Medina council previews proposal

BY SUSAN VAN CLEAF
SUN PRESS NEWSPAPERS

Larry and Jennifer Palm have experimented with ideas for developing a 2.12-acre site located within walking distance of Baker Park in Medina. They decided upon a memory care residential facility that would offer families the chance to take elderly residents on a walk in the park on a pleasant sunny day.

The Palms must successfully navigate through a series of approvals from Medina and the Metropolitan Council to transform their sketch plan into a building.

They took the first step on Tuesday, March 7, when they asked the Medina City Council for an amendment to the city’s comprehensive land use plan to high density residential and a rezoning to R4 Limited High Density Residential. The council directed city staff to prepare approval documents and to ask the Met Council if it would be receptive to a comp plan amendment.

At the meeting, the city council also took up other business.

MEMORY CARE
City Planner Dusty Finke explained the Palm memory care requests. LJP Development, LLC is proposing a memory care facility containing 43 residential units for property at 1432 Baker Park Road (County Road 29). The property is located just north of the Holiday Stationstore and the strip mall containing a Subway restaurant. Baker Park is across the street.

Steve Oliver, of Mohagen-Hansen Architects, said LJP Development wants to submit a site plan for city council approval in April to be on track for a July ground breaking.

Jennifer Palm said she has been a caregiver for her father, who has Alzheimer’s disease. His situation prompted her to look into availability of memory care in the Medina area. She discovered 170 people in the area who need memory care and the need is growing.

She and Larry Palm have owned the Baker Park Road property for a number of years. They decided that now is the time to construct a memory care on the site. Jennifer Palm would own and operate the facility.

Timing of the development poses complications, Finke said. The Met Council requires cities to update their comprehensive plans every 10 years. Medina is operating under its 2030 comp plan, which lists the land use of the Palm property as commercial. Memory care facilities are not permitted use in a commercial area. Under Medina’s proposed 2040 comp plan, the future land use of the Palm property is classified as high density residential, in which memory care is a permitted use.

Finke said the land use in the Palm memory care proposal is in line with the draft of the Medina’s 2040 comp plan. Medina is on schedule to get Met Council approval of the 2040 plan by the end of the year. He asked the city council whether it would want LJP Development to wait until next year to submit its project for city approval, or would the council support a request for a comprehensive plan amendment to put the project on a faster track?

City Councilor Lorie Cousineau questioned the timing of the application, considering that Medina is right in the middle of its comp plan update process.

City Councilor Kathleen Martin noted that Medina has been planning for locating future high-density housing near transportation opportunities, such as the park and ride in Maple Plain and Medina has very little land suitable for high density residential. This transportation resource could not be used by memory care residents who do not drive. She added that the proposed development looked like it would be a beautiful facility, as far as she could tell from Palm’s sketch plan and concept drawings.

City Councilor Jeff Pederson said that Medina has a big need for memory care. However, he wondered what the city would tell the next developer who wants to get a jump start on the 2040 comp plan. City Attorney Andrew Biggerstaff answered that Medina could look at those types of applications on a case-by-case basis.

City Councilor John Anderson said Medina should ask the Met Council whether units in the proposed memory care facility would count towards the 253 high-density residential units required by the Met Council in the city by 2040.

“It’s a bird in the hand. Let’s move this along,” Mayor Bob Mitchell said.

PREDATORY OFFENDER ORDINANCE
The city council heard a presentation from consulting City Attorney Biggerstaff, of Kennedy and Graven, relating to housing for predatory sexual offenders. He has worked with a number of area cities, including Minnetrista, on developing ordinances regulating where predatory sexual offenders are allowed to live.

After hearing from Biggerstaff, the council directed city staff and consulting attorneys to look into a potential change in Medina’s housing ordinance relating to housing for predatory sexual offenders.

Sixty cities in Minnesota have enacted this type of ordinance, because a judge recently ordered the release into the community sexual offenders who have completed prison sentences but still are under confinement, Biggerstaff said. The judge’s decision was reversed, thus halting the release of 700 sex offenders into the community. Only three sex offenders were released because of the original decision.

Sex offenders are given a risk assessment prior to being released from confinement, Biggerstaff said. They are classified according to whether they are at a low, medium or high risk to offend. The lowest risk is level 1 and the highest risk is level 3. Level 2 and level 3 sex offenders are required to contact the local police department about their intent to move into a community. In the case of a level 2 offender, schools and licensed day care centers within a certain radius of the proposed residency address are notified. Level 3 offenders typically are the subjects of a community notification.

Typical city ordinances prohibit level 3 offenders from living near schools, playgrounds, parks and other places children are known to congregate, Biggerstaff said.

Medina Police Chief Ed Belland said Medina never has had a level 3 sex offender living in the city. Seven or eight lower level offenders live in Medina. “We keep track of them. We would do a community notification for a level 3 offender,” he said.
He continued, “I’m for a simple ordinance. They have to live somewhere. If they are homeless, they are hard to track. If we know where they are, at least we know where they are.”

OTHER
The city council also heard a report from Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson on the progress of finding a contractor for the Highway 55 and County Road 116 improvement project in Medina. He said the issue has passed out of committee and soon will come before the Hennepin County Board. Johnson also reported on his efforts to help cut down on annual county budget increases.

Lastly, the council heard brief annual reports from the four fire departments that serve Medina – Hamel, Loretto, Long Lake and Maple Plain.