a lot of us have been trying to come up with some sort of compromise or a solution that honors the feedback we hear from the community, that recognizes all compromise,” Bender said. . “The environmental tradeoffs of not doing asbestos cleanup, the financial impact of walking away from a project and spending $ 12.9 million to get back to nothing, of having a site that is then vacant and polluted with a huge financial burden and the city having this financial liability related to potential lawsuits from customers. “

Council member Steve Fletcher called the Reich proposal a good compromise.

“This gives the community 3 acres to determine the fate of, to imagine what they would do with a significant piece of urban land,” he said. “At the same time, it also shows respect to our workers… who are currently working in an inadequate facility.”

The committee voted 7-6 to adopt Reich’s motion. Council members Bender, Reich, Fletcher, Phillipe Cunningham, Jamal Osman, Lisa Goodman and Jeremiah Ellison voted in favor. Cano Council members Andrea Jenkins, Cam Gordon, Jeremy Schroeder, Andrew Johnson and Linea Palmisano voted against.

In August, Cano introduced a motion to halt work on the water park, sell Roof Depot to the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute, and ask city staff to create tax fairness impact assessments and racial. The policy and government oversight committee approved the water park blockade, but did not grant development rights to community activists, leaving Roof Depot in limbo and the city unsure of how to recover nearly $ 13 million. dollars.

Environmental activists hoped to be able to take control of the site. Wednesday’s vote threw them back.

“Today’s vote was blind and heartbreaking,” said Joe Vital, a representative for the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute. “This is another mark in the history of East Phillips in the city of Minneapolis that mistreats the neighborhood and its people and puts them in a dump for the city and its pollutants. We think about our children and the impact of this vote on them. The neighborhood will continue to fight even if the city does not retreat. “

City staff presented a racial equity impact analysis on Roof Depot Wednesday with no recommendation to the city to sue either the water park or the urban farm. Instead, sustainability director Kim Havey explained that East Phillips suffers from disproportionate environmental injustices, including two to four times more asthma hospitalizations than the Twin Cities metro, and has the 10% of highest particulate matter levels in the state. Lifetime risks include higher cancer rates.

Susan From • 612-673-4028


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