Planning board to make decision on downtown homeless shelter project Wednesday

BEMIDJI--The Greater Bemidji Joint Planning Board is scheduled to make a decision Wednesday in regard to a possible homeless shelter in downtown Bemidji.

BEMIDJI-The Greater Bemidji Joint Planning Board is scheduled to make a decision Wednesday in regard to a possible homeless shelter in downtown Bemidji.

The shelter is a project under the direction of the Nameless Coalition for the Homeless. The Greater Bemidji Joint Planning Commission on July 23 reviewed an application submitted by the coalition to convert an existing church building at 522 America Ave. NW into a seasonal/nighttime homeless shelter for chronic inebriates.

The coalition is requesting both an Interim Use Permit for the location and a variance because of how close the building would be to the Bemidji Public Library.

According to the minutes from the July meeting, city staff does not expect the site to be a detriment to the library because of the hours of operation are directly opposite the library's hours.

No changes to the exterior footprint of the structure or site have been proposed for the shelter. Details for the project include:


• The facility being operated from October-April.

• Open from 6 p.m. to 9 a.m.

• No food service other than general donations will be available. Location won't include a kitchen.

• Site will contain two shower stalls and two toilets.

• Facility will be staffed.

• Primary clientele will be adult men. There will be a private area for a maximum of two women.

Opposition to the project was brought up during the meeting's public hearing. Ron Cayko, of Fuller, Wallner, Cayko, Pederson and Huseby law firm, said the reason for the businesses' resistance to the shelter is because of how close it is to the company's office.

Cayko also noted that some of the staff works extended hours and that the business has concerns with neighboring community services being subjected to the clientele.


The staff has recommended approval of the applicant's request for both the permit and the variance provided that the Nameless Coalition meet all of the zoning ordinance requirements. Additionally, the potential shelter would have to follow conditions such as:

• No more than 16 adult clients at the location.

• No loitering prior to the opening will be permitted at adjacent properties.

• The applicant shall create a parking area in the rear to the site to accommodate staff parking.

• The applicant shall fence the area behind the facility to provide protection to surrounding business owners.

The commission made and carried a motion to approve both the permit and the variance. Mayana Rice, planning administrator, said the final decision is up to the board, though, as it's made up of elected officials.

Wednesday's meeting is open to the public, Rice said, and if people wish to speak during the meeting they are allowed to ask the board. The meeting is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. and will take place in council chambers at Bemidji City Hall.

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