Bloomington to get 85 apartments in place of 85 hotel rooms on North Walnut

The image of the Wingate by Wyndham parcel is taken from the Pictometry module of Monroe County’s online property lookup system.

A project that will convert the 85-room Wingate by Wyndham hotel on North Walnut Street to a multifamily project with the same number of apartments received approval from Bloomington’s plan commission on Monday.

The vote was unanimous.

Monday’s session was the regular monthly meeting for the plan commission, which a week ago wrapped up its work on a 10-ordinance package of proposed changes to the city’s unified development ordinance. Wednesday’s meeting kicks off the city council’s work on that package.

Unlike that 10-ordinance package, the conversion of the motel to “micro-apartments” will not get a review by the city council. Monday’s plan commission’s approval cleared the way to the permitting process, which could mean 85 additional one-bedroom apartments available for rent by the fall.

That’s based on the guesstimated timeline given on Monday by Gene Goldstein, with Bramic Design Group, the architect on the project. Goldstein said that construction on the project would probably take 60 to 90 days.
Continue reading “Bloomington to get 85 apartments in place of 85 hotel rooms on North Walnut”

Column | Register for April 29 Red Cross blood drive, a great way to do a good turn

Please consider registering for the April 29 blood drive that will be held at the Monroe County Convention Center.

That hyperlink should take you directly to the Red Cross website where you can register.

Running a public service announcement like this means driving a little outside of The Square Beacon’s normal lane.

But Monroe County’s emergency manager Allison Moore said at Friday’s weekly press conference that she is worried about the April 29 date.

Moore said that for the first time since the pandemic-response blood drives started, one of the dates that’s been scheduled for the convention center location might not get every appointment slot filled.

So I figured it was worth amplifying that message: Please consider registering for the April 29 blood drive. Continue reading “Column | Register for April 29 Red Cross blood drive, a great way to do a good turn”

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 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”

Monroe County property taxes due: May 10

“Bills are out and we are really busy right now,” Monroe County treasurer Jessica McClellan told the Square Beacon on Wednesday.

That means property owners are sending in the taxes they owe, in response to the bills that were due to be sent out a week ago. The deadline for spring tax bills is Monday, May 10.

Property tax season also explains the drop box that’s been placed just to the side of the north entrance of the Monroe County courthouse. The courthouse building is still closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The drop box is listed in a press release from the treasurer’s office issued the last week of March, as one of several options property owners can use to pay their taxes.

Continue reading “Monroe County property taxes due: May 10”

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”

Plan commission recommends putting residential urban districts on the map

On a 7–1 vote at its Monday meeting, Bloomington’s plan commission recommended a new zoning map for the city that includes several areas designated as R4 (Residential Urban) and MS (Student Housing) districts.

Those are two zoning districts that were newly defined in the unified development ordinance (UDO) that was adopted by the city council in 2019, but not yet placed on the zoning map.

The zoning map ordinance would also change more than 100 planned unit developments (PUDs) to a basic zoning district.

Dissenting on the vote was the city council’s representative to the plan commission, Susan Sandberg. The 7–1 tally did not add up to 9, because commissioner Israel Herrera had to leave the meeting early, to attend to another commitment.

The ordinance establishing a new zoning map was the final part of a 10-ordinance package proposed by the city’s planning staff, which would revise the citywide zoning map and the text of the UDO. A public outreach effort on the proposal was conducted in late 2020.

The plan commission had voted on the other nine ordinances over the course of about a month. The first meeting on the zoning package was held on March 8. Continue reading “Plan commission recommends putting residential urban districts on the map”

“Pandemic is not yet over,” local officials say, as Assembly Hall vax site to boost shot number by 10x next week

The weekly Friday afternoon press conference held by Bloomington area local leaders on COVID-19 response is not typically followed with a press release hammering home talking points from the briefing.

That’s one measure of how important local leaders think this message is: “We are united in the belief that the pandemic is not yet over and that it is not yet time to let down our guard.” The statement was included in the opening paragraph of Friday’s followup release.

The release came from Monroe County’s health administrator Penny Caudill, the county’s health officer, Thomas Sharp, the three county commissioners (Julie Thomas, Lee Jones, and Penny Githens), Bloomington mayor John Hamilton, IU Health south central region’s president Brian Shockney, and IU provost Lauren Robel.

At the press conference, Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, said “Governor Holcomb’s recent announcement to remove the mask mandate at the state level is terribly misguided, and unfortunate.”

While the state-level restrictions are due to be lifted on April 6, local edicts will remain.

A bright spot in the press conference included next week’s planned vaccination numbers for the new Assembly Hall site, announced by IU’s Kirk White. The numbers White talked about were high enough that it prompted a question to confirm what he said. Yes, the 7,000 doses expected for next week, for which the state’s scheduling software has opened slots, is a 10-fold increase from last week’s allocation. Continue reading ““Pandemic is not yet over,” local officials say, as Assembly Hall vax site to boost shot number by 10x next week”

Mystery man with political campaign mask at polls motivates election board to develop procedure to document incidents

Monroe County’s election board isn’t able to pursue the case of a voter who reportedly engaged in electioneering at the polls during early voting in October last year.

That’s because the board doesn’t know who the man is.

At its Thursday meeting, the board reviewed some initial work on a procedure for documenting future potential incidents of electioneering, so that the people involved can be identified.

At its Thursday meeting, the board also wrapped up the remaining open issue with late campaign finance forms from the last election cycle, which resulted in the calculation of a $900 fine for a candidate.

Under the board’s policy, that got knocked down to 25 percent of the allowable amount, which is $225. Continue reading “Mystery man with political campaign mask at polls motivates election board to develop procedure to document incidents”

Housing as a human right gets county support, a good first step, housing advisory group says

At their regular Wednesday morning meeting, Monroe County commissioners approved a resolution recognizing housing as a human right.

The key clause from the resolution reads: “…Monroe County joins other jurisdictions across the country in declaring housing as a human right.”

Commissioners Penny Githens and Lee Jones both voted to support of the resolution. President of the board of commissioners Julie Thomas was not able to attend the meeting to cast a vote, but Githens relayed Thomas’s support.

The resolution was put forward by the county’s affordable housing advisory commission (AHAC). At Wednesday’s meeting, Githens said, “I want to thank the affordable housing commission for their work on this. They didn’t just sit back, they kept pushing, they kept talking. They kept doing things. They’re pretty tireless.”

About the resolution, Jones said, “During this time of COVID, it’s been made so clear just how dangerous homelessness can be both for the homeless and for society.” She continued, “It is well known that the best outcomes for disadvantaged people come about when they are in stable housing.”

Attending the Wednesday meeting in support of the resolution were current AHAC chair Cathi Crabtree, and past chairs Deborah Myerson and Vauhxx Booker. It was Booker who read the resolution into the record of Wednesday’s meeting. Continue reading “Housing as a human right gets county support, a good first step, housing advisory group says”