COVID-19: Sidewalks still getting built; Bloomington Transit buses still running, with 90 percent fewer riders

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Looking south along Adams Street where it intersects with Kirkwood on Monday, March 30, 2020. The backhoe framing the Bloomington Transit bus is working on the installation of a new sidewalk on the east side of the street running along Rose Hill Cemetery towards Cresent Donut Shops. The sign on the donut shop indicated it is open for business, which is allowed for take-out food service under the stay-at-home order. (Dave Askins/Square Beacon)

As Indiana approaches starts the sixth day of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s stay-at-home order—issued to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus—Bloomington’s road construction projects continue.

And public buses are continuing to run, but still on a spring break schedule. Continue reading “COVID-19: Sidewalks still getting built; Bloomington Transit buses still running, with 90 percent fewer riders”

Governor issues stay-at-home order, calls on Hoosiers to “hunker down” warns Indiana is entering COVID-19 patient-surge phase: “This disease is killing people.”

R-OUT Unemployment Initial Claims Indiana 2008-2020

Asked last Thursday at a press conference about the possibility of a “shelter in place” order as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Indiana’s governor, Eric Holcomb, answered: “We’re not there yet.”

On Monday, the Hoosier state was there.

In a 14-minute speech delivered through various media, Holcomb announced he was issuing a stay-at-home order, starting at the end of the day Tuesday, March 24 at 11:59 p.m. For now the order goes through the end of the day April 6, 2020.

The order could be rescinded or extended. Continue reading “Governor issues stay-at-home order, calls on Hoosiers to “hunker down” warns Indiana is entering COVID-19 patient-surge phase: “This disease is killing people.””

Governor: COVID-19 means postponement of Indiana primary elections to June 2

At a late morning press conference on Friday, Indiana’s governor, Eric Holcomb, announced that the state’s primary election would be postponed 28 days, from May 5 to June 2.

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Screen grab from March 20, 2020 press conference by Indiana’s governor, Eric Holcomb

Given the threat of COVID-19 exposure, the primary date would be pushed back to ensure the safety of county employees, poll workers and the public, Holcomb said.

Updated numbers from the Indiana Department of Health on Friday indicate the number of confirmed cases has doubled in two days, from 39 on March 18 to 79 on March 20 (today). The number of tests almost tripled during that period, from 193 to 554.

Mailing in an absentee ballot for the postponed election will likely be possible for any voter, assuming the state’s election commission uses its power to make that decision.

The state’s election commission has been asked to waive the conditions for mailing in a ballot, Indiana’s secretary of state, Connie Lawson, said at the press conference.

The state’s election meeting has a special meeting scheduled next week, on March 25, when it could take that action.  Continue reading “Governor: COVID-19 means postponement of Indiana primary elections to June 2”

Bloomington fines owner of property $83.5K for demolishing historic house without permit, owner to appeal

According to a press released issued Monday afternoon and subsequent clarification from the city, Bloomington’s department of planning and transportation has levied an $83,500 fine against the owners of a house on 7th Street. They demolished the house in late September without first obtaining a certificate of zoning compliance.

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523 W. 7th Street on Sept. 30, 2019 (Dave Askins/Beacon)

On Aug. 8, the city’s historic preservation commission (HPC) recommended the house to the city council for historic designation. The commission’s resolution did not explicitly say that the house was being put under interim protection.

But the requirement of a certificate of zoning compliance before demolition applies to structures whether or not they’re under consideration for historic designation. It was the owners’ request for such a certificate that led to the demolition delay process, which the HPC was following when it made its recommendation for historic designation.

The amount of the fine, according to the press release, was based on a penalty levied for each day the property was in violation of the city code, but capped at the most recent assessed value of the house and garage by Monroe County’s auditor.

Late Monday afternoon, Bloomington’s corporation counsel, Philippa Guthrie, told The Beacon that the property owners, David Holdman and Judie Baker, had filed an appeal of the city’s decision to fine them.

A notice of the violation was sent to  Holdman and Judie Baker on Oct. 16, according to the press release. The press release says that the property owners have a right to appeal to the city’s board of zoning appeals within five days of the date of the notice.

Guthrie said the appeal is currently set for the BZA’s next meeting, which is Nov. 21. Continue reading “Bloomington fines owner of property $83.5K for demolishing historic house without permit, owner to appeal”

Wisler leads short-handed plan commission in review of Moores Pike PUD, other projects

At Monday’s meeting of the Bloomington plan commission, a planned unit development (PUD) for 2.2 acres of land on Moores Pike, with 80 apartments in one 50-foot, four-story building, was forwarded to the city council with a negative recommendation.

In other business, which did not get final action from the commission, a proposed “mini-warehouse” facility on West 3rd Street across the road from Culver’s Restaurant, was continued to the plan commission’s November meeting.

A mixed use PUD proposed for the northwest corner of E. Longview Avenue and S. Pete Ellis Drive, with 19,000 square feet of commercial space, 264 apartments and a 306-space parking deck, was approved for its second of two required hearings, to be held in front of the plan commission next month.

After the departure of Joe Hoffmann last month, the plan commission’s first order of business at its Monday meeting was to elect a new president. Brad Wisler, as vice president, was an unsurprising choice. But due to the commission’s diminished numbers  it required a unanimous vote—which it got—of the other five commissioners present. Nick Kappas was nominated and approved as vice president by the same 5-0 tally. (Nominees did not participate in those votes.) Continue reading “Wisler leads short-handed plan commission in review of Moores Pike PUD, other projects”

Children to Bloomington’s city forester for the last 37 years: “Thank you for speaking for the trees!”

A couple of weeks ago at their regular meeting, members of the city’s board of park commissioners recognized Lee Huss for his 37 years of service to the city of Bloomington as urban forester. Two days before his final day of work at the city, the city council reprised the same sentiments.

On Wednesday night, council president Dave Rollo read aloud an encomium for Huss that quoted the former mayor of Bloomington who hired him, Tomilea Allison: “Few civil servants have left such a visible imprint on our city, and for that, Lee has our heartfelt gratitude.” Huss’s imprint includes increasing the number of street streets from under 8,000 to over 19,000 in the latest tree inventory.

Huss’s work in the last 11 years has included managing the city’s ash trees, which were at risk of total loss due to the emerald ash borer. He helped Bloomington achieve Tree City USA status—making it the first community in Indiana to reach that goal.

Huss took the podium to deliver a couple of comments, leading off with, “Thirty-seven years is not long in the life of a tree.” Huss thanked his co-workers over the years and Mayor Allison, who gave him a job at the city. He was grateful for the chance to help give Bloomington “the urban forest that this community deserves,” Hess said. He also recognized the community’s enthusiasm for trees, saying, “It’s been a tree loving community long before Lee Huss showed up. … It’s going to always be a tree loving community.”

Susan Coleman spoke on behalf of her father, tree commissioner Tom Coleman, thanking Huss for his service. Susan Coleman also presented Huss with a poster-sized card that read “Thank you for speaking for the trees!” It was made by the first- and second-graders at the Project School, who had participated in an after-school activity led by teacher Cindy Simpson.

They’d used species identification guides to identify trees in the Waldron Hill Buskirk Park, Coleman said. She presented Huss with a copy of “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss, signed by the children. (The book is the source of the message on the children’s card: “I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees. I speak for the trees for the trees have no tongues.”

The Beacon’s hard-hitting question for Hess was: If you could be a tree, what kind of tree would you be? He responded with good humor. An oak, he said, because they are long-lived, and provide the most ecological services to other organisms. Asked to be more specific, he named the white oak, “Just because, I like bourbon, too—it’s used for whisky barrels.”

Press release: Bloomington proposes 3-percent sewer rate increase inside city, 15-percent outside

In a press release issued Monday afternoon (Aug. 26), City of Bloomington Utilities announced it is requesting a rate increase for sewer customers. According to the press release, the 3-percent proposed rate increase for a customer inside the city works out to 72 cents more per month. For an average customer outside the city the 15-percent increase works out to $3.60 more per month. Continue reading “Press release: Bloomington proposes 3-percent sewer rate increase inside city, 15-percent outside”

4th Street parking garage site plan review delayed a month

The Bloomington plan commission’s already-started review of the city’s 4th Street parking garage site plan proposal won’t resume until Sept. 9.

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The Monday, Aug. 12, meeting packet, which was posted on the city’s website Friday afternoon, includes the parking garage site plan under the heading: “Petitions Continued To: September 19, 2019”

Based on the outcome of deliberations at the July 8 meeting of the plan commission, discussion of the 4th Street parking garage was expected to be continued at the Monday, Aug. 12 meeting, with a possible vote on the question.

Why is the site plan review being continued an additional month? And how can a continuance to September happen without the plan commission voting to continue the issue to September?

The answers to both those questions were provided by city planner Jackie Scanlan in response to an emailed question from The Beacon.

She wrote: “Per our Rules and Procedures, Article VIII (B), petition continuances can be approved by [planning and transportation] if the requests are made more than a week before the hearing. That is what occurred in this case. The petitioner (City) requested continuance in response to the desire of some Plan Commissioners to wait until the eminent domain process is further settled.” Continue reading “4th Street parking garage site plan review delayed a month”