BY SUSAN VANCLEAF
SUN PRESS NEWSPAPERS
The fate of two senior living, assisted living and memory care facilities proposed for the southwest corner of Medina is uncertain, as the city continues to negotiate with the Metropolitan Council over land use in the area.
It might take two weeks for the city and the Met Council to resolve the issues or it might take 10 months, or more. Meanwhile, one of the developers, Elim Care, must act soon to secure funding.
Chief Executive Officer Bob Dahl, of Elim Care, spoke on behalf of its proposed facility at the Tuesday, May 2 Medina City Council meeting. “I’m not hearing strong encouragement tonight,” he said. “I am sorry to hear this. I wonder if we need to find a new site that we can move faster on.”
At the meeting, the council also took up other business.
The City Council reviewed a concept plan and gave developers feedback on a facility proposed by Elim Care for 14.24-acre site located north of Highway 12 and east of Baker Park Road. Larry and Jennifer Palm sat in the audience to hear what City Councilors would say. The Palms in April had brought before the council a concept plan for a memory care facility that would be located near the proposed Elim Care facility.
Elim Care is a not-for-profit corporation affiliated with the Evangelical Free Church of America. Andrew Centanni, of Elim Care, said his company oversees senior living properties in four states. The proposed Medina facility would offer a full continuum of care in the same building.
Elim Care’s goal is to offer residents the opportunity “to age in place” and have access to nearby nature areas in Baker Park, located to the north and east, Centanni said. Residents, family and staff could shop in downtown Maple Plain and utilize the Maple Plain Park and Ride. Some of the staff and residents would move to the Medina facility from an Elim Care facility in Maple Plain.
A total of 134 housing units are proposed; 62 units for skilled care, 31 for assisted living, 16 for assisted living memory care and 25–27 for independent living. They all would be part of a phase one building with two and three story wings on the north side of the property. A wetland in the middle of the site would separate the phase one building from the phase two building on the southeast corner of the property.
Centanni said Elim Care does not own the property and needs to act soon to make a purchase. His company would need to get land use approvals this year in order to meet an October 2018 deadline for obtaining a Minnesota Department of Health permit. Groundbreaking would be in spring 2018. Elim Care could lose $2.5 million in financial assistance if a series of approvals from various agencies do not happen in a timely manner.
City Planner Dusty Finke said the proposed site is guided for Commercial development under Medina’s 2030 Comprehensive Plan. The commercial guiding does not allow the land use proposed by Elim Care. Medina is in the process of getting Metropolitan Council approval for the draft 2040 Comprehensive Plan, which would change the land use to high density residential, thus allowing senior living facilities of this type.
Finke said that February might be the earliest time in which the Met Council would approve Medina’s 2040 comp plan, if all goes well. Elim Care might get a head start by seeking its first approval from Medina in November.
Mayor Bob Mitchell said Medina still was uncertain whether the Met Council would count memory care/assisted living housing units as high density housing units under Medina’s Comprehensive Plan. Approval of a project under the 2040 comp plan rather than the 2030 comp plan might make a difference.
City Councilor Kathleen Martin said Medina decided to guide its southwest corner as high density residential in the 2040 plan for a reason. Intensive residential development was constructed in northeast Medina under the 2030 plan. Residents have complained about the resulting heavy traffic in the area. Medina decided to help these residents by moving high density residential away from the city’s northeast corner.
Martin said that Medina might have to seek additional land for high density residential if the city were to approve the Elim Care development under the 2030 comp plan rather than the 2040 plan. “It’s a matter of timing,” she said.
Mayor Mitchell asked each City Councilor to comment on the Elim concept. Then he said, “We’re all generally in favor of the project.” He called it a good land use.
“We’re trying not to stand in your way, even though we realize we are part of the obstacle,” he said.
Larry Palm said Elim Care was asking for the same city considerations as he and his wife were for their memory care, proposed for a site north of the Holiday Stationstore on Baker Park Road. He expressed frustration about getting a timeline from Medina that would help him expedite his project.
POLICE LOSE OFFICER, SEEK NEW ONE
The City Council went into closed session to review the performance of Craig Swalchick, who had joined the Medina Police Department on Nov. 9. Terms of his hiring included a 12-month probationary period. Public Safety Director Ed Belland recommended the termination of his employment due to his inability to progress to the next stage in the Police Officer Field Training Program.
The City Council emerged from the closed session and passed a resolution terminating Swalchick’s employment. The council also authorized Belland to begin the process of recruiting a new patrol officer.
Swalchick served for a year in the Medina Police Reserves before his appointment as a patrol officer.
The City Council also approved a variance for a reduced side yard setback that enables Joe Molde to construct a chicken coop at 4035 Apache Drive.
During the meeting, the council also accepted feasibility reports and called for public hearings on road improvement projects for Willow Drive from Chippewa Drive North of Highway 55 to the end of pavement, Wichita Trail and Clydesdale Trail. All three projects will involve milling road surfaces and adding asphalt overlays, with some curb and gutter replacements. Scheduled for June 6 at City Hall, the public hearings will pertain to special assessments of benefiting property owners.