Residents around are fighting back against a plan to build a sewage lift station in the park as part of that would expand —an improvement that Oakes Park residents say would come at their expense.
“This is my home. I face the park. I face directly where this will be. I don’t want it. I oppose it, and I’m also very angry,” a Kassie Court resident said, handing over a petition with 122 signatures opposing the project.
The dispute arose at Tuesday’s City Council meeting when members considered an agreement with the Metropolitan Council to build a lift station needed to replace the aging facility currently located near Cottageville Park. The city sees the Met Council's need as an opportunity for opening up the Blake Road park.
Because of engineering considerations, existing space bordering Cottageville is too small for a lift station site. So the city asked the Met Council to purchase two Blake Road duplexes that border the park and trade those parcels to the city for space in Oakes Park, where a new lift station would work. Once acquired, the duplexes would be demolished and the properties converted to parkland.
But Oakes Park nieghbors—spearheaded by members of the Parkside Homeowners Association—say such a lift station would destroy their quality of life and property values. They worry about smells and how the building would change the look of the park.
The proposed lift station would be about 400 to 500 feet from the nearest Parkside homeowner, City Engineer John Bradford said. By contrast, the existing lift station is about 40 feet from the nearest residential property.
Planners added that the new lift station would be an attractive building that shouldn’t hurt quality of life. If it includes public restrooms, as the city has discussed, it could even wind up being a benefit to park goers. Under the agreement the Met Council will also pay for a portion of upcoming Lake Street roadwork and—as noted earlier—purchase properties that will be used to expand Cottageville Park.
Still, Parkside leaders remained unconvinced—and were further upset because the city hadn’t worked through the organization. While Hopkins contacted individual homeowners around the park, including some Parkside residents, they didn’t notify the entire association. Organization representatives said the city should have tried to work with them since the structure could affect the entire association—not just those homeowners whose properties border the park.
“I’m offended by what has happened here because I know as a community and as a resident that park is pretty important,” said Esther Williams, vice chairwoman of the association. “I’d like to be included in the decision. I don’t feel I’ve been included in the decision.”
Yet the city did send out dozens of notices about an information meeting that only two people attended (Bradford and Parkside residents disagreed about how much notice residents had).
And even taking the Cottageville Park benefits out of the equation, planners don’t see any other properties as good as the Oakes Park site.
Bradford detailed the challenges for the other sites that were considered—including inadequate space and engineering complications and distance from sewer lines that would add to the project’s costs.
One alternative would add about $1 million to the $10 million being spent in Hopkins because workers would have to tunnel under Minnehaha Creek.
Bradford said local governments have a responsibility to be good stewards of the public’s money, and residents would ultimately pay for those costs through bigger utility bills. But lift station critics at the meeting said the costs would be spread among so many people that it’s a worthwhile expense to preserve quality of life.
In the end, City Council members voted unanimously to approve the lift station agreement. Mayor Gene Maxwell noted that residents concerned about Oakes Park will have several more opportunities to influence the lift station’s design and how it’s integrated into the park.