After a crowded meeting of the Osceola planning commission on Monday evening, the panel voted to table proposed changes to its zoning to enable development on the river bluff. But the temporary hold could be brief, with the commission scheduled to meet again on Tuesday, March 7.
Several changes to the village’s zoning have been put forth to pave the way for a 95-unit, three-story building at the community’s former hospital site. Perched over the St. Croix River valley, the abandoned and blighted site represents a major redevelopment opportunity, but opponents say the ordinance changes are irresponsible, and designs for the development prioritize size over suitability.
“We’ve thought through this,” Dan Hebert, Gaughan’s senior vice president of commercial accounts, told the Pioneer Press. “We don’t want a beacon on the river.”
But advocates say it’s not enough. The development would be designed to be “visually inconspicuous” from the river during the summer months, an ambiguous term that still doesn’t consider the long leafless season.
“To boast that they have chosen earth-tone colors and limited outside lighting is of little consequence compared to the plan to maximize the developable space and push the structure to a size where it will have an adverse effect on the view from the Riverway,” wrote Deb Ryun, executive director of Wild Rivers Conservancy, in comments to the commission.
The proposed zoning changes would address conditions for buildings over 35 feet tall, and allow first-floor residential development in the city’s historic business district. The Star Tribune reported the changes were intended to accommodate the latest proposed development at the site.
Forest Lake developer Gaughan Cos. has owned the site since last year and is expected to soon seek approval for tearing down the old hospital and building the new apartments. Previous designs shared with the village show a large, boxy building as close to the edge of the bluff as possible.
“The proposed project drawings are cookie-cutter drawings for apartments popping up everywhere in cities, with little regard to Osceola’s historic and small town character,” wrote Ryun.
Other residents have pointed out that the site is also a known burial ground for both indigenous people and early European settlers to the area. The building would be visible from the National Park Service’s Osceola Landing, a busy St. Croix access point and picnic area located across the river.
The planning commission will consider the proposed changes again on Tuesday, March 7, 2023 at 7 p.m. at the Osceola Village Hall.
Young John says
Sounds so Typical destroying everything in their path in the name of progress.
What did the hospital look like and how long was it there?
Kim Chisholm says
The hospital is still there, currently an empty and boarded up building. One level.
I couldn’t remodel my house because of the river rules so why should they be able to break the same rules?