A short letter from the three Monroe County commissioners, sent Wednesday to Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, will help now set the mood for Thursday’s meeting.
The single sentence in the letter, which dispenses with salutation and closing, runs 27 words:
The only way we will consider moving forward with the Convention Center Project is with the County having an equal representation of membership on the oversight board.
The project is an expanded 30,000-square-foot exhibit space with a 550-space parking garage. It’s estimated to cost $59 million, of which about $15 million is for a parking garage.
In previous written and oral exchanges, it has been evident that representation in the governing entity—whether it’s a building corporation, a capital improvement board, or a 501(c)(3)—is a point of acute disagreement between county commissioners and Mayor Hamilton.
For a seven-member capital improvement board, commissioners have proposed either a 4–3 or a 3-4 split. Hamilton has countered by saying that he thinks 6–1 or 5-2 in the city’s favor would reflect better the city’s financial contribution to the project.
Based on the recommendation of a seven-person committee, the three commissioners voted to direct their attorney, Jeff Cockerill, to initiate discussions on writing a contract to purchase the equipment from Hart.
On Tuesday night, Bloomington’s city council dispatched about a dozen amendments to its draft unified development ordinance, setting itself up for a realistic shot at handling all the amendments released so far by the end of its Wednesday session.
Several amendments were adopted by unanimous votes, including one that removes an option for payment-in-lieu of providing income-restricted housing onsite, as part of the public benefit for a planned unit development.
The idea is that developers should incorporate affordable housing into a project, instead of donating a sum to the city’s housing development fund, which the city could then use to build affordable housing elsewhere.
Rejected with support only from its sponsor, councilmember Chris Sturbaum, was an amendment that would have required new buildings to “step back” not just from those with ratings of “outstanding” and “notable,” but also those with ratings of “contributing.”
The most contentious issue of the night was one involving a pair of conflicting amendments on parking minimums, the first sponsored by Sturbaum and the second by councilmember Steve Volan.
Neither amendment passed. Volan’s amendment might have had a chance if the council had been at its full complement of nine members, but failed on a 4–4 tie.
Forrest Gillmore demonstrates at the farmers market on Nov. 9, 2019.
Thomas Westgard demonstrates at the farmers market on Nov. 9, 2019. Sarah Dyer, the vendor against whom Westgard is protesting, captures the scene on her smart phone.
Forrest Gillmore, in his unicorn suit, is lead away by police officers on Nov. 9, 2019
Members of the farmers market advisory council at their meeting on Nov. 18, 2019.
Vauhxx Booker addresses the farmers market advisory council on Nov. 18.
At Monday’s meeting of the farmers market advisory council, held in Bloomington’s city council chambers, few answers about the future of the market could be gleaned from the group’s discussion. That’s partly because the group’s role is just advisory, to the city’s four-member board of park commissioners.
Department administrator for the parks and recreation department, Paula McDevitt, told the advisory council “[W]e do not have an announcement tonight about the future of the market…”
What makes the future uncertain has been a season of protests against a vendor with alignment to white-supremacist groups. The market was suspended for two weeks in late July amid concerns about possible violence.
At Monday’s meeting, the market’s coordinator, Marcia Veldman, said attendance was off by about half compared to previous years. The last couple of years, the market has seen around a quarter million visitors in the course of a season, according to the city of Bloomington’s data portal.
For several vendors, the timeframe for making a decision about whether sell at the market next year is short. Rebecca Vadas is a honey vendor who also sits on the farmers market advisory council. She said at Monday’s meeting that she had to make a decision by mid-December. One of the decisions she has to make is how many bees to buy. “We’re all at a crossroads,” she said.
On Monday at noon, Bloomington city council’s sidewalk committee met for the second time in the last couple weeks, to sort through 62 proposed new sidewalk construction projects for 2020.
This year, the four-member group has $324,000 to allocate towards the projects, one of which, along Dunn Street, has been on the list for two decades, since 2001.
This year’s total of $324,000 reflects an increasing trend. Over the last 10 years, the council has averaged around $280,000 per year in approvals, with the last six years right around $300,000 or slightly higher.
Oral arguments have now been scheduled by Indiana’s Supreme Court in the lawsuit that Bloomington filed against Gov. Eric Holcomb in May 2017.
Th case stems from a law enacted by the state legislature that year, which effectively ended Bloomington’s annexation process that was underway.
Each side will have a chance to argue in front of the state’s highest court on Jan. 9 next year.
The state legislature incorporated a law on annexation into its biennial budget bill for 2017, which effectively ended the process Bloomington was working through at the time to add geographic area to the city.
In May 2017, Bloomington filed suit challenging the law on two separate constitutional grounds—that it violated the state constitution’s single-subject rule, and that it violated the constitutional provision against impermissible specific legislation.
The total time allotted for arguments in front of the five-member Supreme Court is 40 minutes, to be divided equally at 20 minutes a side. The location of the arguments will be in the Supreme Court’s chambers at the Statehouse in Indianapolis. The appointed hour is 9 a.m.
Thursday night was the second session of the Bloomington city council’s ongoing consideration of amendments to the city’s update of the unified development ordinance.
The council voted on two amendments, approving both. One was co-sponsored by councilmembers Dave Rollo and Chris Sturbaum. It eliminated duplexes and triplexes as possible uses of land in core neighborhoods. The tally was 6–2 on the nine-member council. Allison Chopra was absent.
The other amendment approved by the council on Thursday changed the status of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) from a conditional use, which requires a public review process, to a by-right use. A by-right use eliminates the public review process, but does not eliminate use-specific standards.
For ADUs, the use-specific standards include: a limit of one ADU per lot; a requirement that only lots greater than the minimum size for the zoning district are allowed to have an ADU; a maximum of two bedrooms; and a limit of one family. The vote that made ADUs by-right was 5–3.