Blaine council shoots down senior housing proposal

The Blaine City Council shot down a proposal from a developer to construct a four-story, 144-unit senior living facility in Town Square Park because it does not mesh with the vision the council had when the city sold the land almost 10 years ago.

The city sold 14.75 acres to Sherman Associates, Inc. for $1.2 million in October 2003. Sherman was to develop an 87-unit senior apartment, 68 townhome units in six buildings and commercial properties.

Community Development Director Bryan Schafer said Sherman built the 87-unit senior building, one 12-unit condo building and two commercial buildings within two years.

Sherman Associates brought a new senior housing proposal to the council at a Jan. 10 workshop.

Of the 144 proposed units in the building, 87 would have been independent living and assisted living. Residents who can be on their own and those who need some assistance would be together rather than segregated into different areas of the building.

The facility would have included 39 memory care units and 18 memory care suites.

There would have been a private dining room and chef’s exhibition kitchen where people could watch their meals be prepared, an arts and crafts room, a wellness, therapy and fitness center, a spa, a salon, a barber shop, a movie room, a card room, a computer lounge, a health services office and a market space. The memory care unit residents would have their own outdoor garden and interactive kitchen. The five to six residents in the memory care suites would have 24/7 access to a caregiver specifically dedicated to them.

Underneath the building would have been 108 parking stalls in a heated underground garage.

Councilmember Kathy Kolb does not disagree with Sherman Associates that there is a need for this project. She just does not think Blaine Town Square is the best location, Kolb said.

The size of the building was a concern to the council as was the fact that Sherman’s previous plans for the vacant land included more multi-family housing.

“When we sold the land to the Sherman companies, we had a concept, we talked about a concept, they sold us on a concept and this doesn’t fit that concept at all,” Councilmember Dick Swanson said about the senior housing facility.

He said he had no issue with the design, but with the Sherman companies.

“What we thought we bought by selling the land at the price we sold the land is not what we’ve gotten, nor what we’ll get with this,” Swanson said.

Swanson said this is his opinion as one person to which Councilmember Wes Hovland chipped in, “You’re not alone Mr. Swanson.”

Councilmember Dave Clark said, “You’re nicer than me.”

Sherman Associates Sales and Marketing Manager Brad Goering said he was part of this development process when it came to the council 10 years ago. The commercial pads development took off and the housing languished. He said the housing market when it opened that project went into the bubble.

“From the research I’ve done, there currently isn’t a market to do additional townhomes,” Goering said. “We realized there is a great need for this type of (senior housing) product. We’re truly in the infancy of this, but I think that this is an ideal use.”

Kolb said the city was sold on the Blaine Town Square concept of businesses with housing on top and a charming city center. She said the first townhome building that came in is beautiful and she thinks the residents who moved into that building believed the town square vision would be followed through with.

Kolb and Swanson said the current senior apartment obscures vision of city hall.

It also obscures vision of the park and wondered what would happen with future public space planned for, she said.

“I understand that this land is becoming an albatross around your neck… but we have a lot of young couples that want this to be our city center,” Kolb said. “They talk about places to go for coffee and to bike to and things like that, and it just doesn’t fit this location.”

Councilmember Mike Bourke asked what the property zoning was.

Schafer said the site is zoned development flex and is guided by the comprehensive plan as high-density residential. Therefore, the property could have townhomes, market-rate apartments, workforce housing, senior housing and assisted living, for example.

Schafer said Sherman Associates’ proposal could be accommodated by the development flex zoning, but the council has a lot of leeway in deciding what it wants on the site because this type of zoning does not outright permit anything.

Sherman Associates has to demonstrate to the council that this development would be the best fit for this property, he said.

Hovland said they were already looking at a small townhome association even at full build-out with 68 units planned in the six buildings.

Swanson said if Sherman Associates would have presented a 12-unit association at the beginning, the council would have denied the plan because a small association like this is not sustainable.

Hovland said it is not fair to the owners who bought into the condo expecting that more buildings would be added to their association.

Mayor Tom Ryan said the city had its own design for Blaine Town Square, but decided it would let a private company build it. He said the city would have never put this building up under its concept plan.

“For us to answer to our citizens that live here and say, ‘that’s what we’re building,’ it won’t go,” Ryan said.

Residents from the 12-unit condo building were at the Jan. 10 workshop.

Dan Carroll said he has not got feedback from all the other owners, but the ones he has heard from are elated by the council’s decision to not allow Sherman Associates to build the senior housing facility.

The residents of the condo building took over management from Sherman Associates and there have been struggles, he said.

According to Carroll, they are now each paying $285 per month in association dues and three units have gone in foreclosure. All but one of the 12 units is occupied, Carroll said.

Sherman Associates representatives were not available for comment.

Eric Hagen is at eric.hagen@ecm-inc.com

  • Blainecitizens4smartgrowth

    “For us to answer to our citizens that live here and say, ‘that’s what we’re building,’ it won’t go,” Ryan said.

    We wonder if Mayor Ryan will say the same about the Ball Road property that he seems bent on allowing a Super Walmart to be built at the expense of the citizens property values and safety and who are strongly in opposition? He seems to care about what citizens think over in the Radisson Road area but not so much for our neighborhoods south of 109th and east of I35W.

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