The unanimous vote by city council Monday is a victory for a group of residents who formed a cohesive unit to petition council to keep the tank out of the park.
They turned out in force at Monday’s meeting to hear the council’s decision.
The officials greenlighted a modification of an option that sited the tank on the recreation and parks operations yard, the neighborhoods’ preferred choice.
Instead of relocating the entire yard to Hembree Park, as first discussed, the operations will be distributed among two separate areas of the existing property to make room for the tank.
Instead of 21,900 square feet of space currently being used by the recreation and parks operations, there would now be 18,900 square feet available, but the department feels it will be enough, said Public Works and Environmental Director Stu Moring.
“I know this isn’t optimal for everyone, but I think it’s a good compromise,”
Councilwoman Becky Wynn said prior to the vote.
Homeowners in neighborhoods near Waller Park organized into a group named the Grimes Bridge Parkways Community to monitor the city’s plans for the new water plant and keep the associated storage tank out of the park.
Addressing some of those residents in the audience, “I started as a community advocate myself,” Wynn said. “It’s amazing when you get a dialogue going with city or county officials what can happen.”
Estimated cost of the entire water plant project is $16 million, with the base cost of the tank at $2.8 million.
Rearranging the operations yard to make room for the tank will cost around $152,000 more than the cost of building the tank at the athletic field, but keeping the yard where it is will be significantly less than the original cost estimate of $419,000 to move it across town.
Some of the Grimes Bridge Parkways homeowners asked council to consider the negative impact a storage tank would have if it was in the park.
“This is not just a matter of visibility. This is a matter of presence,” said resident Seth Freedman.
All council members said they agreed. “It’s more than just seeing it from a distance,” Councilman Rich Dippolito said of the tank.
“It’s how it feels in the context of the park. It will be there 60 years from now and it’s important to be sure we locate it in the proper place.”
As a permanent structure, a tank would remove any flexibility the city would have in enhancing the park and its use, Dippolito said.