Head and heart battle over senior housing


As the daughter of a parent with memory issues, reading the article about opposition to the addition of a resident at Gianna Homes in Minnetonka was heartbreaking ("Minnetonka care facility has neighbors saying 'enough'," Dec. 8). For our family, moving our mother from her home into an assisted-living facility was the hardest decision any of us has ever had to make. If explaining why a scrubs-clad aide is walking down the street is the most annoying part of someone's day, they should be grateful. As Gandhi so eloquently stated, you can judge a society by how it treats its weakest members. Hopefully as the Minnetonka City Council considers this petition, Gandhi's words will prevail.


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My husband and I moved our residential care home for elderly out of Minnetonka a year and a half ago after being hassled by a city official there. Our model of care and licensing are the same as those of Gianna Homes. We were told we needed to completely tear out the existing kitchen in our Minnetonka care home and put in a prohibitively expensive commercial kitchen or be "shut down."

We moved our elderly into a single-family home in the lovely Knollwood neighborhood of Hopkins. We were soon asked to join the Knollwood Neighborhood Association and were welcomed warmly by the homeowners. Gene Maxwell, the mayor of Hopkins, invited my husband and I to introduce ourselves and our new business at a City Council meeting, which we did. We have had several meetings with the city planner and the fire chief. Hopkins has plenty of codes and rules designed to protect the safety of the residents. However, we felt the codes and rules in Minnetonka were designed to drive us out of business rather than protect the safety of our residents.

Elderly people want to live in homes in residential neighborhoods. They like living on a quiet street, being able to help prepare meals in a homey kitchen, and sitting around a dining-room table in a family environment. Please open your hearts and neighborhoods to our elders.


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The data indicate a puzzling agenda for care of Alzheimer's patients in Minnetonka. Currently, the not-for-profit facility owned by Anne Marie Hansen is home to 10 residents and needs an additional resident at $6,500 to $9,000 a month to help finance a $175,000 commercial kitchen required under Minnetonka city code for facilities with more than four residents. At the same time, the 10 current patients are supported by three aides, a program director and full-time nurse. Inexplicably, the community development director indicates that Minnetonka will refuse approval for an additional resident because "it goes beyond what the city wants to see there, and Hansen can do business without it." While the city has the support of neighbors who, not perhaps unreasonably, suggest that the line has to be drawn somewhere, arbitrary assumptions about Hansen's business model and a penalizing focus on kitchen code compliance appear to have overlooked the very real care requirements of the residents themselves and suggest an alternate agenda.


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The situation surrounding the future of Gianna Homes must be considered holistically. While attending the Minnetonka Planning Commission hearing last month, I was introduced to the commission's logical (almost scientific) lens of evaluation. This very specific perspective is important, but fails to recognize the most significant humanitarian aspects of the issue. Gianna is a home for real people. These elderly residents have dedicated their lives to bettering the community through business and volunteering and by raising wonderful families. Now they are in the final chapters of their lives, and it is up to us to ensure that they can be cared for with dignity and grace. Gianna Homes recognizes this unfortunate necessity and has passionately opened its doors to spouses, parents and grandparents. At the very least, this love, charity and compassion must to play a part in the City Council's ultimate decision. The numbers-driven perspective remains relevant; however, the dignity of our community's sick and elderly must be considered to be primary.


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Talk of tax hardship isn't quite persuasive


In the midst of the local and national discussion regarding taxes on the wealthy, I thought I'd offer a firsthand experience of "wealth." I'm self-employed, and one year in which I made about $120,000, I was able to: buy a $400,000 house with a $50,000 down payment, purchase a car, cofinance an independent film, buy a grand piano, and have enough left over to write a five-figure check to pay my taxes.

Now, let's say we double that income to $240,000. We still fall short of the amount necessary to qualify as a "wealthy" taxpayer. Is this for real? Do people have any clue how much money $250,000 is, let alone for those who make well beyond that? And we believe they can't afford to pay more taxes as a civic responsibility?


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She wants ideas and dreams within reason


In the past, I looked forward to opening the Homes section of the Sunday newspaper to dream and get ideas for things I might be able to use in my own home. In fact, I kept a file full of photos from the paper. I'd smile and enjoy the beautiful renovations or unique furniture featured. Now, opening this section makes me sick. I am usually not a bitter person, but I can only wonder how anyone can afford this stuff. Really, why doesn't the Star Tribune show us, the majority of readers, some common-sense, affordable ideas? Otherwise, this is the first section to go unread into my recycling bin.