Stillwater approves senior living facility near Long Lake

This image shows the layout of a development planned north of Long Lake in Stillwater. (Image from city council packet)

The Stillwater City Council approved a special use permit for a $70 million, 245-unit senior living community north of Long Lake May 16. A development agreement must still be completed between the city and developer, the Goodman Group.

The project will be known as The Lakes at Stillwater.

Overlooking the northern end of Long Lake, just east of Rutherford Elementary, the site is in the same location as a controversial senior living facility proposed last year that failed to win city approval. A new prospective owner and developer said they came up with a plan that addresses the city’s and neighbors’ concerns.

Only one resident opposed the plan at a public hearing May 16, though two more expressed ongoing concerns regarding safety on 72nd Street that they’d like addressed.

Dionne Meisterling, who owns part of the land that will be incorporated into the site, told the council that she vigorously opposed the project last year but now supports it. Although she would still prefer not to see development on the site next to her home, she said, she understands it will happen at some point, and she believes the current plan addresses the concerns she raised last year.

Intergenerational Living & Health Care, Inc. (ILHC), a Minneapolis-based nonprofit, announced earlier this year that it purchased an option to acquire about 57 acres at the site. The organization focuses on interactive programming to bring children and seniors together, and it wants to create a high-end, mixed-unit senior living community in several phases.

The Goodman Group, a privately held senior living and health care management company will serve as the developer and property manager for ILHC.

Phase 1, known as the Lodge, will include a 139-unit facility including independent and assisted living, as well as memory care. The second phase will include 30 independent living villas, and the third phase will add 70 apartments for active adults. The final phase will add six additional independent living units.

One of the primary concerns for residents and the city council last year was the height of any new construction. The current proposal would adhere to existing city code without requiring a height variance.

Besides adhering to height restrictions, the new plan seeks to create more of a transition from existing residential areas.

“The edges have been softened and retreated from the bluff lines,” Stillwater’s community development director Bill Turnblad said.

The city council agreed that the issues had been addressed.

“This is a wonderful resolution,” Councilmember Tom Weidner said. “I’m satisfied with it.”

Councilmember Mike Polehna was concerned about whether the property would come off the tax rolls. As a condition of approval, the council said a payment in lieu of taxes must be negotiated as part of the development agreement.

The city council voted unanimously to approve the development.

“I’m very pleased to say that in this instance I think that the hearings and the structure of how this type of project gets approved, worked very well,” Mayor Ted Kozlowski said.

The Goodman Group hopes to begin construction this fall and open the first phase of the facility in 2018

Another senior housing project takes a step forward

In addition to the Lakes at Stillwater, the city council considered another request related to senior housing May 16.

Ecumen, a nonprofit senior housing provider, wants to build a 145-unit senior care living facility next to Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Stillwater. The land is zoned RA, for single-family residential development.

Ecumen asked the council to amend the zoning ordinance so the RA district allows senior care living facilities on properties of five acres or more, if a special use permit (SUP) is approved. Ecumen also wanted the city to change its height restrictions in the district. Instead of restricting height to “two-and-a-half stories, not to exceed 35 feet,” Ecument requested that the ordinance simply restrict the height of senior living facilities to 35 feet, with no reference to the number of stories.

In a 3-1 vote the city council approved the change allowing senior care living facilities in the RA district by conditional use permit, but did not change the height restrictions. Councilmember Mike Polehna dissented, and Councilmember Tom Weidner abstained due to a conflict of interest.

Ecumen can now create detailed plans and apply for a SUP.