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YEAR IN REVIEW Rochester grows into No. 3 spot

By Joshua Lynch

jlynch@postbulletin.com

Rochester grew into a new position of prominence in 2002 when it became the state's third-largest city.

Statistics released in August showed Rochester had 3,200 more residents than Duluth. In the last year, Rochester grew to an estimated population of 89,325. Duluth, meanwhile, shrank to 86,125.

But regional developments have not come without problems. Disputes near Stewartville and Racine were at the forefront this year.

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Pure Pleasure, an adult book and video store, became the subject of several legal battles before and after it opened just north of Stewartville.

Local officials tried to stop construction when they became concerned new owner Malcolm Inc. might open an adult business there. A company spokesman initially refused to disclose the intended use of the site but later said it would house a New Age-themed retail store.

Soon after legal proceedings ended, Pure Pleasure opened its doors. Initial offerings included no adult material -- but adult magazines and videos are now on display. The items comprise only a portion of the store's overall business.

DiMa Corp., the company that operates the statewide chain of Pure Pleasure stores, has filed a federal lawsuit seeking court approval to stock more adult items. The lawsuit says existing local restrictions are too constraining and violate the store's First Amendment rights.

The legal battle is expected to last another year or longer. No trial is scheduled until January 2004.

Meanwhile, a battle concerning the fate of BEARCAT Hollow animal park in Racine appeared to reach some conclusion.

Racine City Council members decided in May they would allow the 25-acre facility to remain open despite protests by dozens of residents.

People who live near the park said they were concerned BEARCAT Hollow is not secure enough to properly hold the bears, tigers and other animals on site.

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In 2001, a 7-year-old Rochester girl was hospitalized after she was attacked by Como, a Siberian tiger, at BEARCAT Hollow. The attack happened inside the animal park's big-cat barn while the girl and her mother were on a guided tour.

Later that year, a bear cub named Snickers escaped from the park by nudging open a slide door and going through an unpowered electric fence. The bear cub was later found damaging the enclosed porch of a nearby home.

City council members considered several responses, including seeking the park's closure. But after receiving assurances that park security would be upgraded, council members said they would allow BEARCAT Hollow to stay open.

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