City council land use committee: Mixed-use development with 344 bedrooms, 19K square feet of commercial space needs second meeting

Last Wednesday, the Bloomington city council’s four-member land use committee met to review a planned unit development (PUD) proposed for the empty lot on the north side of the Longview Avenue, between Pete Ellis Drive and 7th Street.

The zoning proposal from Curry Urban Properties would allow for construction of a single four-story building with 344 bedrooms and 19,000 square feet of commercial space, enclosing two interior courtyards on the east and west sides of a structured parking garage with a total of 306 parking spaces.

Of the 264 dwelling units, 15 percent of them would have rents keyed to either the same as the area median income (AMI) or no more than 120 percent of AMI.

After hearing from planning staff, the petitioner Steve Curry, and neighbors, the land use committee decided to hold a second meeting on the proposal, scheduled for Jan. 29 at 5:45 p.m. Continue reading “City council land use committee: Mixed-use development with 344 bedrooms, 19K square feet of commercial space needs second meeting”

Bonds for first step of Bloomington’s public housing conversion get final OK from city council

At its regular Wednesday meeting, Bloomington’s city council voted unanimously to approve the issuance of up to $11 million in economic development notes to support the renovation of Bloomington’s public housing stock.

The bond issuance approved this week was for rehabbing two of the three Bloomington Housing Authority (BHA) properties—the Walnut Woods and Reverend Butler sites. BHA’s executive director, Amber Skoby, told the council that planning will start this summer for similar work on the third BHA site—the Crestmont Community.

“After that’s done, we won’t have any more public housing in Bloomington,” Skoby said.

Councilmember Steve Volan’s reaction conveyed amazement: “Does that mean you won’t have a job? I don’t understand.” Continue reading “Bonds for first step of Bloomington’s public housing conversion get final OK from city council”

County, city leaders review draft interlocal agreement for convention center capital improvement board, set next meeting for Feb. 10

Several Bloomington and Monroe County officials met Monday evening to push ahead the $44-million convention center expansion project. They reviewed a draft interlocal agreement, circulated shortly before the meeting, that is intended to supplement statutory requirements for the eventual formation of a capital improvement board (CIB).

The three county commissioners, in addition to several members of the city and county councils, were joined by Bloomington’s deputy mayor, Mick Renneisen at the meeting they’d set at the end of last year.

Monday’s discussion centered on budgets, land, and appointments. Continue reading “County, city leaders review draft interlocal agreement for convention center capital improvement board, set next meeting for Feb. 10”

Bloomington city council tees up new local law to regulate non-consensual vehicle towing

If you leave your car in a private lot where you’re not allowed to park, you risk getting your vehicle towed at your own expense. That’s not really news—for Bloomington or any other place.

What is new for Bloomington is a proposed ordinance to regulate companies that provide towing service to parking lot owners. Such companies would have to pay the city $350 a year for a “non-consensual tow business license” and face, on first offense, a $2,500 fine for failure to obtain a license.

The $350 license fee is the same as what a one-year license cost for mobile food vendors in Bloomington, according to the staff memo in the city council’s information packet.

The ordinance will get a first reading next Wednesday night, which means no debate and no final action will be taken on it at that meeting. At most, the council could refer the proposed ordinance for consideration by its committee of the whole on the following Wednesday or some other time in the future. Continue reading “Bloomington city council tees up new local law to regulate non-consensual vehicle towing”

Pitch for Bloomington city council standing committees seen by executive branch as a fastball

“Is council a co-equal branch of government or isn’t it?” That’s a rhetorical question posed by Steve Volan, this year’s president of Bloomington’s city council, about the relationship between the council and the city’s administration.

Volan asked the question during a contentious work session held last Friday afternoon in city hall’s Hooker Conference Room. All nine councilmembers attended at least part of the session, along with a dozen and half staff members, among them several department heads and deputy mayor Mick Renneisen.

The friction that emerged between Volan and staff members, and with some of Volan’s city council colleagues, stemmed from a pending resolution, introduced by Volan at the city council’s first meeting of the year, on Jan. 8.

Volan proposes to use existing city code to establish seven four-member standing committees. Already established is a land use committee, to which zoning legislation has been referred for the last two years. Continue reading “Pitch for Bloomington city council standing committees seen by executive branch as a fastball”

Bloomington city council punts question of standing committees to end of January

On Wednesday night, Bloomington’s city council began its year with an organizational meeting that featured a split vote.

What generated some controversy at the start of the term was a proposal from newly named council president, Steve Volan, to use existing local code to establish several four-member standing committees. They would add to the existing land use committee.

Six of the nine councilmembers, led by outgoing council president Dave Rollo, wanted to postpone a vote on Volan’s proposal for three weeks, until Jan. 29. Susan Sandberg was vocal in her opposition to establishing standing committees, pointing out that she’d heard similar proposals three times before from Volan, during her time serving on the council.

Three councilmembers, including Volan, would have been content to postpone the question until next week, Jan. 15. But they thought the three-week wait was unnecessary. The 6–3 vote to postpone until Jan. 29 came after about 90 minutes of debate.

Near the start of the meeting, the naming of  Volan as president, Jim Sims vice president, and Isabel Piedmont-Smith parliamentarian was done by a unanimous voice vote. Continue reading “Bloomington city council punts question of standing committees to end of January”

Bloomington still wants to take 222 Hats building, asks court for permission to file new action with different parking garage design

On December 20 last year, a Monroe County circuit court judge ruled that Bloomington could not use eminent domain to take the JuanSells.com building (222 Hats) in order to build a replacement garage on a larger footprint. The building is just south of the site where the 352-space 4th Street parking garage once stood.

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Looking south on Dec. 25, 2019, from 4th Street across the empty lot where the city’s 352-space parking garage previously stood. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Now, according to a request filed Dec. 30 and posted by the circuit court on Jan. 2, Bloomington wants to amend its eminent domain action to factor in the key point of judge Holly Harvey’s ruling.

The ruling hinged on the fact that the proposed design of the replacement garage would include non-residential commercial space on its ground floor, disqualifying it from the public purpose that such a taking is supposed to serve.

Harvey found that “the retail use of the proposed Project, which cannot be separated from the public aspect, prohibits the taking of the 222 Hats Real Estate.”

What Bloomington is doing is not appealing Harvey’s ruling. Instead, the city is asking to amend its filing on the taking of the property. The amended filing would propose a parking structure design without the ground-floor retail component, on which its first effort foundered. Continue reading “Bloomington still wants to take 222 Hats building, asks court for permission to file new action with different parking garage design”

Routine animal shelter agreement: A tasty, rounded treat for Bloomington city council’s first meeting of 2020

(Dogs pictured were available for adoption at Bloomington’s animal shelter on Jan. 6, 2020.)

On Wednesday, Bloomington’s city council kicks off 2020 with its first meeting of the year, when it handles organizational matters like the election of new officers.

Some other non-organizational action items also appear on Wednesday’s agenda, among them a $350K interlocal agreement between Bloomington, Ellettsville and Monroe County on splitting costs for Bloomington’s animal shelter. It’s a routine agreement that’s been ratified for several years based on an agreed-upon formula that assigns costs on a per-animal basis.

Another routine interlocal agreement, under which Monroe County administers the building code for the city and the county, also appears on Wednesday’s agenda. It dates back to 1996 and has been extended at regular intervals for the last quarter century.

A third action item the council is expected to handle on Wednesday is a proposal to use existing city code to establish standing committees to distribute some of the council’s work. Continue reading “Routine animal shelter agreement: A tasty, rounded treat for Bloomington city council’s first meeting of 2020”

Bloomington city councilmember: It’s now time for standing committees, and time limits on speaking turns

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At its Friday, Jan. 3, 2020 work session,  Bloomington city councilmember Steve Volan introduces the specifics of one possible approach to establishing a slate of four-member standing committees, to which the city council could refer legislation. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

At a work session held on Friday, Bloomington city councilmember Steve Volan introduced a proposal he’s put on the agenda for the council’s first meeting of the year, on Wednesday, Jan. 8.

Volan’s resolution would use existing city code to establish several four-member standing committees, adding to the already-existing land use committee. The land use committee is the subset of councilmembers to which planned unit developments (PUDs) have been referred for the last couple years, after getting a first reading in front of the council.

Much of Friday’s discussion focused on the role of standing committees in the process of approving legislation. But Volan’s arguments for standing committees include the idea of better equipping the council, as the legislative branch, to carry out its defined role as a check on the executive. Continue reading “Bloomington city councilmember: It’s now time for standing committees, and time limits on speaking turns”

Bloomington’s mayor pitches half percent countywide income tax increase to generate $8M annually for climate action

A proposal to increase the local income tax (LIT) that’s collected in Monroe County by a half percent came from Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, after swearing-in ceremonies for the city’s 11 elected official were complete on New Year’s Day.

The half percent increase would bring the total income tax levy to 1.845 percent from the current total of 1.345 percent. It’s estimated to generate about $8 million for allocation by Bloomington’s city government and another $8 million for Monroe County government officials.

Hamilton wants the tax to be enacted by the local income tax council (LITC) sometime in the next six months. It’s not not yet clear what, if any, deadlines might need to be hit to ensure that new LIT revenue would appear in local coffers as soon as possible. Continue reading “Bloomington’s mayor pitches half percent countywide income tax increase to generate $8M annually for climate action”