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HHDC housing proposal to return to JPC

The planning commission later this month will take a second look at a proposed supportive housing plan.

The Headwaters Housing Development Corporation has proposed a 20-unit supportive housing project on 5.1 acres of land now owned by the Beltrami County Housing and Redevelopment Authority north of the Bi-County Community Action Program, Inc., building north of 15th Street.

The project would provide permanent and short-term rental housing and supporting services for homeless and transitioning families.

The Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Board on Wednesday considered the Planned Unit Development, but decided the revised plan has changed enough to prompt reconsideration by the Joint Planning Commission.

"Knowing the way the commission goes through (proposals) with a fine-toothed comb ... I really think that's the process that needs to be done," said JPB member Clark Chambers.

Chambers is the former chair of the JPC, which first considered the housing plan in September.

Then, the JPC voted 10-0 to recommend approval, but suggested several changes be made. Some commissioners, though, were hesitant to take action due to some concerns, including whether there was enough parking and if there was an adequate buffer from U.S. Highway 2.

The plan was included on the JPB agenda in October, but was tabled until this month because revisions in the plan had not been finalized.

Now the plan will go before the JPC for consideration Nov. 19. The JPB will consider approval Dec. 9.

"I certainly don't want to be an impediment of the development of this project," said JPC Chairman Tim Mountain.

But, Mountain continued, he believed the JPC should respect its procedures.

The JPB was asked for a show of hands from those who wished to send the PUD back to the JPC and from those who wished to take action on the plan Wednesday night. Both votes indicated a 4-4 tie.

"It's a draw," Mountain said. He then directed the matter to return to the JPC.

"We're going to persevere," said the HHDC's Tim Flathers following the meeting. "We're going to make it work."

Flathers told the JPB that the project does face some time constraints, but there were no firm deadlines.

There is a "significant" funding gap in the project that can be met if it receives low bids, Flathers said.

"If we don't get good bids, we won't be able to pull this together," he said.

The bidding documents cannot be prepared until Minnesota Housing Financing Agency approves the plan, which cannot be submitted to the MHFA until the project is approved.

"The clock is ticking but we are unable to move forward," Flathers said following the meeting.

But he said he understood that the JPB wanted to respect the process.

"Frankly, I want the board to be comfortable supporting this project and feeling really great about it," Flathers said.

Matthew Dyrdahl, the newly elected chair of the JPC, told the JPC that he did not believe the JPC needed to consider the plan a second time.

"In an ideal world, it would make sense to have it go back to the commission ... the Planning Commission will probably breeze through it due to how good the development has been done," he said.

The revised plan has generated a wise range of support.

The new plan features a horseshoe-shaped housing development. The new layout made more room for emergency vehicles and also kept all fire hydrants closer to the buildings.

"We believe this is a much better situation," said Mel Milender, the planning administrator for the joint planning office. "

"This one seems to be so much more logical and better laid out," agreed JPB member Ron Johnson.

Rita Albrecht, the city's community development director, said city staff supports the plan.