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Site Plan Approved For Lutheran Green House Project

The Jamestown Planning Commission has approved the site plan for four, 12-bedroom complexes to be constructed at Lutheran. P-J photo by Dennis Phillips

The site plan for four, 12-bedroom complexes to be constructed at Lutheran Jamestown has been approved by city officials.

The city Planning Commission last week approved the site plan and issued a negative declaration for the State Environmental Quality Review Act for the project.

Tom Holt, Lutheran president and CEO, said Lutheran started meeting with city officials about the project in October 2019. He said after that the project was slowed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During an October 2020 meeting of the commission, Lutheran first introduced the Green House project to the members during an informational session. Holt said, at the time, Lutheran officials were asked to find out what neighboring residents thought about the new project. He said Lutheran officials contacted neighbors through the mail and email offering a time to talk with Holt over the phone about the project. He added that no one contacted Lutheran officials about the one-on-one meeting possibility.

Jason Beckwith, Lutheran CFO, said in October 2020 that the name Green Houses comes from the name of the company that designs the senior living facilities. He said Lutheran received a $5.9 million state grant for the project, with an additional $1.5 million from foundations. Lutheran is expected to invest more than $15 million in the estimated $22 million project. He added that each house would be 8,000 square feet, with shared space like a kitchen, dining room and living room. With the additional 48 beds in the new proposed facilities, the main facility on the Lutheran campus would be reduced to 100 beds.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Lutheran officials said they will use their existing footprint of their campus for the project and will not be acquiring any additional properties. They said some demolition work has already been done with more to be done in the future to make way for the new facilities.

In other business, the commission continued discussing the possibility of a Local Preservation Ordinance. Ellen Shadle, city principal planner, presented a new draft of the document for the members to review.

Some of the members showed hesitation in approving a Local Preservation Ordinance. Michael Laurin, commission member, said the new law would add more oversight for homeowners when it comes to maintenance, with the city already having laws and codes to enforce proper preservation.

Jeff Lehman, city public works director, said in theory he believes a Local Preservation Ordinance is a good idea. However, after reading the draft document, he is now concerned about the additional oversight for homeowners who might be facing additional restrictions when trying to maintain their property.

“This isn’t something to rush into,” he said. “The devil is in the details.”

Both Laurin and Lehman said they don’t believe the ordinance would save houses from being demolished, which is main goal of the ordinance, according to Shadle.

Lehman said the city’s housing issues isn’t about people purchasing good homes and demolishing them when it’s not necessary. He said the city’s main housing issue is vacant houses that develop water leaks, which deteriorates the inside of the home. He added that this leads to the property being demolished because its too expensive to renovate.

Jeff Nelson, commission member, suggested that the commission have a special meeting to just focus on the ordinance. Lehman said building and housing inspectors should be invited to the meeting so they can provide necessary input into what should be included in the ordinance. The time and date of the special meeting wasn’t set during the meeting and will be announced at a future date.

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