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Planning board approves Evergreen relocation

BEMIDJI - The proposed relocation of Evergreen Youth and Family Services has received approval from the planning board.

The Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Board during its meeting Wednesday night unanimously approved an interim use permit that would allow office space in a multiple-family zone for Evergreen.

Evergreen plans to relocate its offices and drop-in center to new construction at 610 Patriot Ave. Northwest. Those services are currently located at the intersection of 15th Street and Bemidji Avenue in the Bridgeman Center. The plan also calls for six furnished apartments on the second floor above the office space.

The board had very few questions for Becky Schueller, executive director of Evergreen.

Board member Dave Larson questioned if parking became a problem, whether it would be addressed.

The current plan calls for 32 parking spaces, which the building's residents, staff members and visitors would share.

"Most of our youth population do not have their own cars, so we believe the building will have sufficient parking," Schueller said.

Board member Greg Negard asked Schueller how many people would, on average, live in the building at one time.

"Ten to 12, possibly up to 14," Schueller said. "I want to stress that we have no plans to use the lower level for transitional housing."

The six apartments, which are an allowed use of the multiple-family district, were approved in April and were not the question on the table Wednesday night.

At the Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Commission meeting June 28, the commission recommended approval of an interim use permit, on the condition that Evergreen be subject to annual reviews by staff or by community request. Schueller said she would like to request Evergreen not be subject to an annual review.

"We've been in the community for 35 years with very few problems," Schueller said. "There was no community response to the letter sent out by your staff proposing this project."

Chairman Clark Chambers said the annual review was standard for every interim use permit.

"It's not necessarily every year," Chambers said. "It would also have nothing to do with the youth and probably more to do with your staff and the downstairs area of the building."

Evergreen is a local nonprofit that works to improve the lives of youth in the community, offering family counseling, independent living skills education, housing assistance and more. The drop-in center is available for youth who need basic needs such as food, clothing and hygiene products. It also has computers and staff on hand to help youth with finding employment or a place to stay.