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Medical clinic, roundabout plans intersect in Deerwood

Essentia Health wants to build a Deerwood clinic near where MnDOT has plans for a roundabout.

Winter shot of the intersection of Highways 210 and 6 in Deerwood.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation plans to construct a roundabout at the intersection of highways 210 and 6 in Deerwood in 2027, while Essentia Health hopes to build a clinic nearby.
Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

DEERWOOD — A new medical facility and a roundabout are planned for roughly the same location in Deerwood, but project managers believe both projects can co-exist.

Deerwood’s Planning Commission approved both a conditional use permit and a variance Wednesday, Feb. 2, for an Essentia Health medical clinic with a drive-thru pharmacy and staging pad for a mobile imaging unit at 24066 State Highway 210, where the Thoroughbred Carpets building sits at the road’s intersection with Highway 6.

That intersection is also the spot where the Minnesota Department of Transportation plans to construct a roundabout in 2027, with interest in the same two parcels of land Essentia Health wants for the clinic.

Representatives from both Essentia Health and MnDOT met virtually earlier Wednesday, along with Amanda Peterson, community development administrator at Sourcewell who works with the city and told the Planning Commission there was talk about possible plan modifications for both proposals to work but no final solutions reached.

Essentia Health is in negotiations with property owners Michael and Jennifer Heise to purchase the property. The current plans for the clinic include entry to the facility from Highway 210, which is something MnDOT officials have said they will not allow. While access would also be possible at the back of the clinic off Cuyuna Street, Jon Neubauer, project manager with Essentia Health, said an entrance on Highway 210 would work better from an operational standpoint and would help keep traffic out of the nearby residential area. But if both groups cannot come to an agreement to allow that front access, Neubauer said plans can be altered.

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Before voting on the conditional use permit or variance Wednesday night, commissioner Jeremy Millsop asked Neubauer how open Essentia Health is to modifying its proposal.

“The city of Deerwood wants you here, but we obviously want a roundabout, too, just for safety,” Millsop said.

Neubauer said he knows parts of the plans will likely change as a result of conversations that took place after the proposal was submitted and ongoing discussions with MnDOT.

“We really want to work with MnDOT to come up with a solution that works for both because it’s our understanding that you definitely want the roundabout to ease the traffic situation at the intersection, and you want the clinic as well, too,” Neubauer said. “So, how best can we make that work for both of us?”

With a little give and take on both ends, Jake Huebsch, another member of Sourcewell’s community development team, said he believes both projects can work together, allowing MnDOT to make necessary safety upgrades and Essentia Health to bring a positive economic impact to the city.

Permit and variance

Planning Commission members unanimously approved both the conditional use permit for the clinic and a variance to allow for different setback parameters than city code allows.

Stipulations recommended by Sourcewell officials for the conditional use permit include submitted lighting, landscaping and stormwater management plans; minimum parking requirements; structures that comply with the city’s land use ordinance; and appropriate access permits from MnDOT.

The variance allows for an 8-foot setback from Cuyuna Street for the clinic, where 20 feet is typically required, and a 14-foot setback from Highway 210, where 50 feet is typically required. If the site plan is modified, Essentia Health will have to request a new variance from the city.

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Neubauer said he hopes to break ground by June and open the clinic in spring 2023.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa.

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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