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Voyager Crossing gets JPB approval

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With all plans now approved, Bemidji will wait and see what develops. Literally.

The final plat of Voyager Crossing was approved on Wednesday by the Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Board.

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The final plat is very similar to the preliminary plat that was approved in September 2004 by the Bemidji City Council. ShoreQuest, the property owner, will divide about 74 acres into 42 commercial parcels and three outlots. The land is on the southeast edge of Lake Bemidji and encompasses 5,000 linear feet of shoreline. The property includes the former sites of Georgia-Pacific and Burlington Santa Fe Railroad.

It is the largest piece of land on Lake Bemidji that has not yet been developed.

"It's nice to keep going (forward)," said ShoreQuest's John Zacher following the meeting.

What exactly will be developed on the land is not yet known. There is potential for a hotel, restaurants or perhaps a water park, which is what the land owners are advocating on the Web site at shorequest.net.

One of the conditions included in the JPB's approval is that ShoreQuest will not record the final plat until after Nov. 1.

The delay, according to a letter from Bemidji City Attorney Alan Felix, will allow the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to respond to the Joint Development Response Action Plan in regard to the proposed roads, utilities, stormwater pond location and construction within the plat.

Once Nov. 1 arrives, ShoreQuest will then be able to begin negotiations with potential developers.

"We had a few people express some interest (in developing the property)," Zacher said, adding that ShoreQuest does not know just how interested those people are.

The VIC program

The MPCA is intimately involved in the property. The MPCA administers the Voluntary Investigation and Cleanup program, which was created to offer technical assistance and legal assurances for individuals seeking to investigate or clean up contaminated property, according to the MPCA's Web site.

The property along the south side of Lake Bemidji is in the VIC program because of the potential for contamination from previous land uses, including a wood-processing plant.

The VIC program does not operate independently from the landowner. ShoreQuest staff or consultants will first propose a specific use for a particular parcel. For instance, they may decide that a road needs to be placed in a particular parcel. They then research and investigate what the environmental impact of such a use would be and whether previous land uses would interfere with those plans. They submit their findings to the MPCA, which then confirms the adequacy and completeness of the investigation, or points out deficiencies.

Even if one or more parcels are sold to a developer, the new land owner still would be required to keep the property in the VIC program. The requirement, Zacher has said, would be written into the deed.

Green possibilities?

While the property is owned by ShoreQuest, at least two governmental entities are pursuing possible ways to acquire some of the land.

The Department of Natural Resources is working with Zacher in order to extend the Paul Bunyan Trail. The city of Bemidji originally got involved to discuss the Paul Bunyan Trail, but turned the matter over to the DNR in 2004. Now, the city is interested in possibly securing land for city trails or parkland.

During Tuesday's meeting, JPB member Becky Livermore asked for more information regarding the discussed trails.

"Where do we stand with the trails we want to have going through the property?" Livermore said.

City Planner Curt Oakes said the DNR and the city of Bemidji is continuing to talk with Zacher about securing land for trails. He said there has been discussion on having a split trail with a snowmobile trail on the south side of the property and the biking/hiking trail on the north side.

But those negotiations are continuing, he said. Neither is a done deal.

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