Council OKs Trinitas project, makes more than 2,200 bedrooms approved with special zoning in last 6 months

Back in 1991, Bloomington’s city council voted to rezone the property at the northwest corner of Kinser Pike and the SR 45/46 Bypass, so that it could be used for offices and the storage of semi-trailers.

That 7–2 vote of the city council taken 30 years ago was vetoed by then-mayor Tomilea Allison. As an “out lot,” the land could not be developed and still conform with the new master plan for the city, which stated there should be “no out lot development,” Allison wrote in her veto announcement.

The veto was overridden on a 6–3 tally, the minimum it needed to give it a 2/3 majority on the nine-member council.

But land didn’t become a home to semi-trailers.

It’s now destined to become home to around 1,000 people, after a unanimous vote of Bloomington’s city council on Wednesday. The 9–0 vote to approve the as-yet unnamed development by Trinitas Ventures came about 90 minutes after the agenda item was introduced.

Wednesday’s approval of the roughly 1,000-bedroom Trinitas project makes for more than 2,200 total bedrooms that the city council has allowed in the last six months through altering local zoning laws.

That includes the the Curry PUD  (344 bedrooms) on Pete Ellis Drive, the Collegiate Development group PUD (750 bedrooms) on North Walnut Street, and Hilltop Meadow (166 bedrooms)

The project approved on Wednesday would come with a donation by Trinitas to the city of Bloomington of 45 ready-to-build lots for single-family housing, complete with streets and utilities. Trinitas pegs the value of the lots at $2.9 million.

The 45 lots are one of three significant components of the project that the city council considered to be a public benefit—something that local lawmakers are supposed to require for this kind of project, which is a called a planned unit development (PUD). A PUD is a kind of specialized zoning that applies to some or all of a proposed development—zoning that departs from typical standards.

The uses and development standards for the 45 lots will conform to a new R4 zoning district. The district is a part of the updated unified development ordinance that the council approved last year and was ratified by the city plan commission earlier this year.  The permitted uses for R4 (Residential Urban) include duplexes and triplexes.

A second aspect of the proposal considered by city councilmembers to be a public benefit was the willingness by Trinitas to commit to funding, in perpetuity, a public bus route from the project eastward to the Indiana University campus. The current annual cost of funding the bus route would be around $358,000.

Councilmember Steve Volan pointed out that the commitment to bus route funding is similar to the approach that was taken by Collegiate Development Group (CDG) for its North Walnut Street project, which the council approved last year. But Trinitas is contributing around three-times the dollar amount that CDG did for its route.

For some councilmembers, the bus route was a way to mitigate the sheer number of units, located at not-easily-walkable distances from existing amenities, like grocery stores.

It’s possible that some kind of limited retail snack sales could be built in the 1,700
square feet of commercial space that would be a part of the multifamily building that’s a part of the Trinitas project. The student-oriented building will include 261 bedrooms that will be allocated across mainly 2- and 3-bedroom apartments with a sprinkling of 1- and 4-bedroom units.

Counting as a third significant public benefit for the Trinitas PUD are the 14.62 acres, out of the 39 acres of the site (about 37 percent of it), that will be preserved as open space. It’s the part of the site that was not scraped down to bedrock as part of the construction of SR 37, according to Eric Greulich, senior zoning planner for the city of Bloomington.

The physical configuration of the site, with include creeks and wetlands and a 100-foot electric line easement, pose design challenges, including the layout of a street grid internal to the site.

The street grid layout was the subject of one of the five “reasonable conditions” (RCs) that the city council voted to place on their approval of the project. The RC required that the layout of the buildings match the curve of the road.

The commitment to funding public transit was also a requirement that was specified in a reasonable condition.

Councilmember Isabel Piedmont-Smith sponsored a reasonable condition that requires 12 solar-powered electric vehicle charging stations.

Another reasonable condition required a mixing of duplex and townhouse housing types in two of the four areas specified in the layout of the property. The segregation of housing types into four separate areas in the original proposal had bothered some councilmembers during the two land use committee hearings.

On Wednesday, the reasonable condition addressing the issue was subjected to some on-the-fly word-smithing by Piedmont-Smith, which got a favorable nod from Jeff Kanable, who helped represent Trinitas in front of the city council.

The remaining reasonable condition required some parking spaces between two rows of townhouses to be converted so that they are not simply rows of perpendicular parking.

On Wednesday, councilmember Susan Sandberg, who had reviewed the project previously as a member of the plan commission, called the project a “gold standard” for future developments as the council tries to meet the housing needs of the community.

Councilmember Sue Sgambelluri, who represents District 2 where the project is located, told the developer she appreciated the efforts that had been made to address concerns of neighbors. Sgambelluri said she’d received an email message just before the start of the meeting from a representative of a neighborhood association saying, they didn’t think they were going to come speak at the meeting because the project looked good.

Neighborhood representatives did address the two meetings of the land use committee when hearings were held on the project. At the council’s Wednesday meeting, no one from the public addressed the council on the project.

The council’s action on Wednesday approved just the zoning. Trinitas will still need to go in front of the city’s plan commission to get approval of the specific project.

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