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Big changes proposed for Somerset

The Village of Somerset Planning Commission heard a couple of building proposals at its Thursday, Sept. 2, meeting.

Greg Johnson of Select Senior Living in Lake Elmo, Minn. spoke about building a senior housing center on the two-acre parcel near Kohler and Sunrise drives.

He said as a builder and developer, the housing market has been slow. He branched out a couple years ago into the senior housing market.

Since then, he's built a 90-unit assisted living center in Minnesota and is just finishing a 48-unit complex in Wisconsin.

After talking with Pete Kozisak of Preferred Builders, he learned that their company had land in Somerset that they were not developing. Johnson hired Maxfield Research Inc. in Minneapolis to determine what the demand, if any, is in Somerset to build an assisted living senior facility.

Although those results won't be finished for another 2-3 weeks, Johnson said he wanted to address the planning commission personally to see if they thought it was a viable concept.

"We still have a lot of work to do, like file applications," Johnson said. "We just wanted to get some feedback."

The proposed facility would be a one-story, 25-unit building. Johnson explained that rather than build the units off a long corridor, he would place the units on the outside perimeter, with the common rooms and services in the middle.

As it would be for assisted living and memory care, he anticipated the average resident would be 82 years or older. There would be a nurse on-site eight hours a day, and on-call 24 hours a day. The facility would have keypad entrances.

Jeff Johnson, village president, said he liked the entire proposal, but was concerned about having the facility so close to the Somerset school campus.

"We have enormous traffic issues with the games and the county won't grant another access on County Road I, so you would have to access it from the school street," he said.

In response, Greg Johnson said his facility in Coon Rapids, Minn. had a nature area on one side and a busy boulevard on the other, and it was the boulevard side that filled up the fastest.

"None of these people drive," he explained, "and I think the seniors would love the activity nearby."

Laine Belter, planning commission member, agreed with him and suggested that the school could become more active with the senior community.

"One of my strongest memories is of sixth grade and doing stuff with the seniors," he commented.

Johnson said that he plans to partner with Ebenezer Management Services, part of Fairfield Health Services of Minneapolis, to manage the Somerset location.

Since this would be a for-profit facility, they would need to hire construction, nurses aides, cooks, etc.

"Realistically, at the peak hours, we would be looking at 7-8 staff members," Greg Johnson said.

The planning commission gave its approval for him to continue with his market research.

Float-Rite concert site

Matt Mithun, new owner of the Float-Rite concert venue, presented the commission with a drawing of changes he would like to make to the site.

He said he had two things that he would like to focus on first: additional seating and permanent structures.

Currently, Mithun said there are approximately 1,700 seats on the concrete slab in front of the stage. He would like to increase that by a few thousand seats - either with fold-out chairs or bleachers with ramps - to create more of a bowl-shaped seating area facing the stage.

As for permanent buildings, he said he would like to build a main commissary dead center from the stage. Smaller vendor buildings and permanent toilet facilities would form a "boardwalk."

"That would give the facility a more solid feel," Mithun explained.

He said he is also open to hosting themed festivals that run several weekends, such as a Renaissance festival. To do that, he said he would want to be able to annex land for camping options, but that would be in the future.

"I just want to get some feedback right now," Mithun said. "But (seating and buildings) are our first two issues."

Jeff Johnson said Somerset has the potential to host concerts as well as festivals.

"Everyone I've talked to is enthused about doing a festival that lasts a couple of weeks," he said.

The rest of the commission members were in agreement with Mithun's proposed changes, such as a service path to the backstage area.

Mithun said he was open to working with the community.

"Right now, we really want to concentrate on the improvements."