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Council creates medical district

It's a move Woodbury city planners believe will help keep Woodwinds Health Campus in good company.

The Woodbury City Council voted 5-0 at its May 14 meeting to officially rezone the area as a medical campus district. The rezoning means any future development in the area northwest of Lake Road and I-494 will have to fit the criteria.

The process to rezone the area from a "places to work" commercial district to a more specific definition began in 2006 when developer Commercial Equity Partners proposed to build a senior housing complex near Woodwinds Health Campus.

Before the group officially submitted a proposal, the city council enacted a development moratorium in the area around Woodwinds Hospital to study it for future use.

The city commissioned the McCombs Group to perform a study on the area to see if it was best suited for a medical campus district, which narrows the type of developments that could be allowed in the area.

In July 2007, the council accepted the findings of the McCombs Group study which stated that the demand for development medical services in the city was continuing to grow and it was in the city's best interest to zone an area specific to that demand, with Woodwinds Hospital serving as an anchor.

The decision occurred around the same time that Commercial Equity Partners pulled the plug on its senior housing proposal. The city then heard interest from Prairie St. John, a Fargo-based psychiatric hospital that has a clinic in Woodbury.

Since then, Prairie St. John has submitted proposal to develop a mental health facility with 66 inpatient beds for youth and adolescents. The proposal needed to get approval from the Legislature before it be constructed, but city officials have expressed their public support for the facility.

The Woodbury Planning Commission recommended approval of the proposal to create the district earlier this month. The city's economic development commission also expressed support for creation of the district.

Woodbury community development director Dwight Picha said current office and commercial buildings within the district will be grandfathered into the district and be considered permitted use.

The rezoning does include the Valley Creek Mall, which had previously been zoned as "places to shop," but will be rezoned as "places to work" via the comprehensive plan update that is expected to be officially approved later this year.