Health regs end May 17 in Monroe County, Bloomington | Walk-in vaccine clinic at Assembly Hall May 15

Factoring in the latest Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance, Monroe County’s health officer, Thomas Sharp, is rescinding the current Monroe County health regulations, effective Monday, May 17, at 8 a.m.

Those regulations limit gatherings to 50 people, and require masking in a range of situations.

The announcement came from county health administrator Penny Caudill at Friday’s weekly press conference on pandemic response held by local leaders.

Caudill stressed that there will still be some requirements to wear masks and to maintain distance—for people who are vaccinated or not. Examples given by Caudill are: federal or state property, vaccination clinics, and COVID testing sites.

Other government offices can still require distancing or masking, Caudill said. Local businesses can continue masking and distancing requirements as well, she added. “That is their option. Please be respectful and accommodating of those requests,” Caudill said.

On Friday evening came the city of Bloomington’s notification  that its gathering size limit would also end on Monday, May 17. Continue reading “Health regs end May 17 in Monroe County, Bloomington | Walk-in vaccine clinic at Assembly Hall May 15”

Monroe County commissioners reject mixed-use proposal at Rogers Street, That Road: “We are the county. We are not the city.”

On a unanimous vote taken at their regular Wednesday meeting, the three Monroe County commissioners turned down a proposal to redevelop a 4-acre parcel just south of the current Bloomington city limits, with five residential and commercial buildings.

The conceptual plans in the meeting information packet call for 31 new residences—15 in one building, five in each of three other buildings and one in a fifth building. The petition, brought by Blind Squirrels, LLC, would have constructed attached townhomes, multi-family residences, and commercial space.

Called “Clear Creek Urban,” the proposal was in front of the commissioners, because it was a proposed rezone from different types of residential zoning districts, and a planned unit development (PUD), to a new PUD. A PUD is a kind of custom zoning created to suit unique characteristics of a site.

When she explained her vote against the proposal, Julie Thomas, president of the county board of commissioners, first said that she thinks some kind of development for the parcel is needed. Thomas praised the creativity of the proposal, which was presented by Tamby Wikle-Cassady for Blind Squirrels.

Thomas said, “It’s nice to imagine a sort of a community feel that would have emerged from this—sort of like when you go through Unionville or Harrodsburg or other communities that we have.” Thomas added, “The building design is great. The ability to adapt and to make changes has been really phenomenal. And I want to thank Ms. Cassady for that.”

The problem for Thomas was the project’s density. “While I support the idea of having mixed use, I just think that this is too much density for the county…The first building is going to be very tall [three stories], especially compared to the immediate surrounding community,” Thomas said. Continue reading “Monroe County commissioners reject mixed-use proposal at Rogers Street, That Road: “We are the county. We are not the city.””

Rejected 4–5 by Bloomington city council: Affordable housing link to more bedrooms in duplexes

On a 4–5 vote taken Wednesday night, Bloomington’s city council rejected an amendment to a proposed zoning ordinance that would have tied a higher number of bedrooms in a duplex unit to affordability requirements.

Voting for Amendment 04 were its sponsors, Dave Rollo and Susan Sandberg, who were joined by Ron Smith and Sue Sgambelluri. Voting against it were Steve Volan, Isabel Piedmont-Smith, Matt Flaherty, Kate Rosenbarger, and Jim Sims.But by the time the council recessed its meeting around 11 p.m., its work on Ordinance 21-23 was still not finished.

The council left off in the middle of public commentary on Amendment 05, which would add potential undue traffic congestion as one of the criteria the board of zoning appeals would need to consider, when granting a conditional use permit for a duplex.

The council is set to resume its session at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday (May 13).

Under Amendment 04 to Ordinance 21-23, which failed on a 4–5 split, a duplex unit could not have more than two bedrooms per unit—for a total of four. Three bedrooms would be allowed—for a total of six—only if affordability requirements are met.

Under the failed Amendment 04, one way to meet the affordability requirements would be to make both sides of the duplex permanently income-restricted for those earning below 120 percent of the HUD area median income (AMI). The other way to meet the affordability requirements would be to make one of the duplex units permanently income-restricted for those earning below 80 percent of the AMI.

Voting for Amendment 04 were its sponsors, Dave Rollo and Susan Sandberg, who were joined by Ron Smith and Sue Sgambelluri. Voting against it were Steve Volan, Isabel Piedmont-Smith, Matt Flaherty, Kate Rosenbarger, and Jim Sims. Continue reading “Rejected 4–5 by Bloomington city council: Affordable housing link to more bedrooms in duplexes”

Monroe County turns map blue for COVID cases, but still in yellow advisory

At their regular Wednesday meeting, Monroe County commissioners heard a bit of good news related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

County health administrator Penny Caudill told them the 92 confirmed positive cases for the week ending on Sunday were low enough to put Monroe County in the blue category for the state’s dual-metric classification scheme.

That’s the first time in a couple of months that the county has been blue. Blue designates the best category, which is “low community spread.”

The other metric, besides the number of confirmed cases per 100,000, is positivity rate. Monroe County has consistently scored in the best category for the positivity metric, due in part to the massive amount of mitigation testing that Indiana University has undertaken.

Mitigation testing, of randomly selected people, by its nature will show a lower positivity rate than testing of those who decide they want a test for some reason.

Based on the number of positive cases, Monroe County is still in the next-best category, but when averaged with the score for positivity rate, the county comes out blue.

Caudill also cautioned the commissioners that under the dual-metric color-coded advisory scheme, the county needs to maintain its blue status for two weeks in a row in order to be considered out from under the cautions associated with the yellow rating. Continue reading “Monroe County turns map blue for COVID cases, but still in yellow advisory”

$500K in awards to social services nonprofits recommended by Bloomington committee

On Tuesday evening, members of a committee made up of Bloomington citizens and city councilmembers settled on preliminary awards of $511,000 to 32 different nonprofit organizations.

These are the top 10 agencies recommended to receive Jack Hopkins social services funding in 2021, sorted by award. A complete chart, with project descriptions is included below.

The $511,000 had to be stretched across $546,793 in requests, which had been ratcheted down from the total of $648,197 from 35 organizations.

The $648,197 is in line with the average over the last three years, which has been about $690,000.

Historically, the $5 million in grants that have been made since were made based on $10 million in requests.

The top 10 nonprofits by their recommended allocations were: Hoosier Hills Food Bank ($35,000); New Hope for Families ($35,000); St. Vincent DePaul ($30,000); Tandem Community Birth Center and Postpartum House ($30,000); LIFEDesigns Inc. ($28,676); Community Justice and Mediation Center ($27,424); Beacon Inc. (Shalom Center) ($25,000); Boys & Girls Clubs of Bloomington ($24,000); My Sister’s Closet of Monroe County ($22,400); and Monroe County United Ministries ($22,000).

Only the 32 groups that were invited a week and a half ago to present their project proposals to the Jack Hopkins social services funding committee were recommended for awards on Tuesday.

Tuesday’s preliminary allocations will be followed by an allocation hearing on May 18, and city council approval of the awards on June 16. Continue reading “$500K in awards to social services nonprofits recommended by Bloomington committee”

Bloomington plan commission meets on Kmart redevelopment: “Yes, it’s better. But is it good?”

At its regular monthly meeting on Monday, Bloomington’s plan commission voted to continue the proposed redevelopment of the Kmart property on East Third Street to its second hearing. That is now set for June 14.

The outcome of Monday’s vote was not exactly hanging in the balance, because the 900-bedroom housing project does not include a rezone request.

That means its approval by the plan commission is “by right”—if it meets the standard conditions required in the MC (mixed-use corridor) zoning district. It also means that the project does not need approval from the city council. Continue reading “Bloomington plan commission meets on Kmart redevelopment: “Yes, it’s better. But is it good?””

Bloomington preps for annexation restart on May 19, will assume remonstrance waivers voided by state legislature are valid

At a work session held on Friday, Bloomington’s city council got a briefing from mayor John Hamilton’s administration on the restart of an annexation process that was launched in 2017.

Image links to high resolution .pdf file.

The process was stopped that year when the state legislature enacted a law that was found by Indiana’s Supreme Court in late 2020 to be unconstitutional. That cleared the way for Bloomington’s renewed annexation effort.

Friday’s work session provided a couple of newsy bits.

First, based on the work session discussion, Bloomington will be proceeding with the process on the assumption that some remonstrance waivers are still valid, even though they were declared void by a state law enacted by the state legislature in 2019.

The new 2019 law says that a few different categories of annexation waivers are not valid, which means that more property owners would be eligible to remonstrate against a proposed annexation.

At the work session, Bloomington’s corporation counsel Philippa Guthrie said about the remonstrance waivers voided by the state legislature: “They were contracts signed by individuals with the city, in exchange for getting the sewer service. That’s why we provided the service. So we’re proceeding as if they are valid.”

Guthrie confirmed to The Square Beacon, “Yes, we believe all of our waivers are valid.” On Friday, Guthrie did not have a figure for the number of waivers that are involved. Continue reading “Bloomington preps for annexation restart on May 19, will assume remonstrance waivers voided by state legislature are valid”

COVID 19 Update: Local officials say, “We gotta get this vaccine rate up.”

As the prospect of achieving herd immunity against the COVID-19 virus could be waning, according to some experts,  Bloomington and Monroe County area officials are trying to focus on getting local vaccination rates as high as possible.

The confirmed daily positive case numbers in Monroe County have been vacillating over the last couple of weeks in the low to mid-20s without a clear longer-term upward or downward trend. The short-term trend over the last five days is somewhat downward.

Speaking at the regular Friday news conference of local leaders this week, Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, said, “Even if we don’t make population immunity or herd immunity…maybe the local vaccination numbers just in our area are more important than we may have thought, compared to everything else.”

IU Health’s south central region president Brian Shockney put it this way: “We gotta get this vaccine rate up.” Continue reading “COVID 19 Update: Local officials say, “We gotta get this vaccine rate up.””

Duplexes get some “guardrails” from Bloomington city council, more could follow

After voting unanimously the previous night to allow duplexes as a conditional use in Bloomington’s central residential districts, on Thursday Bloomington’s city council  added some additional constraints on duplexes.

The “guardrails” that are included in Amendment 03 to Ordinance 21-23 are meant to allay the concern that single-family houses will be bought up by profit-driven developers and rapidly converted to duplexes.

The council’s work on duplex zoning will continue next week.

One feature of Amendment 03 imposes a cap of 15 duplexes per calendar year. An earlier version of the amendment had put the cap at 10.

Another feature of Amendment 03 is a geographic constraint. It adds a requirement that within a 150-foot buffer of a property where a conditional use permit has been issued for a duplex, no additional duplexes will be allowed for two years.

An earlier version of the amendment prohibited additional duplexes within the buffer in perpetuity, not just two years. That change was something that councilmember Matt Flaherty mentioned on Thursday night as helping to persuade him that he could support the amendment.

The tally when the council voted was 7–2 in favor of Amendment 03, with dissent from Steve Volan and Isabel Piedmont-Smith. Continue reading “Duplexes get some “guardrails” from Bloomington city council, more could follow”

On 9–0 vote Bloomington dials down duplexes from permitted to conditional use

Duplexes will not be a permitted (by-right) use in Bloomington’s central residential districts. But they will still be allowed, as a conditional use.

That’s the outcome of Wednesday’s continuation of a city council special session that started on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, councilmembers voted unanimously to amend Ordinance 21-23. As recommended to them by the city’s plan commission, the new law would have established duplexes as permitted (by-right) use in R1 (Residential Large Lot), R2 (Residential Medium Lot), and R3 (Residential Small Lot) districts.

In the city’s current UDO (unified development ordinance) duplexes are not allowed in those districts.

The 9–0 vote to amend Ordinance 21-23 restored to conditional use the proposed status of duplexes in R1, R2, and R3. That had been the basic recommendation of the city’s planning staff.

The granting of a conditional use permit will require a hearing in front of the board of zoning appeals.

On Tuesday, the council had considered an amendment that would have changed the status of duplexes in the R-districts to disallowed, but it failed on a 4–5 tally.

Among Wednesday’s roughly 40 public commenters and councilmembers alike, the conditional use amendment that was approved on Wednesday was generally considered as a kind of compromise position.

But the negotiations on some additional restrictions to Ordinance 21-23 are not yet done.

Based on council deliberations on Wednesday, three additional amendments will be considered, when the same special meeting continues on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

As councilmember Susan Sandberg put it, the additional amendments will add some “teeth” to the restrictions on duplexes in the ordinance. Two of them are already drafted, numbered Amendment 03 and Amendment 04. Continue reading “On 9–0 vote Bloomington dials down duplexes from permitted to conditional use”