BAXTER — Nystrom & Associates plans to build along Isle Drive and grow its staff there.
Tuesday Brian Nystrom, president and CEO, asked the Baxter City Council to reconsider recommendations against allowing the business a full access on Isle Drive.
Instead the planning and zoning commission recommended a different access than submitted with the site plan. The commission recommended access be moved to the yet-to-be-constructed Falcon Drive. Currently the Louie Hoffmann home on the property, which will be the site for the Nystrom & Associates office building, has a driveway connection to Isle Drive.
“Our intention from day one was an Isle Drive access,” Nystrom said. “One of the reasons we bought it was because it had a driveway on Isle Drive.”
Nystrom said the name Isle Drive is also recognizable to people making it easy to customers where the office is located. He noted Cuyuna Regional Medical Center and the Essentia Health-Baxter Clinic have driveway connections to Isle Drive. The Brainerd Lakes Surgical Center is across the street. Nystrom said other medical providers have multiple access points off Isle Drive. Nystrom was concerned the planning commission was looking at his office in the same way it considered limiting access for a nearby dental office which encountered a turn lane. Nystrom said it wasn’t an accurate comparison.
The city requested a traffic study from WSB & Associates, which conducted the city’s previous transportation study for the Isle Drive and Elder Drive areas with the Costco project.
The city asked WSB to look at traffic patterns with a future intersection between Isle Drive and Falcon Drive, future traffic volumes along Isle Drive along with assumptions for future land uses there. In its report, WSB stated the driveway for the Nystrom site on Isle Drive would be about 120 feet from the intersection. Looking at a full access on Isle Drive, WSB reported allowing a left turn at the Nystrom site driveway access with its close proximity to the Falcon Drive intersection creates the potential for rear-end crashes as a driver of a vehicle entering the turn lane doesn’t realized another vehicle is turning into the driveway. The recommendation was to allow a full access on Falcon Drive and restricting it to a right-in and right-out on Isle Drive.
Average daily traffic volumes estimated by WSB included 8,000 vehicles on Isle Drive north of Falcon Drive, 9,500 vehicles on Isle Drive south of Falcon and 3,000 vehicles on Falcon Drive north of Isle.
Nystrom pointed to average daily traffic counts of 16,000 vehicles at one of his other clinics in cities with larger populations along with two others with higher daily counts. In those cases he said the clinics have full access and have never had a problem. He pointed to a 2012 traffic count on Isle Drive of 1,200 vehicles and questioned the math in projecting 9,500.
Nystrom said they are investing in the community because they believe in it and plan to create more jobs, but now would be forced to deviate from a plan and potentially cannibalize parking spaces or be forced to buy more land to the north.
“He makes a compelling argument,” said council member Jim Klein. “I think he should have the same access.”
Council member Todd Holman supported the findings of the planning and utilities commissions, noting the spacing from the driveway to the future intersection.
“I certainly respect the opinion of Mr. Nystrom but I think we’ve done diligence to consider the recommendations as they stand,” Holman said.
Holman said Isle Drive has grown over time and wasn’t originally expected to be part of a parallel corridor but it will be a collector road. “I’m conflicted right now myself,” Mayor Darrel Olson said, noting the area is becoming a medical mecca and there were maybe some mistakes with all the access points on the south side. But Olson said after the meeting, that wasn’t a reason to continue to make that mistake.
Council member Rob Moser said after reading the WSB report his gut feeling was the recommendation was the right thing to do.
The council approved the planning commission recommendations on a 4-1 vote with Klein opposed.
Nystrom asked for consideration in the address. The city does make address decisions and staff reported they would come back with information on that front.
Nystrom, who grew up in Brainerd and continues to have a home in Nisswa, went on to graduate from the University of Minnesota. Nystrom & Associates has 10 clinic sites with eight of those in Minnesota and two in Seattle, with 600 full-time employees. Currently, Nystrom & Associates employs 37 at its Baxter office. The majority are licensed mental health providers. With this project, Nystrom said the hope is to expand employment to 70 and potentially more. Nystrom & Associates has been in the Baxter since 1997 but reported out-growing its existing clinic site on Evergreen Drive near Baxter’s new water tower.
After the meeting, Nystrom said the plans are to go ahead with the project with construction in May or June.
Wednesday Nystrom said they respect the wisdom of the city council and planning commission “so we are fine with their position and vote.” Nystrom also praised the work of Baxter staff members.
Plans are to allow Habitat for Humanity to strip what they want from the residential home on the property. In addition, Nystrom plans to work with law enforcement to be able to utilize the home for a tactical team practice and with the fire department to burn the house.
Nystrom & Associates provides: outpatient mental health services; chemical dependency programs; psychological evaluations; adult and in-home family therapy and school-based mental health programs; behavior therapy; nutritional counseling; and mediation services for divorce, parenting and custody.