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Planning and Zoning Commission members absence postpones St. Joe's hospital plans

Administrators at St. Joseph's Hospital and Health Center hoped to move forward with plans for a new hospital and office building in west Dickinson after presenting a zoning change to the Dickinson Planning and Zoning Commission this week.

The request to rezone 72-plus acres of land east of the Interstate 94 business loop for the new facility will have to go before the commission again at its next scheduled meeting, Oct. 17 at City Hall, because there was no quorum at Wednesday's meeting.

But commission chairman Earl Abrahamson said the four commissioners at the meeting appeared in favor of the request.

"We hope to be able to start construction by the end of October and have the medical office building open by late summer," said Leigh Hantho with Align Healthcare, who is serving as the project leader for the development.

He said the hospital assembled the 72-plus acres through acquisitions of two pieces of property.

He believed that the entire property was zoned primarily residential and required approval to convert for health care services and commercial use.

Hantho said the only specific plans are to build the hospital on the east end. The facility would be about 100,000 square feet.

A three-story office building also is planned. It would be attached to the hospital. The office building would be about 77,000 square feet.

City Engineer Shawn Soehren said there are road issues that still need worked through on the project.

"As far as engineering goes in regards to the project, we are looking at some of the street access points and I know they are looking to change some of the alignments of Empire (Road)," he said. "Currently, what I believe has been proposed is moving Empire from its connection to the business loop.

"We had looked at an option of still connecting it to the business loop, but moving it farther south from the interchange to avoid some future issues that could arise. I think we are still in discussion about how that is all going to come together. We're looking at doing a possible traffic study to help us determine that."

The facility will be built west of the West River Community Center on property purchased by the hospital and Catholic Health Initiatives about 18 months ago.

The estimated cost for the hospital will be between $90 million and $110 million. The hope is to partner with the community to raise funds.

The goal is to wrap up construction by 2015.

Reed Reyman, president and CEO of St. Joseph's, previously said the local Catholic Health Initiatives board began eyeing a new facility in 2009 with the intent to begin construction five to seven years down the road.

That timeline shortened when activity at the hospital accelerated and space became limited.