COVID-19 update: Upward surge of cases continues, but vaccinations accelerate

Friday’s report of 54 new cases of COVID-19 for Monroe County cases is the highest number since Feb. 3.

But the rate of fully vaccinated county residents that are being added to the daily total has risen in the last couple weeks, to around 500 per day. That’s after bumping along in the low 300s for about seven weeks.

According to Indiana University’s assistant vice president for strategic partnerships, Kirk White, another boost to the number of fully vaccinated county residents will come in early May. That increase will come when people who are being vaccinated at the university’s Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall start getting their second doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

White was speaking at the weekly Friday afternoon press conference held by local leaders on COVID-19 pandemic response. Continue reading “COVID-19 update: Upward surge of cases continues, but vaccinations accelerate”

Bloomington ban on red-light turns in downtown a good step, pedestrian advocate says, but more work needed

At nearly 80 new spots in Bloomington’s downtown and Indiana University campus area, it will be illegal for a vehicle operator to make a turn after stopping at a red light.

An existing “No Turn on Red” location on 7th Street at College Avenue, looking east. You can’t turn south on red.

On a 9–0 vote on Wednesday, Bloomington’s city council approved the ordinance adding to the list of no-turn-on-red intersections to the city code.

In the staff report submitted for review by the city’s traffic commission, the stated purpose of the additional no-turn-on-red intersections is “to reduce crash risk for vulnerable road users.”

Vulnerable road users include pedestrians, bicyclists and other non-motorized means of transportation.

The new local law is a good step, Bloomington resident Greg Alexander told the city councilmembers, but said there’s a lot of work to be done.

Based on the memo in the meeting information packet, Bloomington’s police department would not see much of an impact on their enforcement activity.

Continue reading “Bloomington ban on red-light turns in downtown a good step, pedestrian advocate says, but more work needed”

April 14 special session likely for some first readings of Bloomington zoning revisions

For Bloomington’s city council, a first glimpse of a 10-ordinance package of revisions to the city’s unified development ordinance (UDO,  and the citywide zone map, will come at a Friday (April 9) noon work session.

The image links to the planning staff’s web page for the UDO revisions project.

The city plan commission wrapped up its work on the package on Monday, with a 7–1 vote to send a revised citywide zoning map to the city council with a positive recommendation.

A sketch of the possible schedule for the city council’s consideration of the zoning package emerged at the end of Wednesday’s regular meeting.

Friday’s work session is expected to include a more detailed discussion of scheduling matters for the revisions to the UDO.

But the tentative plan appears to include setting up the following Wednesday (April 14) for a special session of the council to hear a first reading of the 10 ordinances. Continue reading “April 14 special session likely for some first readings of Bloomington zoning revisions”

Bloomington paves way for park-side mixed-use residential project with rezone for warehouse

At its Wednesday meeting, Bloomington’s city council approved a rezone request that will allow the redevelopment of a warehouse—two-thirds of it, anyway—that sits just to the west of Switchyard Park and the B-Line Trail.

The approved rezone was a change to the existing planned unit development (PUD)—which would allow a seven-building mixed-use project to be constructed, with more than 200 bedrooms and up to 10,000 feet of commercial space.

The vote on the council was 9–0.

Councilmember Dave Rollo said, “I think that this is an excellent development. I think it’s actually a precedent-setting redevelopment.” Rollo added, “It’s sort of a setting-of-the-bar example, in my mind, of what to see in redevelopment petitions.”

The project associated with the rezone request would require the demolition of the southern two-thirds of the warehouse, which is the part controlled by McDoel Business Center owner Tom Brennan. The project also includes a parcel not in the footprint of the warehouse, on the south side of Hillside Drive, which is now a surface parking lot.

In place of the warehouse, and the parking lot, Brennan would like to construct seven buildings. A bedroom count  of 215 was provided for the seven buildings in the preliminary plan, which was included in the addendum to Wednesday’s city council information packet. Of the 215 units, 15 percent are required to be “affordable.” Continue reading “Bloomington paves way for park-side mixed-use residential project with rezone for warehouse”

Disputed plan commission seat: Court of appeals rules against Bloomington

On Tuesday morning, a three-judge panel from Indiana’s Court of Appeals issued a unanimous ruling that goes against Bloomington’s mayor John Hamilton and the city of Bloomington.

The ruling could be pivotal in the case of a disputed city plan commission seat that dates back to spring 2020. But Tuesday’s ruling leaves unresolved some crucial matters of statutory interpretation.

When the case goes back to the circuit court, it’s possible the special judge in the case, Erik Allen, could eventually issue an order that recognizes Andrew Guenther as the rightful appointee to the Bloomington plan commission, instead of Chris Cockerham.

Or Allen could decide that Cockerham is the right person for the spot.

That will depend on how Allen analyzes the questions of law in the case, which involve partisan balancing of boards and commissions

Tuesday’s order from the court of appeals panel simply affirmed Allen’s decision to deny the city of Bloomington’s motion to dismiss the case. The motion to dismiss was based on the idea that Guenther, and Monroe County GOP chair William Ellis, lacked legal standing to file their lawsuit.

In spring 2020, Ellis claimed a right under a state statute to make the plan commission appointment, and designated Guenther as his appointee. Under normal circumstances, it’s a mayoral appointment.

Ellis made his appointment under a state statute that gives a party chair the right to make the appointment if the mayor does not make it in a timely way—within 90 days after the expiry of the appointee’s term.

Hamilton’s appointment of Cockerham came after Ellis announced he had appointed Guenther. Cockerham has been serving as Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s appointee to the city’s plan commission since summer 2020. Continue reading “Disputed plan commission seat: Court of appeals rules against Bloomington”

Duplexes to drop in front of Bloomington’s city council as permitted use

At its meeting on Thursday (April 1), Bloomington’s plan commission voted 6–3 to forward an ordinance to the city council, with a positive recommendation, that will affect the status of duplexes in much of the city.

The yellow areas are the places in Bloomington where the plan commission is recommending that duplexes be allowed as a permitted (by-right) use.

The recommended ordinance would revise the unified development ordinance (UDO), so that duplexes are a permitted (by-right) use in four districts.

The areas where duplexes would be permitted are the R1 (Residential Large Lot), R2 (Residential Medium Lot), R3 (Residential Small Lot), and R4 (Residential Urban) districts.

The city council could take up the question before the end of April, depending on how long it takes the plan commission to finish its work on the 10-ordinance package it’s now considering.

The city’s plan staff had proposed an ordinance that would change duplexes in R1, R2 and R3 from disallowed use to conditional use. A conditional use requires approval by the board of zoning appeals (BZA).

Through an amendment to the staff-proposed ordinance, approved on a 5–4 vote taken on Monday (March 29), the plan commission made duplexes a permitted (by-right) use in those three districts.

The amendment approved on Monday also changed duplexes in R4 from conditional use to permitted (by-right) use, which is consistent with the city’s current UDO. The planning staff’s unamended proposed ordinance had made the use of duplexes in R4 conditional.

In Monday’s action, the plan commission also voted to remove a 150-foot buffer that would have, for two years, prevented other duplexes from being constructed in the buffer area around a duplex that has received a certificate of zoning compliance. Continue reading “Duplexes to drop in front of Bloomington’s city council as permitted use”

City council to decide: Is park-side residential development with little onsite greenspace a fair trade for a warehouse?

Next Wednesday (April 7), the city council could make a decision on a rezone request that would allow the redevelopment of the warehouse across the B-Line Trail from the pickleball courts in Bloomington’s new 65-acre Switchyard Park.

This week, the city council’s four-member land use committee used a second meeting to review the requested rezone—a revision to the existing planned unit development (PUD)—which would allow a mixed-use residential and commercial project to be built.

The project associated with the rezone request would require the demolition of the southern two-thirds of the warehouse, which is the part controlled by McDoel Business Center owner Tom Brennan. The project also includes a parcel not in the footprint of the warehouse, on the south side of Hillside Drive, which is now a surface parking lot.

In place of the warehouse, and the parking lot, Brennan would like to construct seven buildings, with around 235 bedrooms and up to 8,000 square feet of commercial space. Four of the buildings, on the northern part of the site, would consist of town homes—a total of 19 units with four bedrooms apiece.

Based on remarks from Doug Bruce with Tabor/Bruce Architecture & Design, the project architect, the start to any construction work would be a year or more away, if the rezone request were approved.

On Wednesday, land use committee members had some lingering concerns about the project that are associated with the rezone, centered on the amount of impervious surface it would include. The proposed impervious surface is up to 80 percent of the site, compared to 60 percent that would be allowed if the base zoning requirements were followed for the MN (mixed use neighborhood scale) zoning district.

A measure of committeemembers’ concern was the tally on their vote to recommend that the full council approve it. The vote was 1–0, with support only from Isabel Piedmont-Smith. Abstaining from the vote were Steve Volan, Matt Flaherty and Kate Rosenbarger. Continue reading “City council to decide: Is park-side residential development with little onsite greenspace a fair trade for a warehouse?”

Appeal of noise ordinance citation gets full hearing, standard denial by Bloomington public works board

At its regular meeting on Tuesday, Bloomington’s three-member board of public works heard and denied an appeal from a 21-year-old man who had been cited by a Bloomington police officer on Feb. 26 for a noise ordinance violation.

Tuesday’s appeal appears to have been a typical citation and appeals process, from several different angles. Continue reading “Appeal of noise ordinance citation gets full hearing, standard denial by Bloomington public works board”

Duplexes OK’d as by-right use for basic residential districts in recs by Bloomington plan commission

On a 5–4 vote taken Monday night, Bloomington’s plan commission changed its recommendation on duplexes in the R1, R2, R3, and R4 zoning districts—from conditional use to permitted (by-right) use.

It’s part of a proposed ordinance that will eventually wind up in front of the city council.

Also on Monday, plan commissioners voted 6–3 to remove from their recommended ordinance a proposed two-year buffering requirement for duplexes. Under the buffering requirement, if a duplex received a certificate of zoning compliance (CZC) in R1, R2, R3, or R4, then any other parcel within a 150-foot buffer of the duplex would be prevented for two years from getting a CZC for construction of a duplex.

After the ordinance was amended on Monday night, no vote was taken by the plan commission on the ordinance as amended. That vote could come at a meeting on Thursday (April 1), possibly after consideration of another amendment.

The votes on the two successful amendments followed the plan commission’s consideration of an amendment that was defeated on a 1–8 tally. The defeated amendment would have changed the commission’s recommendation on duplexes in the R1, R2, and R3 zoning districts, from conditional use to disallowed use.

The defeated amendment’s sole voice of support came from its sponsor, Susan Sandberg, who is the city council’s representative to the plan commission. Continue reading “Duplexes OK’d as by-right use for basic residential districts in recs by Bloomington plan commission”

Analysis: Duplexes allowed or not, a déjà different question for plan commission?

Should Bloomington’s plan commission recommend to the city council that duplexes still be disallowed in three specific zoning districts?

Zoning districts are (residential large lot), R2 (residential medium lot) and R3 (residential small lot). R4 is also a part of the mix, but is not a part of Sandberg’s amendment. A “C” stands for conditional use. A “P” stands for permitted (by-right) use. An empty cell means the use is not allowed. The asterisks indicate that use-specific conditions apply.

That’s the question that Bloomington’s plan commission has cued up on Monday, starting at 5:30 p.m.

The question was put forward by the city council’s representative to the plan commission, Susan Sandberg. It comes in the form of an amendment to an ordinance the plan commission is now hearing, that would modify the city’s existing unified development ordinance (UDO).

Public comment on the question was already heard, at Thursday’s special session of the plan commission.

So on Monday, the commission’s first decision on duplexes could be made in an hour or even less. But that will depend in part on whether plan commissioners have questions for planning staff, based on the public commentary they heard on Thursday.

Depending on how those first chips fall, the commission could also consider a different duplex question on Monday: Should the plan commission recommend to the city council that duplexes be permitted (i.e., allowed by right) in three specific zoning districts? Continue reading “Analysis: Duplexes allowed or not, a déjà different question for plan commission?”