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Letter: Not wild about Wildwoods' new home

I wish to comment on the commentary from Wildwoods volunteer Megan Stanton in the July 10 Budgeteer, "Wildlife rehabilitation takes a lot of space." She offered updates on four phases of facility construction on the original site of a rural residential house. That house will remain to anchor further development of the animal hospital.

Most of the land at this location was single family lots backing up to Chester Creek. This hospital building use was essentially out of compliance with the zoning code. To begin construction of a new facility, I assume Wildwoods applied for and received a special-use permit for structures not allowed in an RR1 zone.

From a land-use planning perspective, it's disturbing that this housing site footprint will now expand to a large parking lot and two additional buildings. This expansion into native green space is more disturbing from an environmental perspective. And this is not just ordinary green space, but the headwater wetlands of Chester Creek.

Other than being true to their name, why does this rehabilitation entity have to do their good work for animals on a site which should be left to the abundant wildlife that thrive in wetlands? Certainly there are building sites not under Duluth's 10-year-old Comprehensive Plan's Sensitive Lands Overlay more appropriate for development.

Unfortunately, that plan's preferred land-use scenario for this property was recently undermined by requests from businesses, already out of compliance, to change the original land use designations, expand their footprints and/or sell some of their property to others who would do so.

Trying to save animals while at the same time reducing their habitat with inappropriate development seems to negate some of the good work being done. I will not be part of the "community support" their director solicits in order to "grow."

Linda Ross Sellner

Duluth

Megan Stanton responds: Linda Ross Sellner brings up some very good concerns. We were required to obtain a special use permit. We have also put in a lot of thought, time and money into making our new buildings as environmentally friendly as possible.

We will need to add a nine-stall parking lot per city requirements. However, we will use recycled asphalt and recycled retaining wall blocks. The engineering group working with us did a drainage and hydrologic report, after which they designed a filtration system that will clean any runoff from the parking lot before it reaches a natural water source. Additionally, we replaced the existing out-of-code septic system that was leaking polluted water into the ground.

The original plans suggested cutting down the healthy trees around the house for the parking lot, but we insisted the lot be moved back so the trees will not be cut down. Only one mature, healthy tree needs to be cut down for the entire project.

We have been very mindful of the environmental impact. Seventy percent of the materials needed for new construction are recycled; we have minimized the amount of lumber needed; energy-efficient LED lighting will be used throughout; we will be add a garden bed to grow our own vegetables to feed the animals we care for; and our plans do not extend beyond the original boundaries of the open lot.

During the planning phase we did consider what it would take to renovate a pre-existing structure. However, there just weren't any options that could balance our needs regarding animal care, including a quiet, secluded building, with city code and minimal environmental impact. The lot we purchased was, and remains, our best option.

If you have any further questions or concerns, please call us at (218) 491-3604 or email wildwoods@wildwoodsrehab.org.

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