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JPB approves long range planning guide

BEMIDJI—A comprehensive plan for the region several years in the making was adopted Wednesday by the Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Board.

Work on the document began in 2011, but was put on hiatus for several years. The plan includes strategies for the future of both Bemidji and Northern Township, where the JPB has authority related to zoning, planning and variances.

"It presents a vision our future in our area. It provides a clear direction for the community," Planning Director Casey Mai said. "It lays out both our goals and policies for the next 15 to 20 years. Each of the chapters lays out an objective and strategies for implementation."

The comprehensive plan is 12 chapters long and each section covers a different theme. Chapter topics include the future of Bemidji's downtown, housing, transportation, community facilities and land use.

The plan's adoption by the JPB followed a review by the Joint Planning Commission, open house meetings and a public comment period. The plan is available for reading at the JPB's website,, under the "Guiding Documents" tab.

In other news, the JPB also approved a request for an interim use permit by Sanford Health. Sanford was seeking the permit to add residential crisis and detox services to its soon-to-open facility at 3124 Hannah Ave. in Bemidji.

According to Mai, normally the request would require a conditional use permit. However, because Sanford is leasing the space, an IUP is necessary.

"The county owns the building and they're leasing it to Sanford," Mai said. "So, an IUP is needed because it will run through the lease holder."

Named the Primewest Crisis and Detox Center, Sanford's new 6,800 square-foot facility is scheduled to open this year with 14 available beds. The building will be divided into three sections, one dedicated to a mobile crisis team, another for mental health care and the third for detox treatment.

The JPB also approved a conditional use permit request from the Headwaters Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, allowing the religious institution to move forward with a new church. The HUUF is planning to construct a new 4,312 square-foot church at the intersection of Mikrantip Road Southwest and Jefferson Avenue.

The parcel is listed as residential and the JPB allows for religious institutions to be located in most zoning districts with a conditional use permit. Once constructed, the church will include assembly space and some offices.

Matthew Liedke

Matthew Liedke is the city, county and state government reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. He also covers business, politics and financial news.

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