At its regular monthly meeting on Monday, Bloomington’s plan commission voted to continue the proposed redevelopment of the Kmart property on East Third Street to its second hearing. That is now set for June 14.
The outcome of Monday’s vote was not exactly hanging in the balance, because the 900-bedroom housing project does not include a rezone request.
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.
On Wednesday night, Bloomington’s city council took a half hour to complete the tedious process of introducing 10 separate ordinances that would change the city’s basic law on land use in the city.
After that, in just about three hours, the council wrapped up its initial discussion on eight of the ordinances. That sets up a possible vote to enact them at the council’s regular meeting next Wednesday, April 21.
The remaining two ordinances will almost certainly require more time in front of the city council, just as they did previously when the plan commission heard them.
They’re controversial enough that they’ve led to competing websites and yard signs.
One of the disputed ordinances covers the allowed use of duplexes, triplexes and quadplexes in residential neighborhoods. The other ordinance is the proposed new citywide zoning map.
The city council will take a first crack at the two more controversial ordinances, starting April 28 when it convenes a committee-of-the-whole session.
Even if the eight ordinances discussed by the council on Wednesday cover less contentious ground than the other two, they aren’t without their own controversies. And it could be too heavy a lift for the council, at next Wednesday’s regular session, to take votes on all eight.
On Wednesday, councilmembers indicated that they’d like to propose amendments to some of the eight ordinances. Debate and public commentary on any amendments will factor into the time it takes to complete the council’s work on the eight pieces of legislation.
So on Monday, the commission’s first decision on duplexes could be made in an hour or even less. But that will depend in part on whether plan commissioners have questions for planning staff, based on the public commentary they heard on Thursday.
Bloomington’s plan commission has set up Thursday’s 5:30 p.m special session as a meeting dedicated to just one of 10 ordinances currently under consideration to amend the city’s unified development ordinance (UDO).
The ordinance would revise the way the UDO handles duplexes, triplexes and quadplexes—the so-called “plexes.”
One sign that Thursday’s public hearing is expected to be contentious was some encouragement on Monday from plan commission president Brad Wisler: “I would just ask everybody to come armed with patience.”
The plan commission normally allows five minutes to each public commenter. During discussion towards the end of Monday’s meeting, plan commissioners were inclined to allow the full five minutes at Thursday’s hearing. The other option batted around was to suspend the rules to reduce the time to three minutes.
In the current version of the UDO, no plexes are allowed at all in the R1 (residential large lot), R2 (residential medium lot) or R3 (residential small lot) zoning districts. That’s the result of a November 2019 vote taken by Bloomington’s city council, to remove even the conditional use of duplexes in those residential zoning districts.
The ordinance to be considered by the plan commission on Thursday would allow duplexes as a conditional use in R1, R2, R3, as well as in the new R4 (residential urban) district.
R4 has not yet been placed anywhere on the zoning map. R4 would also allow triplexes and quadplexes, but also just as conditional uses. The mapping of R4 is a step that will be handled in a separate ordinance, currently scheduled to be heard on Monday, March 29.
Bloomington’s plan commission voted 9–0 Monday night to recommend adoption of a revised version of the city’s unified development ordinance (UDO) to the city council. That starts a 10-day clock ticking for the commission’s action to be certified. Once certified, the city council has 90-days to act on the commission’s recommendation.
The 19 hours and 9 minutes worth of hearings held by the commission, starting in late August, were on occasion punctuated by contentious remarks delivered from the public podium. Particular points of controversy were duplexes, triplexes and quadplexes in core neighborhoods, as well as accessory dwelling units.
The recommended UDO that the city council will take up, probably starting in mid-October, makes accessory dwelling units conditional uses. An amendment approved by the planning commission in the last couple of weeks changed them from accessory uses to conditional uses.