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JPC recommends approval of Sanford Bemidji expansion plan

The Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Commission voted unanimously Thursday night to recommend the approval of a planned unit development for expansion of the medical campus of Sanford Health Bemidji.

The JPC's recommendation will go before the Joint Planning Board in February.

The master plan for the expansion includes a 20,000-square-foot orthopedic center, a 24,000-square foot surgery center and a 40,000-square-foot cardiac center.

The expansion would require a section of Pine Ridge Avenue south of Anne Street and north of 24th Street be vacated to create space.

Other details of the master plan include a 12,000-square-foot Bemidji Medical Supply building, a new parking area with approximately 780 new spaces and the reconfiguration of existing parking lots.

"This is a long-term plan," said Craig Boyer, chief financial officer of Sanford Health Bemidji. "These are pretty broad ideas we are looking at."

Sanford's request meets the stated goals of the Greater Bemidji Area Land Use Plan, planning staff said in the recommendation for approval.

The JPC discussed other issues dealing with Sanford's planned expansion. George Stowe of the JPC expressed concern over safety of the proposed ambulance entrance and whether pedestrians may be at risk or accidentally interfere with the ambulances.

Doug Gish, Sanford's director of support services, said that other renovations will be made to accommodate a growing number of patients before the expansion is completed.

"In the meantime, we're trying to look at renovations inside the facility," Gish said. "There are a lot of people who need these cardiac procedures right now."

The JPC also unanimously carried a motion recommending the approval of a new facility for the Bemidji Area Tennis Association.

The facility would be constructed this spring.

Sam Mason, who lives near the proposed site, vocalized his support for the facility.

"I think it's great," Mason said. "It will provide some recreation. I want to say I'm strongly in support of it."

When the meeting began, Matthew Dyrdahl resigned as chairman of the JPC. Dyrdahl announced he had accepted a new job in St. Paul.

Dyrdahl asked for nominations for a new chairman. Kristi Miller nominated Joe McKinnon. Another nomination was made for Miller, but she did not accept.

The JPC members unanimously voted for McKinnon as chairman and Reed Olson as vice chairman. McKinnon will take over as chairman at the next meeting.