CHASKA, MN-A controversial home for orphans, plans for which have already failed at three other sites, over the last year-and-a-half, faces a crucial vote here this week. Mary Jo Copeland hopes to build a $30-million, 200-bed residential complex for disadvantaged children on a 65-acre site in Chaska near Minnesota Highway 41 and Pioneer Trail — within walking distance of the University of Minnesota Landscape Arboretum and the planned community of Jonathan.

The plan has already stirred up opposition from Chaska residents, who argue that children should be brought up in homes, not institutions. The city’s planning department is debating the proposal this week, and the city council has scheduled discussions at its Dec. 17 meeting.

Copeland is the founder of Sharing and Caring Hands in Minneapolis, a homeless shelter.

Earlier proposals for the facility were halted after running into opposition in Brooklyn Center, MN, and Brooklyn Park, MN. A plan announced last spring to build in Victoria, MN, a west suburban community in Carver County, failed when land deals fell through.

The complex envisioned for Chaska will have 20 5,000-sf family homes, each housing 10 children and staffed by a married couple trained at Omaha, NE-based Boys Town. Each house will also have a full-time assistant living on the premises. In response to objections, the plans have changed since May 2000 to build a single structure in which nuns would care for groups of children. The children will attend a private school in an on-site community complex.

The site targeted for the complex is wooded farmland owned by Chaska Investment, a development firm, David Engleson of the Cuningham Group Architecture PA is the project architect and project manager for Gift of Mary.

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