Hazelden expansion upsets longtime neighbors

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation expansion on its St. Paul campus has created a problem for its neighbors.

The Gargaro family has owned the house next to Hazelden since the 1880s, but soon the home will sit in the shadow of a new three-story facility.

"My biggest need was how close to the house they were going to be?" said Mary Gargaro.

Six generations have lived in the giant Victorian-style house near the bank of the Mississippi River in St. Paul.

At one point, the family also owned the mansion behind their house, which is now owned and used by Hazelden.

The Hazelden expansion will feature a 55,000 square-foot facility to the south of its existing building.

Gargaro said Hazelden told them for months the new building would be 15 feet from an existing fence -- putting it roughly 50 feet from their home.

"I mean we weren't happy. Who wants a three-story building that close?" said Gargaro. "But we accepted it because it was their property and they were going to be set-back far enough."

But in June, the Gargaros said they were told something else.

A Hazelden attorney informed them the building would not be 50 feet but rather 30 feet from their front door, according to the family.

The city of St. Paul approved Hazelden's building plan and said everything in it is legal and that could build up to six feet from the property line if they wanted.

A Hazelden spokesperson denied ever telling the Gargaros two different plans. The nonprofit also said it has been more than fair to the family -- offering compensation for landscaping and fencing -- also offering to purchase the Gargaro's property.

The family turned the offers down.

The company provided KARE 11 a statement that reads, "We have gone well beyond the norm in trying to mitigate this situation, but all our efforts thus far to resolve these issues have failed. We remain open to continued discussions."

"I wish they would do what was right and not what was legal," said Chuck Gargaro, Mary's husband.

Monday morning crews are scheduled to begin taking down trees on the property.

The new facility is expected to wrap up in 2016, so the Gargaros have some time to decide if they want to stay put.

At this point, they say they're unsure what their next step will be.


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