Variance approved for Pizza Ranch and Fun Zone

The Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning board approved a variance for a developer wanting to bring Pizza Ranch and Fun Zone to town.

The planned site at the old UBC lumber building on Paul Bunyan Drive is within one of the Bemidji Regional Airport zones.

The airport authority is concerned about another rapid increase of capacity in what is considered a runway hazard area.

With the rapid development of that area of town in the early 2000s, including the construction of the Bemidji Walmart, the airport received a warning from MnDOT’s Aeronautics office in 2004.

This warning essentially said the state would cut off funding for the airport unless they addressed the safety and zoning issues related to the “accumulation of structures within the runway hazard areas.”

Director of the Airport Authority Karen Weller expressed during last night’s JPB meeting that they cannot afford to lose that funding.

Northern Fire Hospitality LLC, the firm requesting the variance, wants to increase capacity for the building, that would be developed into the Pizza Ranch buffet restaurant plus Fun Zone arcade.

The motion to approve was almost unanimous, with Ward 5’s Nancy Erickson abstaining due to her seat on the Airport Authority Board.


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 all the beats in north-central Minnesota, such as local government, crime, education, environment and social issues. She studied communications at Bemidji State University.


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