The Minnesota Court of Appeals has overturned a lower-court ruling that would have forced Bloomington to allow expansion of a senior-living facility even though nearby residents say it would bring unwanted traffic and noise to their neighborhood.
In a ruling released Monday, the appeals court said that the city was on firm ground in December 2011 when it rejected the expansion plans of a senior campus that includes Martin Luther Manor and Meadow Woods Assisted Living.
Bloomington City Attorney Sandra Johnson said the city was “extremely pleased” that the court affirmed cities’ authority to deny conditional use permits “where there is sufficient evidence that the proposed use or expansion will be injurious to the neighborhood.
“It is also important that the court confirmed that … city councils can give weight to the testimony and photographs provided by the people most impacted,” she said.
Attorney Tamara O’Neill Moreland, representing the owners of the senior-living facility, said in an e-mail that she will petition for an appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court.
The senior-living campus sits on the Minnesota River bluffs in a quiet residential neighborhood about six blocks from Old Shakopee Road. It has run a skilled nursing facility in that location for more than 50 years.
In 2008, neighbors objected when the campus proposed a major renovation, saying they feared it would lead to a proposed addition on the campus, which already had 137 nursing home beds. The city approved the renovation, but in 2011 the facility owners came back and asked to add a 67-unit catered living facility for seniors.
By a 4-3 vote, the City Council said no.
At hearings, residents told the council that the Martin Luther campus was getting too big for the neighborhood. They protested that increased traffic on residential streets would be disruptive, and they worried that noise from emergency vehicles and delivery trucks would increase.
The city also argued that the campus addition was inconsistent with its comprehensive plan and that overturning the City Council’s denial of the project would hamper Bloomington’s ability to control development in the best way for the city.
The lower court had ruled that the city’s decision was not supported by facts. But the appeals court agreed with Bloomington that expansion of the Martin Luther campus would conflict with parts of the city’s comprehensive plan. The court also said residents’ testimony was concrete and specific enough to give the city grounds to determine that the development was incompatible with the neighborhood.
“We conclude that the city had both a legally and factually sufficient basis for denying [the] application based on concerns for the health and welfare of the surrounding neighborhood,” the decision said.