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Lake Bemidji south shore planning continues

The vision for the south shore continues to become more tangible. Paul Richards with Widseth Smith Nolting on Monday presented the planned unit development to the Bemidji City Council for feedback. The PUD will continue to be refined and revised ...

The vision for the south shore continues to become more tangible.

Paul Richards with Widseth Smith Nolting on Monday presented the planned unit development to the Bemidji City Council for feedback.

The PUD will continue to be refined and revised before being submitted to the Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Board for consideration in November, he said.

Richards said staff compared the current plan to a preliminary planning effort that was done in 2001-2002 on the south shore.

"It's really amazing how close it is," he said.

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The PUD includes the planned events center, parkland and residential and commercial development.

It was produced while keeping several goals in mind, Richards said, including the creation of a walkable community, a vibrant social and economic district, public parkland, strong connections, sustainable solutions and environmental stewardship.

"It's really reflective of this community and the great opportunity you have here with this site," he said.

The south shore PUD differs from other PUDs in that it is not a concrete plan for development - it could be revised to meet other partners' interests, Richards explained.

"This one has to remain flexible," he said.

Richards and Rita Albrecht, the city's community development director, offered estimates on the amount of land different components take up.

For instance, the events center and accompanying parking comprise about 20 acres, parkland about 35 acres, and ponds and wetlands cover about 40-45 acres.

The events center appears to take up the bulk of the property, but Richards noted that its footprint is less than the other components.

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"This is a public place first," he said.

On the west side of the PUD are plans for a marina and a renovated boat landing at Nymore Beach.

Councilors also discussed the possibility of relocating the beach further east.

"That's not our decision," said City Manager John Chattin. "We need to work with (the Parks and Trails Committee) on that."

Albrecht said the City Council and parks committee will have to discuss their hopes and intentions regarding the beach.

"I believe the community would not like that to go away," she said.

The council also discussed the role of the Department of Natural Resources in the development.

The city is still working with the DNR toward getting an offer for the lakeshore, where the Paul Bunyan Trail is proposed to run, and for additional parkland on the east.

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Councilor Nancy Erickson asked about the cleanup of the lakeshore for the trail and park use.

Albrecht responded that the DNR seems satisfied about lakebed issues and is willing to have the city clean up the beach. The city would seek outside funding sources to assist in those efforts, she said.

The PUD includes some areas for restaurants and a few retail sites, but Albrecht said staff - and RDG Planning & Design, which is conducting a study for downtown and the south shore - agrees that the development is not ideal for heavy retail.

"I think that's a positive thing," she said, adding that the downtown area should continue to be the focus for retail.

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