Council committee OKs city staff to negotiate deal to move Water Yard to East Phillips

A City Council committee gave city staff the go-ahead Monday to negotiate with a property owner in South Minneapolis to possibly acquire the parcel for a new home for the city’s Public Works water distribution and maintenance operations.

The property — near Hiawatha Avenue and East 28th — is owned by Roof Depot, a roofing supply company.

Public Works has proposed relocating the city’s Water Yard East, the existing waster distribution maintenance facilities in Southeast Minneapolis, with the water meter operations currently in Fridley at the Roof Depot site in the East Phillips neighborhood.

The authorization comes amid criticism from community members who have objected to another industrial use in the neighborhood, raising concerns that the facility would increase pollution in a neighborhood that has higher pollution rates than other areas in the city.

City staff from the Public Works and Health departments, however, said the proposed water distribution maintenance center would be a relatively light use compared to other industrial operations during presentations before the Council’s Ways & Means Committee.

City Council Member Alondra Cano (Ward 9) voted against authorizing staff to move ahead with negotiations. She said she is in favor of a proposal from a private developer that would create a green industrial jobs center on the parcel — a proposal that has wide community support. 

“I believe this vision is much more in line with our sustainable goals,” she said.

City Council Member Lisa Bender (Ward 10) said she appreciated all of the community engagement on the issue, but said she supports allowing negotiations to move forward because she believes there be a “win-win” solution if the city also works with East Phillips community leaders to realize their goals of creating a new green jobs center.

The full Council will vote on the issue at its meeting on Friday.

The Roof Depot site was first identified by Public Works as a good location for the water distribution maintenance facility in 1991, according to a staff report presented to the Council committee.