A rezoning for 38 acres of former farmland on the western boundary of Bloomington was approved at the regular Wednesday meeting of Monroe County commissioners.
That clears the way for the developer to submit to the county planning department a site plan for a development that would include 330 new apartments. The development, by Domo Development Company and Redhawk Multifamily, is also planned to include 11,000 square feet of retail and 22,000 square feet of private office suites.
Even if the final approval for the project is not done, the major hurdle of the zoning has been cleared.
On the housing side, the proposed rental unit mix will be 10 percent studios, 50 percent 1-bedroom, 35 percent 2-bedroom, and 5 percent 3-bedroom units, according to the meeting information packet. The projected rent will range between $875 and $1,500 a month.
The rezoning, from two kinds of estate residential to a planned unit development (PUD) district, had been recommended for approval on a unanimous vote of the plan commission. County commissioners voted 3–0 on the rezone.
Some words of caution came from Julie Thomas, who represents the county commissioners on the plan commission. On Wednesday, Thomas questioned the assumption that the development would impact the price of housing in a good way. “Just building more stuff doesn’t make things cheaper for everyone else,” Thomas said.
Thomas added, “It is so much more complicated than supply and demand.”
Thomas called the loss of farmland sad, but said, “There really isn’t a use here for farmland anymore, because the value of the property is really in providing residential opportunities.”
The rezoning had letters of support from Bloomington Economic Development Corporation, Cook Group, Ivy Tech Community College, the Regional Opportunity Initiatives, and the current property owner.
According to the meeting information packet, construction is supposed to start 90 days after zoning approval, and will take 18 months to complete. That would put the completion time around the end of 2022.
About the pricing of the planned housing, Mark Avis, who’s managing member at Redhawk Multifamily, said it would be market rate, designed for employees of companies in the area who want to live near where they work. Employers include Cook Medical, Baxter Healthcare and Tasus.
Avis said he thinks it would be generally affordable, based on 80 percent of the median area income. Rent would be around $1,200 to $1,400, he said. Many of the apartments are configured with what Avis called “roommate plans” which feature two same-size bedrooms and same-size bathrooms.
Asked by Thomas about the acceptance of Section 8 vouchers, Avis said that depends on how the permanent financing is set up. For the temporary construction financing, Avis said, investors would be brought in, and there would be a financing entity. The original entity would not be able to commit to doing Section 8, Avis said.
But as soon as a certain level of occupancy is achieved for the buildings, and the construction financing can be paid off, the original investors will “want to go on their own way,” Avis said.
After the initial three to four years of construction financing has played out, accepting Section 8 vouchers will depend on what type of permanent financing is available, Avis said. The permanent financing could be done through HUD agencies like Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, Avis said, which generally have no problems with Section 8 financing. But Avis said there’s no guarantee that Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac would be around four years from now.
The parcel that was given rezoning approval on Wednesday is on the boundary of the city of Bloomington. It sits in the part of the county that was labeled Area 1A as part of an annexation process that the city was undertaking in 2017, when the state legislature passed a law that suspended Bloomington’s annexation process.
Indiana’s Supreme Court ruled towards the end of 2020 that the state law enacted by the legislature was unconstitutional.
The court decision clears one legal hurdle for the city of Bloomington to start contemplating annexation again. As far as restarting the annexation process, in mid-December Hamilton told The Square Beacon, “Nothing is imminent.” He added, “We have to figure out, with advice of counsel and our county counterparts, how to proceed.”
The day after the court decision was issued, at the regular meeting of Bloomington’s city council, councilmember Steve Volan stated, “I think I’m speaking for the whole council when I say that the current council is committed to taking up the annexation plan at some point in 2021.”
A question from The Square Beacon to the mayor’s office last week—about the possible timing and scope of an annexation effort—did not get an answer.