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”

8 of 10 zoning ordinances now teed up for possible vote on April 21 by Bloomington city council

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.

One theme that cut across two different ordinances was the required daylighting of projects to the public. Continue reading “8 of 10 zoning ordinances now teed up for possible vote on April 21 by Bloomington city council”

Analysis: Duplexes allowed or not, a déjà different question for plan commission?

Should Bloomington’s plan commission recommend to the city council that duplexes still be disallowed in three specific zoning districts?

Zoning districts are (residential large lot), R2 (residential medium lot) and R3 (residential small lot). R4 is also a part of the mix, but is not a part of Sandberg’s amendment. A “C” stands for conditional use. A “P” stands for permitted (by-right) use. An empty cell means the use is not allowed. The asterisks indicate that use-specific conditions apply.

That’s the question that Bloomington’s plan commission has cued up on Monday, starting at 5:30 p.m.

The question was put forward by the city council’s representative to the plan commission, Susan Sandberg. It comes in the form of an amendment to an ordinance the plan commission is now hearing, that would modify the city’s existing unified development ordinance (UDO).

Public comment on the question was already heard, at Thursday’s special session of the plan commission.

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.

Depending on how those first chips fall, the commission could also consider a different duplex question on Monday: Should the plan commission recommend to the city council that duplexes be permitted (i.e., allowed by right) in three specific zoning districts? Continue reading “Analysis: Duplexes allowed or not, a déjà different question for plan commission?”

Plex debate preview: “I would just ask everybody to come armed with patience.”

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 image links to the storymap created by Bloomington city planning staff with an overview of the proposed changes to the 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.

Conditional uses are allowed uses, but have to be approved by the city’s board of zoning appeals (BZA). Continue reading “Plex debate preview: “I would just ask everybody to come armed with patience.””

Bloomington’s plan commission sends revised unified development ordinance (UDO) to city council with 9–0 recommendation to adopt

Cropped joe hoffman applause IMG_4555
Plan commission chair Joe Hoffmann got interrupted briefly at Monday’s meeting by other commissioners who gave him a round of applause to recognize his 32 years of service on the plan commission. It was his last meeting, special or regular, as a plan commissioner.

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.

The updated UDO recommended by the plan commission allows the du- tri- and four-plexes only as conditional uses. A plan commission amendment to make them by-right failed. City planning staff prepared an amendment that would prohibit plexes in core neighborhoods, but none of the plan commissioners moved it for consideration. Continue reading “Bloomington’s plan commission sends revised unified development ordinance (UDO) to city council with 9–0 recommendation to adopt”