Pioneer Editorial: Another step to a greater Bemidji area
Another step, albeit a significant one, to creating a greater Bemidji community, came Monday night as the Bemidji Area Joint Planning Board gave its final approval in adopting new zoning and subdivision regulations for a 72-square-mile area which...
Another step, albeit a significant one, to creating a greater Bemidji community, came Monday night as the Bemidji Area Joint Planning Board gave its final approval in adopting new zoning and subdivision regulations for a 72-square-mile area which encompasses the new Greater Bemidji Area -- not just the city of Bemidji, Northern Township or Bemidji Township.
It is indeed a monumental step that recognizes a solid growth management plan that crosses city and township borders, and includes areas that within 15 years will become part of the city.
Three years in the making, effort started out of frustration as the townships battled piecemeal annexation by the city. In a process many thought doomed from the start, energetic elected officials from all three jurisdictions, guided by the Headwaters Regional Development Commission, stayed to task until an agreement was reached which provided for an orderly annexation plan over 15 years and also an overall, comprehensive land use plan to be administered by joint board appointed by the three jurisdictions. And, under the orderly annexation plan, provisions were worked out to extend city services such as sewer and water to those areas without yet being a part of the city.
The joint board appointed a 12-member commission which spent the last two years with the HRDC drafting the land use plan an accompanying zoning ordinance, which won final approval Monday and which should take effect in about a month. There is no doubt that fault will be found with the zoning ordinance and, as a living document, it will see changes. But the fact that it is in place provides the significant framework to guide growth development in our community, and at the same time keeping intact the natural beauty that drew most of us here and protects our environment.
Built from public input, the land use plan will give the joint board the policy framework to guide land use decisions within the entire community to 2025, and set the pace for tiered annexation into the city.
The guiding vision of the new land use plan is that the Greater Bemidji Area is a single community, that we all value maintaining and enhancing our "north woods" character. Yet we also cherish our right to individual choice and wish to maintain that while also keeping our natural resources healthy for future generations.
The key provision of the work leading up to Monday's final passage is that the Greater Bemidji Area will be "a healthy community, successfully balancing regional center amenities and small town beauty and character." While those goals seem at opposite ends of the spectrum, we recognize that our community leaders have agreed to work hard in striking that balance.
It's also a balance that we, as citizens of the newly born Greater Bemidji Area, must also promise to strike.