Already the source of controversy in Woodbury, the Settler's Pointe assisted-living project drew national exposure last week when the New York Times wrote about debate surrounding the proposal.
The piece appeared on a Times blog dealing with challenges facing baby boomers who care for their parents. Writer Paula Span looked at criticism the project has received from some Stonemill Farms residents who say they are concerned for their children's safety if people with Alzheimer's disease or dementia move to the neighborhood.
The New Old Age blog entry was headlined "A Danger to the Community?" and led with this: "So much for the stereotype of those nice, welcoming Minnesotans."
So did the Gray Lady give Woodbury a black eye?
Mayor Bill Hargis said he was worried when Span called to talk about the project.
"I was fearful that it was going to be a real negative article about Woodbury," he said.
After reading the entry, however, Hargis said that it was neither favorable nor negative for the city.
"It was down the middle, at least what I read," Hargis said.
Span's piece, supported by comments by Hargis and an Alzheimer's expert, suggested opposition to the proposal from a fraction of Stonemill Farms' 600 homeowners may be a fear of the unknown, since young parents living in the neighborhood may not have experience with dementia.
Hargis said he explained that the Settler's Pointe debate also has a strong land-use component - whether the facility is appropriate for the development - but that the blog focused on some neighbors' fears of the proposal.
"(Span) might feel they're unfounded, but they're sincere," Hargis said of neighbor concerns.
Readers will have to judge for themselves whether Woodbury looks welcoming or uninviting based on the blog, said Julie Lehr, the city's communications director.
"There will be people who read that and disapprove of some of our residents and some people who read it and may agree (with project opponents)," she said.
Nevertheless, Lehr said, a mention in the New York Times suggests Woodbury, with a population of 60,000, faces challenges like many other growing communities.
"The good side of it is it does show we're more recognized as sort of a full-service city - with all the issues that that brings," she said.
Joe Baumann liked the attention.
Bauman is among developers who want to convert a failing retail building into the 45-unit Settler's Pointe facility. The plans are on hold as Baumann's group reviews its financing and fine tunes the development plan.
"I was a little bit surprised to get a call from them," Baumann said of the Times.
"I think it helps our cause," he explained later. "It's an article in favor of (the project)."
Several dozen people posted comments to the blog, but none said they were from Woodbury.
In addition to the Times piece, the Settler's Pointe debate has been covered in Twin Cities media and a newspaper in Sarasota, Fla., featured Span's piece on its website.
Baumann said he recently was asked by the city of Woodbury if he had sought out news coverage of the issue in hopes of building support for the project. He would not say who contacted him.
"I haven't looked for any publicity for this; it all found me," Baumann said.