Plans to expand the Regency Hospital campus in Golden Valley are paused amid neighbors' concerns about increased traffic along the only road that connects to the hospital.
The proposal, which would add 29,000 square feet to the 83,700-square-foot facility and drive-up traffic an estimated 42%, is subject to city approval. After a more than three-hour planning commission meeting Jan. 25, the decision to recommend approval of Regency's plan was tabled to allow more time to discuss neighbors' concerns. Jason Zimmerman, Golden Valley's planning manager, said the commission will again discuss the proposal Feb. 8.
Regency's roughly 9-acre hospital campus is part of Golden Valley's Hidden Lakes development, which includes 152 homes, the main parking lot for Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute and a public boat launch to Sweeney Lake.
Zimmerman said the city received about 30 e-mails and letters on the project, and all but one were opposed.
Ten residents voiced objections at the January planning commission meeting, citing concerns about litter, the lack of a buffer between the hospital parking lot and adjacent homes and how construction would affect their quality of life. One resident went so far as to say this project would be "the beginning of the end of our neighborhood."
Neighbors' concerns mainly stem from traffic on Hidden Lakes Parkway, which because of surrounding lakes and Theodore Wirth Regional Park to the south, is the only route to the hospital. The roadway is already problematic, according to residents, because of speeding and vehicles failing to stop at marked signs and crosswalks.
Residents are also concerned about "a prevalence of litter," such as discarded personal protective equipment (PPE) near the hospital parking lot, according to city documents detailing the proposal.
A traffic study estimates the expansion would mean 822 trips a day, up from 578. Zimmerman said traffic isn't comparable to a typical hospital, as Regency is for acute long-term care, so the traffic study compares it to nursing home traffic.
Zimmerman said the city has had a number of conversations with the hospital, Hidden Lakes Homeowners Association and police regarding traffic concerns. Because the parkway is privately owned, Zimmerman said, the city cannot enforce its 20 mph speed limit. Golden Valley is considering lowering the local citywide speed limit from 30 mph, though, which would make enforcement possible.
Jeff Eisenberg, president of the Hidden Lakes Homeowners Association, said at the Jan. 25 meeting that although the hospital expansion plans have been in the works for four years, Regency reached out to the association only about seven weeks ago.
He said the initial meeting "did not go well," though some progress has been made since. Concerns about lighting and landscaping are "shaping up," but the roadway is "probably right now the single biggest issue in our neighborhood," he said.
Eisenberg said the roadway issues — including possible changes to an existing agreement that splits road maintenance costs between the homeowners association and the hospital — need to be addressed before the proposal moves ahead.
"It's been a compressed time frame for a project of this magnitude," he told the planning commission.
Kim Hyatt • 612-673-4751