Joint Planning Board to consider variance to allow a Pizza Ranch amid airport objections

The Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Board will meet this evening to consider two variance requests, one of which for Northern Fire Hospitality, LLC.

The firm is looking at the old UBC Lumber site building on Paul Bunyan Drive to develop a Pizza Ranch buffet and Fun Zone.

Due to the building’s location in an airport zone, the variance is needed to increase capacity.

The Bemidji Regional Airport Authority Director Karen Weller said the capacity increase within the airport zone could threaten the airport’s ability to secure federal and state funding, from the Federal Aviation Administration and the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s Office of Aeronautics.

“It is our duty to protect the millions of federal, state and local dollars that have been invested in the Bemidji Regional Airport over the last 18 years to correct the issues that came to a head in 2003,” wrote Weller.
In 2003, the then Bemidji-Beltrami Regional Airport Authority received a letter from MnDOT Aeronautics that state funding would be withheld if the authority did not address the safety and zoning issues related to the “accumulation of structures within the runway hazard areas.”
“We cannot afford to have variances issued that slowly erode airport zoning and permit non-complying land uses that will interfere with airport operations, zoning and/or safety.”\
The property edge is about 890 feet from the airport’s runway centerline, and the building is about 1,000 feet away.
The meeting will be held tonight at Northern Town Hall, in person and on Cisco Webex. For login information or to RSVP for in person, visit the JPB’s website.
Listen to KB101’s Todd Haugen’s interview with newly-named Joint Planning Director Jamin Carlson ahead of the JPB meeting tonight.

View the full JPB meeting packet here.


Larissa Donovan is the News Director for the stations of Paul Bunyan Broadcasting and has been, almost without interruption, since Election Day 2016. She covers events and issues in north central Minnesota, which include local government, crime, courts, education, environment and social issues. She studied communications at Bemidji State University and received her degree in 2018. Larissa, native to the great state of New York, grew up in Bemidji, and enjoys spending her spare time with her family and pet cat. She also loves Star Trek, punk rock music and the theater.


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