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Dassel City Council reviews zoning for assisted living home

February 11, 2008

By Roz Kohls
Staff Writer

Dassel City Council declined last Monday to make any decisions about an assisted living facility proposed for a commercial zoning district.

First, the council can only make decisions based on recommendations from the Dassel Planning and Zoning Commission, according to City Administrator Myles McGrath. The planning and zoning commission was deadlocked Jan. 29 on whether a proposed 48-unit home for the elderly was appropriate for the land next to the intersection of Highways 12 and 15. As a result, there was no recommendation on which the council could make a decision, McGrath said.

It is not up to the city council to make the commission members’ recommendation for them, he said.

Second, the city council first saw the information last Monday about the proposal from Roz Ewald of Cedar Crest of Hutchinson. Council members needed time to review it, McGrath said.

Ewald submitted an application to the planning commission Jan. 15 for a variance to construct the facility. The proposed facility will provide 24-hour customized living services for the elderly, such as three meals a day, companionship activities, medication supervision and total care if needed, Ewald said in a letter to the editor in the Jan. 28 Enterprise Dispatch.

McGrath said he had told Ewald right from the start not to spend money on architects, plans, drawings for the development because the zoning district was commercial, not residential. The 48 private units will have private bathrooms and walk-in closets, large open community areas and an access to an outdoor patio. The facility will be the users’ home address, McGrath said.

Because McGrath had outlined the process for Ewald to get a recommendation for a variance through the commission, McGrath believes some of the commission members thought McGrath was in favor of the facility getting a variance. He’s not, he said.

The proposed facility is licensed as a motel/hotel, and will look like a hotel, according to Ewald. Commercial zoning would allow a hotel in a commercial zone, according to city ordinance.

Ken Neu represented Spectralytics at the commission meeting Jan. 15, because Spectralytics has announced plans to build a new manufacturing facility on an adjacent parcel to the one proposed for the assisted living facility. Neu asked Ewald if a business client from Spectralytics would be provided a motel room at the assisted living facility. She replied that it wouldn’t, according to an unofficial, unapproved draft of the minutes of the Jan. 15 meeting.

The Jan. 15 meeting was reconvened Jan. 29. The commission members then took a vote whether to recommend granting a variance. Commission member Mike Enerson was absent. Commission members Deb Suchy and Dennis Johnson voted against granting the variance. Commission members Mike Scanlon and Jeff Loven voted in favor of granting it.

Also, Bill Ward, director of the Lakeside Health Care Center, which recently became part of Augustana Care of Minneapolis, sent a letter to the city that he was concerned about the proposal from Ewald. Augustana also is planning a 16-unit assisted-living facility for Dassel.

Ward wanted “loyalty” from the City of Dassel, because Lakeside, up until last year, was a city-owned facility, according to Mayor Ava Flachmeyer. The City of Dassel is not responsible for protecting individual businesses from competition, she said, but added she could understand how Ward felt.

Odds and ends

In other business, the council:

• heard a report from Meeker County Sheriff’s Deputy Bill Hudson that live traps are available for free to residents who are bothered by the large number of feral cats roaming in the city. Once captured, the cats are taken to the Peterson Veterinary Clinic in Cokato. A representative from the Humane Society will euthanize them there, he said.

Hudson also said deputies responded to many animal calls in January. Either residents were concerned about animals left out in subzero weather, or about dogs running around without leashes when the weather warmed up, Hudson said.

• listened to a report from Public Works Director Dave Scepaniak that the city treated 43,642,124 gallons of water in 2007, which is down a little from 2006, according to the Department of Natural Resources water report.

• gave Scepaniak permission to buy more snowflake Christmas decorations for the city with a discounted price in March. There is money in the budget for them, he said.

• switched representation on the Dassel Cokato Community Education board to Council Member Bob Lalone, from Council Member Pat Haapala. The board meets Thursdays, and Haapala was unavailable Thursdays, she said.

• noted that the date and place for the “brainstorming” workshop for city goals was changed to 5 p.m., Monday, Feb. 11 at city hall.

• heard a report from Scepaniak that new computer technology in Dassel is interfering with the radio-read water meters’ signals. Usually, it takes three hours to read all the water meters in the city. Recently, it took eight hours, Scepaniak said.

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