Frankly, unless one lives in the vicinity of the proposed tank most Greater Romans don’t understand what the fuss is about. To some degree, one suspects that neither city officials nor future water-tank neighbors fully understand it either. It really isn’t about water, or even the tank. It is about aesthetics, and that is an issue that does deserve to be of community-wide concern.
Greater Romans count among their many blessings the beauty of their surroundings. Some of those surroundings are unique. When Wright Willingham, back in 1928, argued for constructing a road up the mountain he pointed not only to the views and the cool breezes in pre-air-conditioning summer, but to the fact that in Mount Alto the Rome community had something unusual: A mountain right next to a city where people could live or vacation.
Chattanooga had Lookout Moun-tain, he said, and Asheville a bunch of them, but “There is no other place in Georgia similarly situated as is Rome in respect to a mountain immediately adjacent thereto.”
WHILE THERE ARE, alas, some portions of Greater Rome where a water tank would instantly become the best-looking structure in the neighborhood, and although there are at least three other such tanks presently located in subdivisions, this particular tank raises a core issue regarding the philosophy of development that needs to be answered and resolved.
A new countywide zoning code was recently approved in which aesthetics was a driving factor. It doesn’t cover water tanks and the like because, plainly, when it comes to taking care of all its citizens a city has gotta do what a city has got to do ... or a county, for that matter.
The water tank in question is not optional. It would serve existing and future customers in the area south of Shorter Avenue; it would provide a reserve for Mount Alto’s own water tank, which is higher up on the mountain. The city did an aerial survey to find possible locations; there were three and two of them were not for sale. The tank — it would be on the ground, not on “stilts” — is going to eventually be there because it needs to be there.
While city officials have already modified the tank plans, and even though it is going to basically be located in what is a gully, it would still stick up above the road by the equivalent of a 2½-story home. Even painted dark green, as intended, even with trees planted along the road to help conceal it (when the trees grow to sufficient height), it is going to forever change the look and feel of the neighborhood and the view for those driving along the road.
IT IS GOING TO BE jarring and out of place. There is going to be nothing scenic about a water tank along Willingham Scenic Highway. That’s what, for most who live on and love the mountain, is so disturbing. It is not only an understandable reaction, it is also the correct one.
But the tank can’t be relocated nor can it be made invisible. It might be better hidden, lowered so its top is at road level and doesn’t stick up, but every change in design costs considerable money — money paid by all users on the water system in the way of rates.
Yet this would appear to be a good time, a good issue, around which to formulate a community standard regarding the best of our natural surroundings and particularly so those yet relatively unspoiled. Are preserving aesthetics worth spend-ing extra money on? It is a question that should be contemplated by the private sector in development projects quite as much as it should by the public sector in making infrastructure improvements.
In a sense, the community needs a guiding principle on matters such as this. Probably the best would be to adopt the Golden Rule of the medical profession: First, do no harm.
BEING NEITHER engineers nor hydrologists, it is not possible for this space to define the solution — only to suspect that a compromise does exist, that there has to be a way.
Indeed, Romans have grappled with the issue before and long, long ago opted for aesthetics while finding a good answer.
The downtown Clock Tower housed the first water tank in the community. The brick structure and sentinel clock that have since become the very symbol of Rome were put up around it to keep the tank from spoiling the view in the area where, at that time, nearly all Romans lived.
It is a good example to consider. Don’t spoil the way the community looks or, if possible, try to make it look even better.
It is an issue that today may concern a few up on Mount Alto but that, in truth, should concern all of us every day