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”

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”

Bloomington now wants parking tickets paid before towed cars get returned, residential neighborhood permit failure now subject to fine

People who park their cars in the city of Bloomington can now accumulate two extra unpaid parking tickets before their car gets towed.

But the increase in the towing threshold, from four to six unpaid citations, comes with a tradeoff.

The ordinance requires the car owner to pay off all the unpaid tickets in order to get their car back. The new local law was approved on a unanimous vote by the city council at its regular Wednesday session.

As part of the ordinance, the part of city code covering residential neighborhood parking permits also got some tweaks.

The ordinance adds a $100 fine for using a residential neighborhood parking permit in an unauthorized manner, and a $20 fine for not properly displaying a neighborhood parking permit when parked in a residential neighborhood zone.

The ordinance also allows a residential neighborhood parking permit holder whose permit is stolen to get a replacement at no charge, if they report the theft of the permit to the police.

It was the towing aspect of the new ordinance that drew most of the city council’s attention. Continue reading “Bloomington now wants parking tickets paid before towed cars get returned, residential neighborhood permit failure now subject to fine”

City council: Duplexes won’t be disallowed in Bloomington’s central residential areas

An ordinance that would change Bloomington’s basic law on land use, so that duplexes would be permitted (aka “by right”) in central residential areas, has survived a proposed amendment that would have disallowed duplexes there.

At a special session of the city council on Tuesday, Amendment 01 to Ordinance 21-23 failed on a 4–5 vote. It got support from its sponsors, Susan Sandberg, Dave Rollo, and Ron Smith, who were joined by Sue Sgambelluri.

Voting against the amendment were Jim Sims, Isabel Piedmont-Smith, Steve Volan, Kate Rosenbarger, and Matt Flaherty.

The current unified development ordinance (UDO) disallows duplexes in R1 (Residential Large Lot), R2 (Residential Medium Lot), and R3 (Residential Small Lot) districts. The failed amendment would have preserved that state of affairs, where existing duplexes can persist as non-conforming uses, but no new duplexes can be built.

Likely to be considered on Wednesday, when the special session is set to continue at 7:30 p.m., is an amendment to Ordinance 21-23, sponsored by Sims and Piedmont-Smith, that would still allow duplexes in R1, R2, and R3, but only as a conditional use. The granting of a conditional use permit requires a hearing in front of the board of zoning appeals. Continue reading “City council: Duplexes won’t be disallowed in Bloomington’s central residential areas”

Applicants for $500K in social services funding from Bloomington make pitches to committee

On Thursday evening, Sam Ujdak, who’s the grants manager for Middle Way House, described a truck the nonprofit is hoping to replace: “Our current truck is a 1996 Chevy S-10 with an indeterminate amount of miles. Significant parts of the dashboard are broken.”

Ujdak continued, “I’ve driven the truck several times over the last couple of years with a significant payload. And it is terrifying. And it’s a pretty liberal use of the word ‘truck’.”

Middle Way House helps find permanent housing solutions to support survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking.

The nonprofit was one of 32 local organizations that on Thursday presented their pitches for project funding  from the Jack Hopkins social services funding committee. It’s a city council and citizen committee that will be awarding about a half million dollars in funding this year.

The committee will be making decisions on this year’s grants in mid-May.

The annual grants from the city to local nonprofits have added up to more than $5 million since 1993.

This year, the amount available to the committee to award is $511,000. That’s $200,000 more than has been awarded over the last few years.

The extra funding was allocated as part of the 2021 budget, in the second phase of Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s Recover Forward initiative, which is meant to help Bloomington bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic.

That follows an additional $200,000 that was allocated for Jack Hopkins funding last year, after the usual cycle of awards was complete. Continue reading “Applicants for $500K in social services funding from Bloomington make pitches to committee”

Zoning for duplexes in Bloomington: Public comment to continue next Tuesday at special Bloomington city council meeting

Just before midnight on Wednesday (April 28), Bloomington’s city council voted to end its committee-of-the-whole meeting on the topic of zoning laws regulating duplexes.

The meeting ended in the middle of public commentary before the council reached a point of taking any of its customary straw poll committee votes.

Here’s the basic question that will eventually be decided by the council: Will it be legal to build new duplexes in some residential areas of Bloomington where they cannot currently be built?

Council administrator/attorney Stephen Lucas confirmed to The Square Beacon that a final council vote on the question of duplexes could come  as soon as Tuesday, May 4.

A special session will be set for that day at 6:30 p.m., it was announced at Wednesday’s committee-of-the-whole meeting.

If the city council changes the law so that new duplexes are allowed in specific districts, another layer of the decision will be: What is the process under which duplexes will be allowed?

Will it be a by-right process with no public hearing? Or will it be a conditional use process that includes a hearing in front of the board of zoning appeals?

The council’s decision to end the committee meeting just before midnight was made on a 5–3 vote. (Council president Jim Sims was inadvertently missed on the roll call.)

The end of the meeting came at a point when a couple of dozen people still had their virtual hands raised to speak during the public comment period on Amendment 01 to Ordinance 21-23.

The remaining public commenters will have to wait until next Tuesday (May 4) at 6:30 p.m. to have their say. That’s when a special meeting of the council will convene, to continue the deliberations.

Continue reading “Zoning for duplexes in Bloomington: Public comment to continue next Tuesday at special Bloomington city council meeting”

Bloomington to restart 2017 annexation process

Bloomington’s mayor John Hamilton used a 10:30 a.m. live-streamed video on Wednesday to announce the resumption of the city’s 2017 plans for annexation.

Image links to high resolution .pdf file.

The live-streamed announcement lasted under five minutes.

Based on city website material now posted on the topic of the resuscitated annexation effort, the same seven chunks of land that were proposed in 2017 for annexation will be under consideration now.

According to a press release issued during Hamilton’s announcement,  Bloomington’s city council is scheduled to review the updated fiscal plans related to the proposed annexations at a May 12 session.

Adoption of the annexation ordinances is anticipated sometime in September, according to the release.

Annexed areas would likely become part of the city at the beginning of the year 2024, according to Hamilton.

Clearing the way for the resumption of annexation plans was a 3–2 Indiana Supreme Court ruling in mid-December last year.

In 2017, the state legislature had passed a law, as part of the biennial budget that year, that had the effect of suspending Bloomington’s annexation process, which was then in progress.

Bloomington filed a lawsuit, arguing that the state legislature’s law was unconstitutional  and prevailed in the narrow decision handed down by Indiana’s highest court last year.

May 12 would normally be a night for committee meetings for the city council. Consideration of annexations would almost certainly be a committee-of-the-whole meeting. Continue reading “Bloomington to restart 2017 annexation process”