Willmar City Council sets hearing for behavioral health hospital zoning change

WILLMAR -- The Willmar City Council voted Monday night to hold a public hearing on Dec. 4 to consider a zoning change that would allow construction of the proposed 16-bed behavioral health hospital.

WILLMAR -- The Willmar City Council voted Monday night to hold a public hearing on Dec. 4 to consider a zoning change that would allow construction of the proposed 16-bed behavioral health hospital.

The zoning change from medium density multiple family to limited business was recommended by the Planning Commission at its Nov. 8 meeting. The rezoning would affect two acres known as the former KindleHope site located east of Seventh Street Southeast and south of Willmar Avenue Southeast.

Last week, the governing board of the Kandiyohi County and the City of Willmar Economic Development Commission voted to buy the property from Jeff and Sue Danielson for $394,000.

The Danielson property was selected by the state from a list of 20 possible sites after potential sites at Swansson Field and Lions Park along Willmar Avenue Southwest were rejected due to public opposition, explained Steve Renquist, EDC director.

The EDC is financing the construction and will be the owner of the $3.4 million facility.


The EDC will sublease it to the state for the behavioral health hospital. The hospital will replace acute psychiatric beds that will be lost with the closing of the Willmar Regional Treatment Center.

The Planning Commission said the site would be a transition from more intense uses in the area and act as a buffer to the residential area. The commission said the properties to the west are commercial, to the south industrial and to the north and east residential.

The Planning Commission said it was not approving the use of the site or the building plan, but just the rezoning. The commission said it will review the site plan at a later date.

Early in the council meeting, when members approve and accept the minutes of various city commissions and boards, council member Jim Dokken asked to have the Planning Commission minutes pulled from the consent agenda.

Dokken said he did not support the Planning Commission's recommendation. He said the site selection process has been confusing and he asked about the selection criteria. He asked why Woodland Centers (a mental health services provider on Willmar Avenue Southeast) was now part of the "mix'' when it had not been before, and he asked why the property, which sold 18 months ago for $140,000, was now so valuable.

The council voted 7-1 with Dokken against to approve the commission's minutes.

Later in the meeting, the council approved with no dissenting votes a motion to call for a public hearing and to introduce an ordinance to change the zoning.

Before the vote, Renquist was asked to address Dokken's concerns.


Renquist said the state chose the Danielson property for a variety of reasons, but mainly for accessibility and its nearness to Woodland Centers.

He said the Danielsons had the right to price their property. The question about its value was not for him to say. But he said other property in the area is becoming more valuable due to business development.

"The state found its locational advantages to be sufficient to justify the cost,'' Renquist said.

In other business, the council voted to advertise for bids to construct and reconstruct streets, and for underground utility work, street lights, traffic signals and walking paths, in and near the Water View Business Park in southeast Willmar.

The council held a public hearing on the preliminary improvement report, which estimates the cost of the project at $3,125,000. Construction bids will be opened on Jan. 22, according to the construction schedule.

The cost will be split three ways: Assessments against benefited property owners will cover an estimated $1.7 million; the city's share will be an estimated $1.4 million; and the Municipal Utilities share will be $15,000.

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