Weather Forecast


Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Board: People's Church decision may come Wednesday

A decision on the proposed People's Church expansion is expected to come Wednesday.

The Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Board is scheduled to consider the People's Church requests in its meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Bemidji City Hall.

People's Church has requested four variances - an 18-foot front-yard setback, a 9-foot side-yard setback, a 15-spot parking space variance and a 12 percent impervious surface variance - that would enable the church to double the size of its current facility.

The addition would allow People's Church to add a full kitchen, sleeping facilities and showered bathrooms.

Additionally, People's Church has requested a conditional use permit for the continued operation of the church, which also serves as a homeless shelter.

The Joint Planning Commission last month held the public hearings on the requests. The JPC voted to recommend denial of the variances, but also left the door open for a possible revision of the plan to increase pervious surface on the property.

The JPC has recommended approval of the CUP, but included multiple conditions.

By its own admission, People's Church shelters individuals who do not have anywhere else to go.

The Rev. Bob Kelly, the pastor of People's Church, has said the church feels it must reach out and help its homeless "friends" rather than leave them on the streets.

More than 20 people addressed the JPC during its public hearings. Those in support of People's Church commended its members for their willingness to take in and assist people who have nowhere else to go or no one else to turn to for help. Nearby property owners opposed to the expansion said the church brings unwanted problems to the area, including thefts, vandalism, threatening behavior, intoxicated individuals and drug activity.

Other agenda items

The JPB acts as two governmental bodies during its meeting, which occasionally results in a split agenda.

This week, the JPB will first convene as the Board of Adjustment, which oversees variance requests.

As the Board of Adjustment, the JPB will consider, in order, the following variance requests:

-- Brian Ball, 225 South Movil Lake Road, has requested a variance that would allow his personal residence to be separated from his mobile home park on more than 12 acres on the south shore of Lake Movil. The minimum lot width is 150 feet wide and Ball's width would be 146.5 feet.

-- North Homes Inc. had requested a variance to exceed the number of residents by two to have a residential adolescent independent-living facility for up to eight males (rather than six) ages 15-21. The JPC, however, recommended denial of the request last month. The plan has since been withdrawn, and North Homes instead plans to have a foster home for six adolescent males.

-- People's Church has requested four variances that would allow the church to double the size of its facility.

Following the Board of Adjustment, the board will convene as the JPB to consider the following planning cases:

-- Evergreen House Community Services has requested an interim use permit for a street outreach youth counseling drop-in center (non-residential) at 1426 Bemidji Avenue Northwest.

-- John Magnuson has requested a zoning amendment and an interim use permit to allow for a sand and gravel mineral extraction pit on about 42 acres of land east of the second additional to the Bemidji Industrial Park.

-- People's Church has requested a CUP to continue operating as a church.