Clifton House, a nonprofit Christian Science nursing organization that has been without a home for the past six years, looks to have finally found one in New Brighton.
The city has approved the nonprofit's preliminary plan to build a small, six-bed facility next to the First Church of Christ, Scientist, at 1190 Long Lake Road.
Approval of the final plan is expected within the next couple of months.
The church donated the land to Clifton House. When built, the facility will be the only one of its kind in the Upper Midwest, said Sharon Hansen, president of Clifton House's board of trustees.
It's "helping us to fulfill our mission because we will once again be able to provide Christian Science nursing on 24-7 basis," she said.
When the facility is built, Hansen said, it will be the smallest licensed nursing home in the state, "a little jewel" that will complement the nearby church that was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright associate John Howe.
Clifton House was founded in 1922 and was based in Minneapolis from the 1970s through 2002, when it sold its headquarters and received the land donation.
But since then, the organization's staff of three paid nurses has visited members' homes to administer the faith's form of nursing care, which doesn't include medications but covers personal and bedside care, cleaning and dressing wounds, and spiritual support.
But the plan for the new nursing home has been controversial. Some residents oppose it because the area is zoned only for residential development. Churches and affiliated organizations, however, are permitted.
A few neighbors spoke out against the proposed nursing home at a Feb. 26 meeting where the city approved the preliminary plan. Among those residents' concerns: Fear of falling property values and worries about what would happen to the nursing home were Clifton House to sell it in the future.
None of those people would comment for this report. Several other neighbors contacted either were unaware of the new nursing home, or oppose the plan but refused to comment publicly.
City Council Member Sharon Doffing was the only vote opposing the preliminary plan, which passed 3-1 at the February meeting. Doffing did not return phone calls or an e-mail seeking comment.
Hansen said she sent out 100 invitations to neighbors to attend a February open house and six people showed up.
There is "anxiety" among some neighbors who oppose any development there, she said, but she doesn't think the opposition is coming from a bias against her faith.
"We don't want to have trouble in the neighborhood. We want to be good neighbors," she said.
Council Member Gina Bauman, who voted to approve the preliminary plan, said she has sensed some bias. For example, she said, nobody seems to have a problem with schools that are affiliated with other area churches. But one man who attended the Feb. 26 meeting raised issues about the type of care provided by Clifton House -- an issue that was irrelevant to the city's land-use discussion.
"It shouldn't be about their religion," Bauman said. "I have a feeling [the opposition] was much more geared toward the faith than the purpose" of the new facility.
That new facility is a smaller version of a plan that Clifton House first brought to the city in 2005, and which also was approved. The new building will be one story and is roughly 10,000 square feet -- about 2,000 feet smaller than the original plan.
The Christian Science church does not disclose membership numbers, said Allison Doty, a spokeswoman from the church's national administrative organization in Boston.
There are 13 churches in Minnesota and the six-bed facility is adequate to serve that membership, Hansen said.
New Brighton planner Janice Gundlach said Clifton House now must submit a plan for final review by late May to the city's planning commission and the City Council.
Construction is planned as soon as possible after final approval is secured, Hansen said. "We're grateful to the city of New Brighton and the church for offering us the beautiful land," she said.
Eric M. Hanson • 612-673-7517