By Nicole Brodzik
At their March 6 meeting, the council decided to persue other options after a discussion of the Hunters Crest Water Tower project took over a large portion of the Feb. 21 Minnetrista City Council meeting. The council decided they did not think the water tower request would get the approval of the Hunters Crest homeowners association and have decided to look for new properties.
City Administrator Mike Barone and City Engineer Paul Hornby began the discussion on Feb. 21 with a presentation of the sites considered and the price of an elevated water tower, an at-ground water tank and an underground water tank.
The cost for an elevated tank, including 50-year maintenance, was estimated at $3,836,800, while an underground system, with those same 50-year costs, came in closer to $5,381,200, a difference of over $1.5 million.
At the time of the meeting, the city had a purchase agreement for a site they called Outlot D. The plan would be to have a water tower and a future water treatment plant, which Barone said they would expect to need close to 2030. This site is located near a number of homes in the Hunters Crest development and would obstruct the view, which was a major issue for many of the residents in attendance.
“If this is not a water tower, some day this will be houses and there is some higher density stuff behind that, so this view is going away one way or the other,” Barone said.
One issue that did come up was whether or not the Hunters Crest Homeowners Association would have the final say in the sale of this property.
“Technically we are supposed to get approval from the homeowners association, I believe it’s 66 percent approval,” Barone said.
The issue is that there are covenants attached to certain parcels of land in the development. Those covenants give the homeowners association a choice in what happens to the land under that covenant, meaning the Hunters Crest homeowners association could possibly veto the sale and use of Outlot D for a water tower and future water treatment plant.
At the Feb. 21 meeting, Barone said that while they would prefer not to, he thought the city might be able to find a loophole.
“I think we could prove that this public good outweighs those covenants, but again what we hope not to do is to have to go there,” Barone said.
Mayor Lisa Whalen echoed that statement, saying she would prefer not to go to court over that situation.
During their March 6 council meeting, the Minnetrista City Council ultimately decided they couldn’t meet the covenants for the purchase agreement for Outlot D and will be pursuing other sites for the water tower. Barone said a new site is still in discussion within the council.
“Ultimately, we couldn’t meet the covenants for that property and we have to look at other options,” he said. “It’s a slow process, but we’re working on finding a new space and getting a new purchase agreement.”
Nearly 25 different residents spoke during the discussion on Feb. 21, with some questioning the need for a new tower, at any location, at the moment.
“It’s not like we decided a month ago, or a year ago, hey, we need a water tower,” Barone said. “That’s not the case. The city is concerned about providing treated water for Minnetrista residents and future home buyers. We’re also concerned about fire suppression and water storage, as well as the overall water system and its effectiveness.”
Barone said the population density of Minnetrista has grown 65 percent over the last 15 years, with a current population of over 7,000 residents, hence the need for a better water system.
Hornby also explained in his presentation, and again during the discussion, that a main reason for this is that the water pressure in parts of the Hunters Creek development are far below what is necessary for fire suppression. Currently, if there is an emergency in the area, Mound Fire Department uses reservoir trucks to help put out fires. If the water pressure was up to the expected 1,000 gallons per minute pressure, this would no longer be necessary, and would be much safer for residents.
He explained that back in 2006, the comprehensive water plan executive summary found that all water mains were capable of creating that pressure, with the exception of, “the 12-inch transmission between the Kings Point Tower and Turtle Creek, St. Bonifacius, and Hunter’s Trail. The available fire low through this 12-inch transmission main is less than 500 gallon per minute.”
Others questioned why the tower needed to be so close to the Hunters Crest development and offered up alternative locations they preferred. Many of those either looked at by the city and not available for purchase, were too expensive or were too far from the areas that needed the service.
“You can’t really take the tank and move it a mile and a half away because, one, wont get the water pressure you need being that far away and, two, now you’re going to have to budget and figure out a way to get the water to your treatment plan and back, which is another costly option,” Barone said. “If you move it a mile away, you’re looking at another 1.5 to three million dollars of piping. That’s one of the reasons.”
One of the properties that Hornby described in his initial presentation was called the Thurck Property. He said this space was not a good option because it is currently zoned as an agriculture site and it would take eight years for the city to change to zoning code and have it be available for the water tower.
Minnetrista resident Kathy Ecklund questioned why this wasn’t considered back in 2006, when the council decided they would need the tower.
“Since you new about the problem back in 2006 and the (zoning) request takes eight years, why didn’t we do that back in 2006 to start that process and we would have passed 8 year time frame?” she said.
Mayor Lisa Whalen said that she was with the city then and explained what was going on at that time.
“The thought back in 2006 and 2007 was that pretty soon, we’re going to have this go through development and then we can take this property. Of course then the market crumbled and that never happened so the city said, we don’t need it yet, and so at some future point it will still happen. We need it now because there are more homes. That’s making it more necessary now.”
All 23 resident speakers were opposed to the water tower’s then-proposed location on Outlot D.
The Minnetrista City Council went into closed session at the end of their Feb. 21 meeting to discuss a possible new location, which is still on the table, according to Barone.
The next Minnetrista City Council meeting is on March 20 at 7 p.m.