BAXTER -- A zoning change has cleared the way for a 16-bed, state-run psychiatric hospital to be built on Clearwater Road in Baxter.
The Baxter City Council Tuesday unanimously amended its zoning ordinance to allow hospitals, sanitariums, rest and nursing homes in property zoned office space. Previously such uses were only allowed in high-density residential areas.
Built by a private developer, the psychiatric hospital on Clearwater Road would be in an office space zone a few blocks west of Highway 371. However, the developer must first apply for and be granted a conditional use permit to build the hospital.
Glenn Anderson, with State Operated Services at the Minnesota Department of Human Services, said the psychiatric hospital will be one of 10 across the state that will be used as the older, larger regional service centers such as Brainerd Regional Human Services Center and Ah-Gwah-Ching in Walker are eliminated. Other such hospitals will be built in Bemidji, Wadena, Alexandria, St. Cloud and Fergus Falls.
Anderson said there will be 30 full-time staffers at the hospital and patients will stay an average of 20 to 30 days at the facility. He also noted it will be a locked hospital and patients will only be allowed outside in a fenced-in area.
"The people served in this facility will not be dangerous people," Anderson told the council. "Anybody who has anything to do with criminal behavior ... will not be in this facility."
Council member Rosemary Franzen objected to the location because it was in a residential neighborhood. She said she's received several calls about the hospital from concerned residents.
"We need to find a spot for it but it's not here," Franzen said.
City Attorney Brad Person said the council doesn't get to pick where the hospital should go because with a conditional use permit it can be located anywhere zoning allows.
"The same people that are going to be in this facility are already in group homes all over Baxter and have been here for years," Person said.
The next step for the psychiatric hospital will be obtaining a conditional use permit. The issue will be heard in front of the Planning and Zoning Commission by Oct. 4 at the earliest, said City Planner Greg Wagner.
MATT ERICKSON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5857.
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