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Voyager Crossing gets planning panel's OK

The Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Commission on Thursday voted to recommend approval on the final plat for Voyager Crossing, the property formerly known as ShoreQuest.

The vote was 10-1, with Planning Commissioner Richard Slinkman casting the dissenting vote.

"It's just another step in moving forward," said developer John Zacher following the meeting.

The land is on the southeast edge of Lake Bemidji and encompasses 5,000 linear feet of shoreline. It is the largest piece of land on Lake Bemidji that has not yet been developed.

The final plat did not require a public hearing. It does, however, require approval from the Bemidji Area Joint Planning Board. The Voyager Crossing plat will now come before the JPB at its next meeting at 6 p.m. Aug. 8 at Northern Township Town Hall.

The Planning Commission approved the final plat with several conditions, including that the property remain in the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's Voluntary Investigation and Cleanup Program (VIC).

The program, as officials and consultants explained on Thursday, exists to protect the health and welfare of the public.

The VIC program was created to offer technical assistance and legal assurances for individuals seeking to investigate or cleanup contaminated property, according to the MPCA's Web site.

So, as ShoreQuest moves its plans forward, the company's consultants investigate the property that may be affected by roads, for instance, and the MPCA through the VIC program, confirms those findings.

"It's a back and forth process," said Jon Pollock, the president of Frontline Environmental, L.L.C., who is working with Zacher as a consultant on the project.

Thursday's meeting was a little unusual in that Zacher and the consultants presented the final plat and took questions from the Planning Commission, but there was not staff report available to the Planning Commission.

While staff has continued to work and meet with Zacher, City Attorney Alan Felix said Bemidji's city staff has also had other projects on its plate.

Also, he explained, staff is struggling with several different issues that are yet undecided about the Voyager Crossing property. For instance, the Department of Natural Resources is negotiating with Zacher for acquisition of property to extend the Paul Bunyan State Trail. The city of Bemidji, he said, also is considering trying to acquire land for more local trails in the area.

"Nonetheless," he said, "staff has been looking at this."

The preliminary plat of the property was approved by the Bemidji City Council in September 2004, before the JPB was formed