BY SUSAN VAN CLEAF
SUN PRESS NEWSPAPERS
On Tuesday, April 4, the Medina City Council gave We Can Ride the go ahead to move its equine assisted therapy program from Minnetonka to the Three Rivers Park Public Safety Facility at 4301 County Road 24 in Baker Park.
We Can Ride expects to make the move as of June 1. The nonprofit group had operated its program for 34 years at the Hennepin County Home School site at 14300 County Road 62 in Minnetonka. Hennepin County did not renew WCR’s lease, which expires May 31.
At the meeting, the City Council also took up other business.
WE CAN RIDE
Three Rivers Parks will serve as landlord for We Can Ride. Three Rivers asked for City Council approval for an amendment to the park district’s conditional use permit. The amendment would allow WCR to stable up to 20 horses on the site and to construct a 7,800 square foot Clearspan fabric riding arena south of the stables and paddocks.
City Planner Dusty Finke said the site already has a building that once was used for stabling horses. The building has an indoor riding arena. The Public Safety Center was home to the Three Rivers mounted patrol, which no longer uses the facility. The mounted patrol had a maximum of 16 horses.
The Three Rivers public safety department still uses the facility and would share office space with WCR, Finke said. WCR would remodel the horse stalls and add paddocks to meet the needs of its operation. The Clearspan fabric structure would serve as a second riding arena during warmer months.
Boe Carlson, superintendent of Three Rivers Parks, said he was excited to see the relationship between WCR and Three Rivers Parks progressing. WCR could use the nine-mile horse trail loop located near the Public Safety Facility. Under its manure management plan, WCR periodically would remove manure from the site. Three Rivers might use the manure in its tree nursery.
Mary Mitten, executive director of WCR, said We Can Ride provides equine assisted activities to children and adults with disabilities such as cerebral palsy, developmental delays, spinal bifida, autism, traumatic brain injury and Down Syndrome. A corps of 250 volunteers assists professional staff in providing services to 100 clients per week.
WCR has 21 horses at two locations, one in Minnetonka and one at Marina on St. Croix, Mitten said. Most of the horses are stabled in Minnetonka, She said her organization is a Premier Accredited center with the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International. WCR is the oldest therapeutic riding organization in Minnesota and one of the oldest in the United States.
Council members debated whether or not to increase the maximum number of horses from the 16 allowed by the original conditional use permit. One question was whether the site, which has 5.3 grazable acres, would be large enough to accommodate four additional horses. Carlson, of Three Rivers, said the horses would not rely on grazing for nutrition. They would be fed inside the stable/paddock area.
The City Council then directed city staff to prepare a resolution approving a conditional use permit amendment that set the maximum number of horses at 20.
Mayor Mitchell spoke to the WCR crowd, which filled most of the City Council chambers. He said, “We welcome you with open arms. This is going to be wonderful.”
PALM MEMORY CARE PROPOSAL STALLED
Larry Palm made his third trip to a Medina City Council meeting on behalf of a 43-unit memory care residential facility proposed by him and his wife Jennifer for a 2.12 acre site at 1432 Baker Park Road (County Road 29). This time the council unanimously voted to deny their requests for an amendment to Medina’s 2030 Comprehensive Plan and a rezoning of the property for this type of land use.
City Councilor John Anderson summed up the City Council’s position by saying he favored the Palm proposal. “We would more than welcome your application 365 days from now,” he said.
The council took action after hearing a report from City Planner Dusty Finke on his latest conversations with the Metropolitan Council. He asked the Met Council whether the 43 memory care units would count towards the 244 high-density residential units required for Medina under the city’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan. The Met Council said they would not, if Medina approved them before the 2040 comp plan goes into effect.
Finke said Medina’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan is likely to be in effect in time for the city to approve projects for the 2018 construction season. Until then, the city has enough flexibility under its 2030 comp plan to change the land use of the two-acre Palm property to high density residential. Medina would face consequences if the city were to approve any other memory care/assisted living proposals for land with access to sanitary sewers. The city would need to find additional acreage for high-density residential units in sewered areas.
Palm said he was not looking for a building permit at the moment. He still has months of work to do in order to draft design documents. He was wondering whether he should invest thousands of dollars.
City Councilor Anderson wondered how Medina could justify telling Palm he could get a jump on the 2040 comp plan and then tell other future developers that they could not.
Mayor Mitchell said he favored Palm’s proposal. However, approval of the memory care land use now was not worth the consequences to the city.
In related business, the City Council amended the draft of Medina’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan to reflect the Met Council’s requirement of 244 high-density resident housing units for Medina.
The City Council also approved a covenant between the city and Medina Mini-storage requiring additional screening for the north building at 4780 Rolling Hills Road. The screening would compensate for the fact that the site of the building was shifted to the north during construction. As a result, the building has encroached into the required setback from the property line.
During the meeting, the council approved a resolution supporting the #NOoverdose awareness campaign being conducted by the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office to reduce overdoses and deaths from opioid drug use. The resolution calls for First Responders to use opioid antagonists for overdose cases in Medina.
The City Council also accepted the donation and installation of laminated safety glass, valued at $60, to the Medina Police Department from Long Lake Glass.
Lastly, the council adopted a comprehensive plan amendment that allows Woodridge Church to begin construction of its new addition at 1542 County Road 24. The Met Council has approved the amendment.