Wakota Life Care Center proposed plans

Wakota Life: “Women Have Infiltrated West St. Paul Government”

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The proposed expansion of the Wakota Life Care Center on Robert Street was denied unanimously by the Planning Commission this week. It comes before the City Council on Monday and it might get heated.

City staff is recommending approval of Wakota Life Care Center’s site plan and preliminary plat (because they meet code) but denial of a conditional use permit (CUP) for a medical facility (because they’re not “principally engaged” in a medical use). 

The result would still allow Wakota Life to move forward with their expansion, but if they ever shift to 50% medical services (currently they say they’re at 13%), they would need to apply for that CUP.

Wakota’s Response

Wakota Life Care Center is asking for the CUP now, and their reasoning will raise some eyebrows:

“Due to the discovery that the group of women that protested at the Planning Commission meeting on January 21, 2020 could so effectively sway a 6-0 unanimous vote against our project that has city staff recommendation of approval, we would like to keep the CUP application up for a decision of the City Council on January 27, 2020. It is our understanding that this group of women have infiltrated the West St. Paul government bodies and we have no interest in coming back to face a biased governing body to seek a CUP in the future.”

Memo from Wakota’s executive director, Dan Saad, as seen on page 19 of agenda attachments

Women That Protested

The “group of women that protested” were about a half dozen speakers during the public hearing at the Planning Commission. Their complaints included whether or not the proposed building followed city planning documents, whether it qualified as a medical office, and concerns over potentially misleading or inaccurate claims by Wakota Life Care Center (see our recap).

Women have become increasingly involved in West St. Paul after a 2018 sexism scandal that drew national headlines. The group Women of West St. Paul (WOW) formed as a result. The group has not taken a public stance on this issue, though some WOW members did speak at the Planning Commission public hearing—but none claimed to be representing WOW.

The West St. Paul Planning Commission is currently comprised of four women and three men, the first time the body has ever been majority female (though one woman was absent at Monday’s meeting). The appointment of three of those four women by former Mayor Jenny Halverson set off the 2018 sexism scandal. The fourth woman was appointed last month by Mayor Dave Napier, who has been supportive of the Wakota Life Care Center expansion.

What’s Next

City Council will decide the issue on Monday. While Planning Commission did vote unanimously to deny the plans, their action is a recommendation and Council is free to do what they want.

One of the challenges is that if the proposed project meets code (and it seems to), then denying it without a valid legal reason could risk a lawsuit.

Update (Jan. 31): City Council approved the proposed expansion, but not without some drama.

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  1. Sad to see how there is pushback from the planning committee and protesters at this wonderful West St Paul crisis pregnancy center where I have been performing ultrasounds and training nurses who do prenatal care there. I have seen first hand their need for expansion after giving volunteer medical care for over 18 years at the MN LIfecare Centers.

  2. It is quite frustrating to see that there is such a low support of women from a collective group of women on the planning committee. I’ve been to the Wakota Life Center and noticed a great deal that they were there to serve the women of the community, and provide a variety of assistance for a women’s choice and health. I can only hope that ALL will see that Wakota Life Center is there for the betterment of the community and the women and men it serves.

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