The West St. Paul City Council unanimously approved the rezoning and other measures for a new mental health center Monday night, despite some neighbors' concerns that living near the facility would prove dangerous because of the clientele.

The council also approved adding four new conditions to the permit, including requiring exterior security cameras at the facility and information about the center's admission and transportation policies to ensure that the center is complying with state law.

The crisis and recovery center will be owned by Dakota County and run by Guild, a nonprofit mental health service provider.

Officials plan to build the 16-bed, 16,000-square-foot facility along Livingston Avenue, northeast of the county's Northern Service Center. Officials said they aren't certain yet how much the facility will cost, but the previous estimate was $7.6 million.

A group of city residents created a website,, sharing their reservations about the proposal. Group members don't think the proposed site "balances the safety concerns of the community with the interests of Guild clients," their website said, and believe it "would dramatically reduce security and safety in our community."

Half a dozen residents spoke against the facility Monday night. Resident John Hansen said he doesn't oppose it generally, but he doesn't like the proposed location.

"The burden of my children's safety is on me, period," he said. "I have valid safety concerns."

Resident Mark Drake said that though he's been told repeatedly that Guild clients are not dangerous, he made a public records request for 911 calls and other documents related to the South St. Paul Guild location and found that multiple clients had had warrants out for their arrest or were later found to be dangerous enough to warrant civil commitment.

But a majority of people — nearly two dozen — spoke in favor of the center.

Council Member Lisa Eng-Sarne said she had received 33 emails in favor and three against it.

Resident Joan Hutter noted that people with mental health issues and criminal records already visit the county's Northern Service Center to receive help and attend court dates.

Gabriela Walz said she represented the voice of a teenager in the community.

"Treatment is important, and I'm proud to say that [this facility] could be in my backyard," she said.

Amanda Davis, a resident and nurse, said mental health was already under-resourced.

"There's a huge need for this kind of service," she said. "Mental health struggles are not moral failures."

The center would offer assessments and several other services on a walk-in basis, along with stays of up to 10 days for people having a mental health crisis and stays of up to 90 days for those needing longer-term stabilization.

It would replace Guild South's current residential facilities in South St. Paul — three aging Victorian houses that aren't accessible to people with disabilities.

Guild and county officials have said it's important that the center be located in a residential area and that people have access to such a place within their own county to reduce the distance that they must drive to receive services.

The building will be secure but not locked, officials said, and clients will come voluntarily, not because they are court-ordered.

The project's schematic design must still be approved by the Dakota County Board in January.

The center must open by the end of 2024 to make use of available state funding.