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Two Harbors Council OKs variances for Lake View Hospital expansion

The Two Harbors City Council has granted three variances for the Lake View Hospital and Medical Clinic $15 million expansion project.

The expansion, expected to break ground in early May, would provide a link between the existing hospital and clinic with a single entry point. The expansion would contain two floors, with 38,000 square feet total. The new link would allow for one main entry point for most outpatient services, a 2,000-square-foot public meeting center, an integrated lab and space for a specialty clinic and surgical services.

Due to a 7-foot height difference between the hospital and clinic, the project would break the city's building code, which limits structures to two stories and 30 feet in height, except residential care facilities, which have higher limits.

"Due to the grading of the site, connecting to the existing buildings and accommodating the clearance needed above operating rooms for mechanical space on the second level, the overall building height will be above the allowed maximum of 30 feet," city planner Justin Otsea said during the council meeting Monday, Feb. 11. "On top of the building, there will be screen walls to hide the mechanical air handling units. The west stair, front of the building, will extend above the roof height as well."

Otsea found that the three variances met the requirements for exemption. Any variance needs to be tested against findings of fact. The findings proved that the variances were acceptable as they were due to the unique circumstances of the property, did not alter the essential character of the neighborhood and were to be used in a reasonable manner.

The council accepted the planning commission's recommendation to approve the requested variances unanimously, with the exception of council President Robin Glaser. Glaser abstained from voting because she had participated in the project as an employee and was advised to not participate in any discussion or votes on the topic.

"I'm really excited for this project to move forward," Mayor Chris Swanson said. "It's an incredible opportunity for our community."

Teri Cadeau

Teri Cadeau is a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle. 

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