The Minneapolis City Council made an about-turn on the future of a vacant city-owned warehouse in the East Phillips neighborhood.

On Thursday, eight out of 13 members voted to suspend construction on a public works facility at the former Roof Depot site at Longfellow Avenue and E. 27th Street so that residents could have a crack at a community-led urban farm.

"This project has been shoved down the throats of my constituents. They have not been given a shot to prove themselves," said Council Member Jason Chavez, who represents East Phillips. "People in my ward have been asked if they want clean air or clean water, that their ZIP code will determine who gets to live and who gets to die. ... I represent Little Earth in the Ninth Ward. They call the Hiawatha Campus Expansion Project a genocide of Native people."

For the past eight years, the Roof Depot building has pitted public works staff in need of a new water distribution and maintenance facility against environmental activists. Staff say having a centrally located water yard would reduce overall emissions for city vehicles responding to water line maintenance needs throughout the city. Some East Phillips residents argue that the facility would concentrate those emissions in a low-income minority neighborhood already struggling with several heavy industries and high asthma rates.

The East Phillips Neighborhood Institute, (EPNI) a group of East Phillips residents, environmental activists and potential investors, envisions preserving the Roof Depot building for an urban farm concept that would include aquaponics, affordable housing and retail.

Last fall, a narrow majority of the outgoing Minneapolis City Council approved a "compromise plan" to demolish Roof Depot and proceed with the water yard while reserving 3 out of 7.5 acres of the site for East Phillips residents to reimagine.

Then-City Council President Lisa Bender had been a strong proponent of committing to past council decisions in favor of the water yard, which have already resulted in expenditures of $14 million from the city's Water Fund — money reserved for water treatment and distribution. East Phillips activists weren't satisfied with the so-called compromise plan, however, vowing to keep fighting for control of the entire site.

"The seven votes that went against us last year, four of them are no longer on the council … so we're pretty confident that they will stop the demolition," said East Phillips resident Steve Sandberg. "That's what we're hoping, and then we can get going on raising money."

On Thursday, activists proved they had enough support on the new City Council to reboot the discussion and seriously explore the financial viability of EPNI's urban farm.

Chavez proposed rescinding the council's last vote on Roof Depot, suspending construction on the water yard and directing finance staff to find $14 million in city funds to reimburse the Water Fund. This would allow the city to consider other options to develop Roof Depot in partnership with unnamed "community stakeholders," who would have to submit detailed proposals with realistic financial projections by June 30.

Council Vice President Linea Palmisano, who voted in line with urban farm proponents last year, argued for committing with the water yard for the sake of continuity. "We can't go back and retake votes from the past that we just didn't like the outcome of," she said. "We aren't moving forward as a city and we are incurring great and increased costs."

She suggested tabling the motion until the next City Council meeting in two weeks, but was outnumbered.

"The fundamental question at play here ... is whether or not this community should have an opportunity to do their due diligence over the Roof Depot building and their vision," said Council Member Andrew Johnson. "They have never in the last eight years had that opportunity because the council has always rammed through the plan for public works."

Johnson said if EPNI fails to pull together a detailed, comprehensive plan for its urban farm, all options for the water yard would be back on the table, including an earlier proposal to include a workforce training center scrapped in favor of giving community developers access to 3 acres.

Council Members Chavez, Johnson, Emily Koski, Aisha Chughtai, Robin Wonsley Worlobah, Elliott Payne, Jeremiah Ellison and Council President Andrea Jenkins voted to approve the Chavez motion. Members Palmisano, LaTrisha Vetaw, Michael Rainville, Lisa Goodman and Jamal Osman opposed.

"This has been going on for many years and having the site stay empty ... [is] creating a problem," Osman said. "We must be realistic. How possible would this be? It sounds like we're going in circles when it comes to making a decision on this. ... I feel like we're at square one again."

Osman said that whatever course of action seems best by June 30, he would ultimately want to see a public works training center restored to Roof Depot plans.

Correction: Previous versions of this story left out Jeremiah Ellison from the list of council members voting for the measure.