While acknowledging some remaining concerns, a Highwood Drive neighborhood representative said residents there think the latest Minnetonka Medical Center plan is a “reasonable solution.”
The City Council on Monday signed off on a North Memorial medical facility between Highwood Drive and Highway 7 that has been scaled back since it last went before the council on June 3.
Residents were worried about what the project would mean for their homes. But the building is now about 4,000 square feet smaller and farther back from Highwood Drive. It has about 61 fewer parking spaces. It also has more berms and preserves more trees in order to screen Highwood Drive neighbors from the activity.
Molly Ekstrand, who spoke on behalf of Highwood Drive residents, echoed those sentiments: “It’s finally nice to be able to take a deep breath and feel some little confidence about a plan moving forward,” she said. “We believe we did find a reasonable solution, and that’s what we came here asking the council to allow us to do.”
Still, Ekstrand urged the council to be proactive in addressing the remaining worries. Vehicles were chief among those concerns, and a handful of residents stood up to emphasize that the center will exacerbate traffic issues.
“It is going to change dramatically with the building of this building,” said Duke Drive resident Richard Pollick.
Ken Ross, whose wife co-owns Sakada Studios, also objected to the two-phase development plan—which he accused The Davis Group of doing to draw out the process and avoid paying for early lease terminations.
But council members decided that it wasn’t their place to intervene.
“I personally don’t want to get in the middle of business leases,” said Councilman Tony Wagner. “I just don’t think it’s part of this council’s privy to do that. We’re here for land use at this point. We’re not a party to development. We’re not offering incentives. And so I don’t think we should get in the middle of that.”
The council approved the plan on a 5-1 vote, with Councilman James Hiller voting against the proposal.
Overall, though, the council praised the neighbors and developer for getting together and reaching an agreement that preserves the character of the neighborhood while recognizing that development will take place in the area.