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Deephaven officials deny mental health nursing home's relocation

Star Tribune - 2/9/2020

The owner of a small and aging nursing home in Deephaven has withdrawn his application to build a modern facility less than 2 miles away after the Deephaven City Council declined last week to grant an exception to the area's single-family residential zoning.

Jeff Sprinkel, who runs the Lake Minnetonka Care Center, had asked the city for a planned unit development to allow the building of a new home to continue providing long-term nursing care for people with mental illness. He chose a 4-acre site on Vine Hill Road, not far off Hwy. 7, for a facility with 21 beds and 17,515 square feet on three floors.

The new facility would be designed to meet modern nursing home regulations, which the current nursing home does not do. Since 1958 it's been in a century-old house in a residential neighborhood a few blocks from Lake Minnetonka. Most residents share a room with one or two others; the two single rooms lack private bathrooms. Current state and federal regulations call for single rooms with private baths.

People living near the proposed location told the city's Planning Commission last month that the facility would disturb the residential neighborhood with noise, light and traffic from delivery trucks, ambulances and other vehicles. Concerns were expressed that the home would change the character of the neighborhood. One resident submitted a letter objecting to the development that was signed by more than 40 people.

About 50 residents crowded into the City Hall chambers for the council vote last week. In the end, however, the council didn't even discuss Sprinkel's proposal.

The city attorney advised council members that because the city's zoning didn't allow the home to go on the Vine Hill Road site, they would have to make it a planned unit development (PUD). And to do that they would first have to amend city code to allow a PUD outside the only two areas where the city permits them, the commercial districts at Chowen's Corner and along Hwy. 101.

The council was unwilling to authorize another PUD without a more thorough discussion. "I'm not in favor of any snap decisions here, and this would appear to me to be just that," said Mayor Paul Skrede.

"This would be a pretty sweeping change for the community that I'm not quite ready to swallow," said Council Member Tony Jewett.

Sprinkel withdrew his application. He said later that he's not sure what he'll do next and that he hasn't considered building in a neighboring community. "At this point it's all unclear," he said.

Skrede said in an interview that limiting rezoning to the nursing home's location would set a precedent, stirring worries among residents that other unwanted developments could spring up anywhere in the city. "It would put the whole city up for grabs, so to speak," he said.

Doug Nagle, a member of the Planning Commission, said in an interview that he believed some neighbors opposed the facility because its residents are mentally ill.

"People who were protesting this were characterizing these people as troublemakers," he said. "This facility has been here for 62 years. … Don't they have some right to find an amicable solution to this?"

Katy Read • 612-673-4583

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