Dirt gets moved for 69-house Habitat for Humanity neighborhood in southwest Bloomington: “Hope” is the thing…

On Monday afternoon, Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County’s board chair Meredith Rogers addressed a gathering of about 50 people for a ceremonial groundbreaking at Osage Place.

It’s a 69-house project just east of RCA Community Park, which is getting built in two phases.

At Monday’s event, held at the western stub of Guy Avenue where the pavement ends, it was evident from the mounds of dirt and the deep gravel, that the first phase of construction is already underway. The infrastructure is being put in place for the extensions of some east-west street stubs.

Rogers framed her remarks by talking about hope. “Creating the hope of a better future for our partner families is what Habitat for Humanity is all about,” Rogers said.

Habitat houses are built with volunteer labor and tax-deductible donations of money and materials. The houses are then sold to low-income families who make between 25 and 80 percent of the area median income (AMI).

Rogers continued, “Habitat provides that feeling of expectation or desire of a decent affordable place to call home.”

For Rogers, Monday’s groundbreaking was not the time to stop, but to continue hoping.

Rogers said, “There is still so much work to be done. The need for affordable housing is greater than ever.” Rogers added, “Habitat needs your help to continue creating the hope of a better future for our partner families.”

She wrapped up with four lines from Emily Dickenson: “Hope” is the thing with feathers – / That perches in the soul – / And sings the tune without the words – / And never stops – at all.

Continue reading “Dirt gets moved for 69-house Habitat for Humanity neighborhood in southwest Bloomington: “Hope” is the thing…”

Recent Bloomington employee death a reminder of dire effects of pandemic disease, even as indicators trend better

A push for people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 was again a main talking point at Friday’s weekly press conference of local leaders on pandemic response.

Among the local sites for free vaccine distribution is Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall at Indiana University.

The message for people to take advantage of the free vaccine got some extra urgency from Bloomington mayor John Hamilton, who confirmed an earlier press release that announced the death of a city employee due to COVID-19.

On the employee’s death, Hamilton said, “That reminds us that this disease is still very much among us, and can be dire, and can bring terrible consequences.” Hamilton added, “I just want to express our sympathy and condolences to family members.” Continue reading “Recent Bloomington employee death a reminder of dire effects of pandemic disease, even as indicators trend better”

Future housing in Bloomington to get boost with 28 emergency vouchers, $2.25M in federal funds, “multi-million dollar” request to city council by mayor

At a Tuesday press conference held on the back porch of the Bloomington Housing Authority’s community center on Summit Street, some new information was announced about support from the federal government for local housing programs.

Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, also announced that in July he’d be making a request of the city council to support housing initiatives, through an extra appropriation for the 2021 budget year.

The mayor’s request will be for a “multi-million dollar” investment of Bloomington’s allocation of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. Bloomington’s total amount of basic ARPA funds is around $22 million.

In other news announced on Tuesday, Bloomington Housing Authority executive director Amber Skoby said BHA is one of 700 housing authorities across the country that is receiving 28 new emergency vouchers. The vouchers are for individuals and families who are experiencing homelessness, at risk of homelessness, fleeing, or attempting to flee domestic violence or who were recently homeless.

The emergency vouchers will be available starting July 1.

The city’s housing and neighborhood development (HAND) director, John Zody, prefaced his remarks by noting that last year Bloomington had received $250,000 in additional CDBG funds, to help respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Zody announced that another $650,000 in pandemic-related CDBG funds will be made available for applications starting next week.

An additional fresh set of housing funds was announced by Zody. Bloomington will get an additional $1.6 million through the American Rescue Plan.

The money can be used specifically for the preservation or production of affordable housing, tenant-based rental assistance, supportive services including homeless prevention services, and housing counseling, Zody said. No final guidance from the feds on the use of the extra $1.6 million has been provided, Zody said.

Also at Tuesday’s press conference, Tina Peterson (Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County) and Efrat Feferman (United Way of Monroe County) gave an update on their work to build a coalition to establish needed collaboration and coordination for the countywide area, to create a sustainable strategy to reduce housing insecurity and prevent homelessness.

Continue reading “Future housing in Bloomington to get boost with 28 emergency vouchers, $2.25M in federal funds, “multi-million dollar” request to city council by mayor”

Monroe County commissioners reject another residential development south of Bloomington: “This is a lot of housing on not a lot of space.”

Sample designs for paired townhomes in proposed Southern Meadows.

On Wednesday, Monroe County commissioners rejected a request for a rezone of 37 acres south of Bloomington for a housing project called Southern Meadows, a proposed development of 95 paired townhomes for a total of 190 housing units.

In that configuration, a townhome sits on its own lot with its own yard, and shares a wall on one side with its neighbor.

It’s the second time in about a month that county commissioners have turned down a rezone request in the Clear Creek area, south of the city of Bloomington boundary, but inside an area that’s a part of the current Bloomington annexation proposal.

In mid-May, commissioners rejected the rezone request for a much smaller proposal called Clear Creek Urban, just to the east of the Southern Meadows parcel.

Clear Creek Urban was mixed-use residential proposal that would have a developed a 4-acre parcel with five residential and commercial buildings that called for 31 new residences. The Clear Creek Urban petition, brought by Blind Squirrels, LLC, would have constructed attached townhomes, multi-family residences, and commercial space.

Blind Squirrels gets a mention in the meeting information packet about Southern Meadows, because of an easement granted by the owner of the smaller parcel to allow for access from Southern Meadows to the east-west That Road.

For both projects the stumbling block was density. As president of the board of commissioners Julie Thomas described the Southern Meadows project on Wednesday: “This is a lot of housing on not a lot of space.” Continue reading “Monroe County commissioners reject another residential development south of Bloomington: “This is a lot of housing on not a lot of space.””

US Army: Coordination with Bloomington officials about June 7 nighttime training started in mid-April

Additional details are emerging about the helicopter-based military training that was conducted the night of Monday, June 7, in the city of Bloomington.

The geographic focus of the exercise was 1730 S. Walnut, site of the former Night Moves strip club, and future site of a city-supported affordable housing development, on the eastern edge of Switchyard Park.

The US Army had been working with the city of Bloomington since mid-April of this year to coordinate the training exercise, according to Elise Van Pool, who is deputy public affairs officer with the U.S. Army Special Operations Command.

The June 7 training exercise—which included helicopters flying low enough to rattle houses and loud bangs that kept residents awake through the early morning hours—centered on the eastern edge of Switchyard Park. About 100 soldiers, including planners and support personnel, were involved, according to Van Pool.

The Square Beacon asked the Bloomington mayor’s office questions about permissions that might have been given by the city of Bloomington for the US Army exercise on Tuesday.

The response from the mayor’s office stated: “This was not a City training exercise, and the City cannot accurately characterize the required permissions.” The Bloomington mayor’s office response added, “The City cannot prohibit the federal government from conducting a training exercise.”

Responding to questions about permissions, Van Pool told The Square Beacon, “[The US Army] really couldn’t do this type of training without the support of local leaders in law enforcement.” She added, “We certainly wouldn’t go into a building to which we weren’t invited. That would be trespassing.” Continue reading “US Army: Coordination with Bloomington officials about June 7 nighttime training started in mid-April”

US military conducts nighttime training exercise at location of future affordable housing site in Bloomington

The thwacka-thwaka thrum of military helicopters on a training exercise drowned out the buzz of cicadas on the south side of Bloomington on Monday night.

According to the Monroe County sheriff’s office, a similar scenario will unfold on Tuesday night in Richland and Bean Blossom townships.

According to the Bloomington mayor’s office, Monday night’s training operation was conducted by the US Army. It’s one of the facts about the commotion that the city of Bloomington was able to confirm.

Based on social media reports, the geographic focus of the military training exercise was 1730 S. Walnut, the former location of the Night Moves strip club, and the adjoining Switchyard Park.

The mayor’s office confirmed to The B Square that those two locations were included in the operation, but could not say if other places in the city were also included. Continue reading “US military conducts nighttime training exercise at location of future affordable housing site in Bloomington”

$1M for hospital redev design work OK’d by Bloomington RDC, 7-Line bicycle lane gets $673K funding backstop

At its regular meeting on Monday, Bloomington’s redevelopment commission gave funding approvals for infrastructure projects in two different parts of town, which are connected by the B-Line non-motorized trail.

For design work on the redevelopment of the IU Health hospital site, at 2nd and Rogers streets, the RDC approved a $1,048,880 contract with Shrewsberry and Associates, a firm with local offices and corporate headquarters in Indianapolis.

The scope of work in Shrewsberry’s contract is related to the part of the hospital site master plan called “Phase 1 East.”

Shrewsberry’s work includes, among other tasks, a topographic survey of the block bounded by 2nd, Morton, 1st, and Rogers streets. That’s the eastern portion of the site.

The whole site is planned for redevelopment as a mix of commercial space and between  580 and 940 new housing units.

After IU Health moves to its new facility on SR 46 towards the end of 2021, Bloomington will take control of the site in a $6.5 million real estate deal.

The soon-to-be-former hospital site sits just to the west of the north-south B-Line non-motorized trail. About a half mile north of the hospital site, the B-Line intersects with 7th Street at the western edge of the 7-Line protected bicycle lane, now under construction.

At its meeting on Monday, the RDC approved $673,609 in consolidated tax increment financing (TIF) funds to be used towards what is now a project with a total estimated cost of $3.2 million. Continue reading “$1M for hospital redev design work OK’d by Bloomington RDC, 7-Line bicycle lane gets $673K funding backstop”

IU offers shot at free parking spot for students who get their COVID-19 vaccination

Indiana University is sticking with its policy of vaccinations for students, faculty and university staff with the start of the fall 2021 semester, but has relented on its demand for documentation.

Instead of demanding proof, IU is now trying a gentler approach—a drawing for prizes for IU affiliates who submit their documentation. The prizes vary for students, faculty and staff but include: $500 bookstore gift cards, campus dining credit, an Apple Watch, and AirPods Pro, among other items.

At Friday’s weekly press conference on local COVID-19 response, one of the prizes for students got an extra pitch from IU vice president for strategic partnerships, Kirk White: “Students will be eligible for—get this, hey—a year long free parking permit! Now what’s better than that for students?” The regular price for a student parking permit is $174.

The revision the university’s policy on vaccination  came after objections from several state legislators  and an opinion issued by the state’s attorney general. Continue reading “IU offers shot at free parking spot for students who get their COVID-19 vaccination”

Check your voter registration: Election board reviews registration postcard confirmations, no fresh news on registration fraud allegation

At its meeting last Thursday, Monroe County’s three-person election board got an update on the state election division’s effort to update voter registration rolls, with a postcard mailing.

Registered voters should have received a postcard mailing in late May, confirming their registration to vote at the address where the postcard was delivered. Registration can also be confirmed online.  [It’s the “Check Voting Status” option.]

The registration confirmation postcards are part of the state’s process for reducing outdated voter records. For people who receive an accurate card with their name on it, no action is requested.

Election officials want people who received a postcard with a name they don’t recognize to write “Return to Sender” on the card and put it in a mailbox.

That doesn’t cancel anyone’s voter registration, but it does activate the second step in a process the state uses to try to keep voter rolls updated. Continue reading “Check your voter registration: Election board reviews registration postcard confirmations, no fresh news on registration fraud allegation”

Sovereign immunity means a fence for Bloomington post office

In 1914, a new building for Bloomington high school was constructed where Seminary Park now sits, between Walnut and College, on 2nd Street.

It’s the same year when Robert Frost’s poem “Mending Wall” was published, with its proverbial line from the storyteller’s adjacent landowner: “Good fences make good neighbors.”

In mid-May the US Postal Service started building an eight-foot-tall fence around its branch just south of the park.

With its fence construction, by the standards of the narrator’s neighbor in the “Mending Wall,” the USPS has made itself a “good neighbor” to the public park.

Some local reaction has been more along the lines of the storyteller in the poem: “Before I built a wall I’d ask to know / What I was walling in or walling out, / And to whom I was like to give offense. / Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, That wants it down.”

The image is from the Pictometry module of Monroe County’s online property lookup system.

It looks like the fence probably doesn’t conform with local zoning code. But the principle of “sovereign immunity” means the USPS, even as a lessee of the property, can build the fence the way it wants, according to Bloomington’s legal department.

Continue reading “Sovereign immunity means a fence for Bloomington post office”