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ResCare gets permit to build residential facility in West Midway

Posted on 05 June 2017 by Calvin

How should St. Paul’s remaining industrially-zoned land be used? The prospect of another social services facility in the West Midway, on an industrially zoned site, has raised questions for members of the St. Paul Planning Commission.

With a vote May 19, the commission approved a conditional use permit for ResCare Minnesota at 700 Transfer Rd. That decision, which was made on a split vote at the commission and at a May 11 Zoning Committee meeting, is final unless there is an appeal to the St. Paul City Council. No appeal had been filed as of Monitor deadline.

While the commission members disagreed on the zoning change, they did agree that they need to have a discussion of industrial land in the city. That likely will include the St. Paul Port Authority, which has a long history of redeveloping the city’s old industrial sites. Several years ago the port and the city’s Department of Planning and Economic Development led a comprehensive study of the West Midway and its industrial uses. One focus was the need to preserve industrial land, to create jobs and build the city’s property tax base.

700 Transfer Rd. is a two-story brick building near the former depot used for many years by buses such as Jefferson and Greyhound Lines and Amtrak. It’s near other commercial and industrial uses and the recently relocated Twin Cities Model Railroad Museum.

The property is zoned for I-2 industrial use and has been available for sale for about four years. It has had different office and light industrial uses in the past and was built in 1981. It has housed some different offices in recent years.

Some neighboring property owners have raised concerns about another social services agency with housing in the West Midway. The Transfer Rd. facility is not far from a so-called “wet housing” building built in South St. Anthony several years ago. That housing, for chronic inebriates, has helped get many previously homeless people off of the streets. But the facility is sometimes pointed to when there are break-ins and panhandling problems in the area.

ResCare, Inc., has its headquarters in Kentucky and operates in several states including Minnesota. It is a large diversified health and human services provider, with services including residential treatment, services to people with disability and home health care services.

ResCare Minnesota Executive Director Thomas Alf told the Planning Commission Zoning Committee that the building would become a congregate living residence for people in recovery from addiction. It will have 16 beds and around-the-clock staffing, with a total of 20 staff members. It would be licensed and overseen by Ramsey County and the state.

The facility is intended to help people transition from large residential treatment centers into the greater community. Residents will be closely supervised as part of the intensive residential treatment program and will learn skills to help them move on with their lives. No one who is a Level Three sex offender will be allowed in the program, and anyone who violates rules will be asked to leave.

Hamline Midway Coalition took no position on the request. One neighboring property owner-manager, Mark Rancone of Roseville Properties, said that while he doesn’t oppose the mission of ResCare Minnesota, he has other objections to the conditional use permit. Rancone said the conditional use permit goes against a citywide comprehensive plan recommendation to preserve industrial property in the area.

Planning Commission Zoning Committee members were split on the idea of a conditional use permit. Some agreed with Rancone and said the proposal is inconsistent with the comprehensive plan. “This is a vibrant area with a mix of uses and few vacancies,” said Commissioner Daniel Edgerton. He questioned whether it was suitable for a residential facility.

If the former Amtrak facility is ever put on the market, that site and 700 Transfer Rd. could be combined into a larger development parcel, Edgerton said. But his motion to deny the conditional use permit fell short.

Others said the permit and use are appropriate. Commissioner Anne deJoy said the building hadn’t housed an industrial use for many years. She would feel differently if there had been other buyers and other proposed uses for the property. Other commissioners said the permit doesn’t change the underlying zoning and that an industrial use could return to the property, on its own or as part of a larger site, in the future.