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Water tank near St. Mary's Park given go ahead, neighbors to appeal

Neighbors opposed to a proposed 3.5-million-gallon water reservoir near St. Mary's Park plan to appeal Wednesday's Rochester Zoning Board of Appeals' decision giving Rochester Public Utilities the go-ahead on the project.

About a dozen residents opposed to the reservoir sat in on the hearing, and several spoke out against the project, citing the size, proximity to houses and the park and need to remove 30 trees as detriments to the historic neighborhood and small park.

The proposed tank would more than double the capacity of the existing 1.5-million-gallon reservoir on the site, swelling its footprint from 66 feet in diameter to 99 feet in diameter.

"I think your comments are legitimate and persuasive arguments against a tower this size," said Paul Ohly, a member of the zoning appeals board. However, "We are not a policy-making body. We have to look at the ordinance and the proposal to see if fits. Policy issues should be brought up to City Council. They have a right to tell RPU what to do. We have to follow the ordinance."

Not all of the board members agreed with staff findings that the proposed tank met the criteria of the land-use manual.


Because the tank will be just 20 feet from the property line, Mary Jo Majerus moved to deny granting the variance, but the motion failed to get a majority of votes.

"There's been a lot of discussion on if this is the right site," said Lindsey Meek, a member of the zoning appeals board. "But tonight, we are here to look at setbacks to protect the adjacent property from that line."

To the east, the adjacent property is a park, not homes, so she said she felt the setbacks and height of the proposed tank were acceptable.

Neighbors and leaders of the Historic Southwest Neighborhood Association, who disagree with the planning and zoning department's staff findings and the zoning appeal board's decision, have 10 days to appeal to Rochester City Council. At the conclusion of Wednesday's meeting, the neighbors said they will appeal.

However, based on growing water needs, RPU continues to finalize its plans for the reservoir at that site.

"We will try to do the best we can to provide architectural design and landscaping that is acceptable to people," said Doug Rovang, senior civil engineer for RPU.

Although the Committee on Urban Design and Environment's policy is that water storage tanks are painted "horizon blue," Rovang said RPU is working with CUDE to use earth tones and add aesthetic design elements to this reservoir.

Construction of the proposed reservoir is planned to start just after peak water-use season in mid-July and be completed by Dec. 1, he said. Landscaping and aesthetic treatment of the tank would be done in spring 2014, he said.

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