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Detroit Lakes City Council to consider 'as is' plans for hospital expansion, lakefront building

The Detroit Lakes Community Development Committee weighed staff recommendations and planning commission recommendations and found in favor of staff on the St. Mary's Innovis Health Center and the DL Waterfront plans.

The planning commission recommended that St. Mary's change the proposed location of the loading docks and EMS building, moving them out of the residential area and onto Frazee Street or Washington Avenue.

St. Mary's CEO Tom Thompson told the community development committee Thursday afternoon that the plan has been "evolving for several years," and that they have worked closely with consultants RDG as to dovetail with the city's main plan.

The loading dock location, he added, is a "substantial link in this project. It's a pivotal piece that needs relation."

In the plans, he said there are only two functional spaces for the loading dock -- locating it off Lincoln Avenue, which would be closed under this plan, and Oak Street. It is the safest, most feasible option and causes the least neighborhood disruption, he argued.

The other location would have "significant site restraints," he added.

The second option would require eating up additional green space, relocating the dining room and cafeteria and would end up costing three times as much as locating it in the proposed location.

The proposed loading dock would bring traffic down McKinley Avenue to Oak Street to the loading dock on Lincoln Avenue. Alderman GL Tucker, who also chairs the planning commission, said the commission was just trying to keep truck traffic out of the residential area.

Thompson said the dietary trucks already come to the proposed location, so the truck traffic wouldn't increase that much. And from a safety perspective, more people cross Frazee Street and Washington Avenue than Oak Street. There are about 11 delivery trucks daily at the campus.

Thompson also said that the proposal would include a recessed loading dock, while now the trucks park on the street to unload.

"I want to have a good hospital, but I don't want the neighbors to be dumped on either," Alderman Ron Zeman said. "It's a double edge sword."

Alderman Jim Anderson pointed out that the truck traffic would be during business hours, not at night.

City Administrator Bob Louiseau said that city staff recommended the Lincoln Street area as the safest route.

"I don't think hospital activity will be significant to the stroke of things," he said.

It was also mentioned that the city would have to look at bringing Oak Street up to a 9-ton street for semi-truck traffic.

The second major issue was the location of the EMS building. The building would be located off McKinley Avenue, which Manager Dave Langworthy said is important, because with ambulances having to get out of town to other areas of the county, this was the best location on the campus.

The planning commission had also recommended locating the EMS building on Washington Avenue or Frazee Street to keep it out of residential areas, but Thompson said that affects response time because of having to exit onto a major street. There is also a safety issue with more people and traffic on those streets.

Langworthy said that the building could be located anywhere in the city, but in responding to an emergency, there will always be residential areas affected. As for sirens, he said coming out on McKinley Avenue, the only buildings along that street are a car wash, the former Anglo American building and a small apartment building.

Plus, he added, if it's 2 a.m. and not a car in sight, ambulance drivers are not going to sound the sirens.

"We're stuck in the middle," he said. Residents don't want sirens, but the people who are waiting for the EMS want to hear the sirens coming.

Although there was some divided discussion on the topics, CDC chair Dave Aune said he plans to make a recommendation to the city council Tuesday night to approve the proposed plan as is.

Another plan that's up for approval as submitted is the DL Waterfront LLC project, which includes condominiums and commercials space at Washington Avenue and West Lake Drive.

As it stands, the project would require a variance to allow 58 percent impervious surface, whereas the city ordinance allows 35 percent on commercial buildings.

The planning commission had recommended the project should be brought down to 50 percent impervious surface.

The building will also be about twice the allowable height restrictions.

Louiseau said that if one were to look around Detroit Lake, The Lodge on Lake Detroit and Holiday Inn are both tall buildings, and while the Waterfront would be even taller, it is set back from the lake where those two are right up to the lakeshore. He said that with the beach and street between, the line of sight will be fine.

He added that developers have met with the Pelican River Watershed District and the Department of Natural Resources about the project to make sure water run-off would be treated properly.

Aune also said he would recommend the plan be approved as proposed to the Detroit Lakes City Council, which meets Tuesday at 5 p.m. in city hall.