Duplexes to drop in front of Bloomington’s city council as permitted use

At its meeting on Thursday (April 1), Bloomington’s plan commission voted 6–3 to forward an ordinance to the city council, with a positive recommendation, that will affect the status of duplexes in much of the city.

The yellow areas are the places in Bloomington where the plan commission is recommending that duplexes be allowed as a permitted (by-right) use.

The recommended ordinance would revise the unified development ordinance (UDO), so that duplexes are a permitted (by-right) use in four districts.

The areas where duplexes would be permitted are the R1 (Residential Large Lot), R2 (Residential Medium Lot), R3 (Residential Small Lot), and R4 (Residential Urban) districts.

The city council could take up the question before the end of April, depending on how long it takes the plan commission to finish its work on the 10-ordinance package it’s now considering.

The city’s plan staff had proposed an ordinance that would change duplexes in R1, R2 and R3 from disallowed use to conditional use. A conditional use requires approval by the board of zoning appeals (BZA).

Through an amendment to the staff-proposed ordinance, approved on a 5–4 vote taken on Monday (March 29), the plan commission made duplexes a permitted (by-right) use in those three districts.

The amendment approved on Monday also changed duplexes in R4 from conditional use to permitted (by-right) use, which is consistent with the city’s current UDO. The planning staff’s unamended proposed ordinance had made the use of duplexes in R4 conditional.

In Monday’s action, the plan commission also voted to remove a 150-foot buffer that would have, for two years, prevented other duplexes from being constructed in the buffer area around a duplex that has received a certificate of zoning compliance. Continue reading “Duplexes to drop in front of Bloomington’s city council as permitted use”

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?”

No decision yet on duplex recommendation from Bloomington plan commission

The building shown is an existing duplex in Bloomington. Depending on the recommendation from the plan commission and subsequent action from the city council, from left to right, duplexes in R1, R2, R3 districts could be: not allowed, allowed as a conditional use, or allowed as a permitted (by-right) use.

Bloomington’s plan commission did not take any substantive votes at its Thursday special session, which was dedicated to just one of 10 ordinances currently under consideration to amend the city’s unified development ordinance (UDO).

But the commission did hear about three hours worth of public commentary from 54 different people, about a possible amendment to the ordinance that was on Thursday’s agenda.

The areas of the city affected by the ordinance are commonly called the “core neighborhoods.” In zoning terms, it’s the R1 (residential large lot), R2 (residential medium lot) and R3 (residential small lot) zoning districts.

Whether the plan commission will recommend to the city council that a duplex in the R1 through R4 districts is a permitted (by-right) use, a conditional use, or a completely disallowed use will have to wait until the next meeting of the plan commission.

The next meeting of the plan commission is set for Monday (March 29) at 5:30 p.m. Continue reading “No decision yet on duplex recommendation from Bloomington 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 planning department wraps up rezoning public sessions, sets up plan commission debate in early 2021

Last week, Bloomington’s planning staff hosted two more public sessions by video conference, about possible changes to the city zoning map as well as the text of the unified development ordinance (UDO).

The UDO was repealed and replaced last year amid an acrimonious community-wide debate. Proposed changes to the zoning map were expected this year, as some newly created zoning districts R4 (residential urban) and MS (mixed-use student) appeared only in the text, but not on the map.

Not necessarily expected was a reconsideration of the text, affecting which residential districts allow for duplexes, triplexes and four-plexes. That was a main point of friction last year.

Residents of older neighborhoods who opposed the idea of plexes as allowable uses where they live, question the re-introduction of the issue, just a year after the city council voted 6–2 against plexes, even on conditional use, in R1, R2 and R3 neighborhoods.

Part of the message from planning staff over the last few weeks of video conferences with the public has focused on the preliminary nature of these late-year information sessions.

“We are not even in the public hearing process yet at all,” said Jackie Scanlan, who’s development services manager for Bloomington’s planning department. She added, “We are just in an information gathering process. We put out ideas. We are taking feedback on those, so that we can craft a draft zoning map and text amendment.”

The timeline calls for a proposal to land in front of the plan commission in the second half of January and get consideration by the city council in late March. Continue reading “Bloomington planning department wraps up rezoning public sessions, sets up plan commission debate in early 2021”

Two meetings held on remapping of Bloomington’s zoning districts, more to come

The first two public presentations about a zoning map revision for the city of Bloomington are in the books.

R4 (Residential Urban) and MS (Mixed-Use Student Housing) zoning districts don’t yet appear on Bloomington’s zoning map. They’re proposed to be established in the olive- and wine-colored areas. The image links to the zoning map project page.

More are planned for the week after next. Dates will be posted on the zoning map project web page.

Tuesday night’s presentation by the city’s development services manager, Jackie Scanlan, included an introduction to the online tools that city planners have built for the project.

Also on Tuesday, Scanlan gave an overview of the mapping project, which comes after last year’s update to the text of the city’s unified development ordinance (UDO).

That text update included the creation of some new zoning districts, like R4 (Residential Urban) and MS (Mixed-Use Student Housing), which don’t yet appear anywhere on the zoning map of the city.

A developer has already requested that the Brownstone Terrace, south of the Indiana University football stadium, be rezoned to MS, so that it can be replaced with a larger student-oriented housing development. That request has been recommended for approval by the plan commission and will appear on an upcoming city council agenda.

During Thursday’s presentation, which focussed on the MS zoning district, Scanlan said it’s important to proactively rezone parcels to MS, based on the city’s comprehensive plan, and not just respond in a reactive way to petition requests.

While the placement of proposed MS zoning districts on the map was based on the city’s comprehensive plan, spots on the map for the R4 district were more or less calculated. The calculation was based on those lots in existing R2 and R3 districts that have less than the minimum lot size for R3 districts, and that can be analyzed as a cluster. Continue reading “Two meetings held on remapping of Bloomington’s zoning districts, more to come”

UDO update: Plexes banned in core neighborhoods, ADUs allowed by right

Thursday night was the second session of the Bloomington city council’s ongoing consideration of amendments to the city’s update of the unified development ordinance.

The council voted on two amendments, approving both. One was co-sponsored by councilmembers Dave Rollo and Chris Sturbaum. It eliminated duplexes and triplexes as possible uses of land in core neighborhoods. The tally was 6–2 on the nine-member council. Allison Chopra was absent.

The other amendment approved by the council on Thursday changed the status of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) from a conditional use, which requires a public review process, to a by-right use. A by-right use eliminates the public review process, but does not eliminate use-specific standards.

For ADUs, the use-specific standards include: a limit of one ADU per lot; a requirement that only lots greater than the minimum size for the zoning district are allowed to have an ADU; a maximum of two bedrooms; and a limit of one family. The vote that made ADUs by-right was 5–3.

Two meeting moments stood out as somewhat suspense-filled, before a councilmember revealed their final position. Continue reading “UDO update: Plexes banned in core neighborhoods, ADUs allowed by right”

UDO update: Bedroom counts maintained for plexes; prohibition of plexes in core neighborhoods to be considered Thursday

On Wednesday night, Bloomington’s city council started its deliberation on possibly 80 different amendments to the update of the college town’s unified development ordinance.

The first tussle unfolded over which of four amendments about the status of duplexes and triplexes would be heard first. The outcome of a ranked-voting scheme, which required two iterations to break a tie, was to consider first a pair of amendments sponsored by Councilmember Isabel Piedmont-Smith.

Both of Piedmont-Smith’s amendments proposed to change the use-specific standards for plexes.

One of Piedmont-Smith’s amendments (Am 03) proposed to reduce the number of total bedrooms in duplexes and triplexes from six to four and from nine to six, respectively. At Wednesday’s meeting, she added a stipulation that the bedroom count per unit would not exceed two bedrooms for either duplexes or triplexes.

Am 03 failed on a 4–5 vote after around 90 minutes of public comment.

The other of Piedmont-Smith’s amendments (Am 05) establishes a limit to the portion of a house that can be demolished in order to create a duplex or triplex. It passed on a 6–3 vote.

Piedmont-Smith’s amendments were seen as a kind of compromise position. The other two amendments that were in the mix for first consideration by the council on Wednesday did not address use-specific conditions. They were more general in character.

Steve Volan submitted an amendment (Am 02) that would make plexes in core neighborhoods “by-right.” So it would remove the conditional use public review process, but leave the use-specific standards intact.

The next amendment considered by the council, starting at 6 p.m. on Thursday, is one that is co-sponsored by Chris Sturbaum and Dave Rollo (Am 01). It would prohibit plexes in core neighborhoods.

Near the start of the meeting, it became clear why there was no Amendment 04 in the sequence. It had been a proposal from Piedmont-Smith to add an owner-occupancy requirement for plexes, which turns out to be legally problematic.

Word from the city’s corporation counsel was relayed at Wednesday’s meeting by Scott Robinson, assistant director of planning and transportation: Case law from other states suggests that owner-occupancy for plexes would not likely survive a court challenge in Indiana. In contrast, the city’s legal staff thinks that requiring owner-occupancy for accessory dwelling units (UDO) could be defended in court.

The council considered a motion made by Andy Ruff to extend deliberations until 11 p.m., but it failed on a 3–6 vote. The council had adopted a schedule that called for the meeting to adjourn by 10 p.m. unless the council voted to extend it.

Councilmember Allison Chopra was adamant that the deliberations not be extended, saying, “This is not an OK way to do business!” Continue reading “UDO update: Bedroom counts maintained for plexes; prohibition of plexes in core neighborhoods to be considered Thursday”

Analysis: Next verses of crescendoing UDO debate cued up for Nov. 13 city council meeting

UDO art Screen Shot 2019-11-13 at 1.23.23 PM
The notes are unaltered. The lyrics to the local university’s fight song have been amended to achieve a humorful effect. 

Put in orchestral terms, starting Wednesday night at 6 p.m., Bloomington’s city council president Dave Rollo will conduct a political choir of sorts. Not everyone will be singing from the same song book.

On the council’s agenda are proposed amendments to a proposed update to the unified development ordinance (UDO), which is the city’s basic land use and development policy document. Presentation to the council of the draft UDO update has already stretched across four separate evenings recently, starting with the first one on Oct. 16. It was followed by meetings on Oct. 22, Oct. 23 and Oct. 30.

The UDO draft update was recommended for approval by the plan commission’s 9–0 vote on Sept. 23.

The crucial concept that has created community-wide discord is density: How concentrated should living arrangements be in different parts of the city? The four proposed amendments that are first in numerical sequence on the council’s agenda all deal with density.

An amendment co-sponsored by Rollo and councilmember Chris Sturbaum would revise the plan-commission-recommended UDO draft so that the use of property as duplexes and triplexes in core neighborhoods would be prohibited.

A competing amendment from councilmember Steve Volan would remove the “conditional use” requirement for duplexes and triplexes that’s in the UDO draft. That means a required public review process would be eliminated, but the use-specific standards for the plexes would remain. The use-specific standards include a maximum number of total bedrooms: six for duplexes and nine for triplexes.

The use-specific standards for plexes are the subject of two amendments put forward by councilmember Isabel Piedmont-Smith. One of the amendments would reduce the maximum bedrooms to four bedrooms in duplexes and six bedrooms for triplexes.

Piedmont-Smith’s amendments could be described as an attempt to achieve some harmony between the outright prohibition of plexes in core neighborhoods and the current UDO draft, which allows them under the conditional use requirement of a public review process. Continue reading “Analysis: Next verses of crescendoing UDO debate cued up for Nov. 13 city council meeting”

Analysis: Amendments to Bloomington’s unified development ordinance to be debated, decided next week and beyond

Annotated R Map ZONING Zoningxxxx
Much of the debate on the updated unified development ordinance has focused on whether duplexes and triplexes should be allowed in areas zoned as “residential core” and “residential single family” (or R3 and R2 in the updated zoning scheme). They’re circled in red in this zoning map.

The Bloomington city council’s hearing of a proposed update to the unified development ordinance (UDO) has already stretched across four separate evenings recently, starting with the first one on Oct. 16. It was followed by meetings on Oct. 22, Oct. 23 and Oct. 30.

The hearings each night on the city’s basic land use and development document consisted of staff presentations, councilmember questions, and opportunities for citizens to sway their elected representatives.

Next up this week are possible amendments to the UDO draft, which was recommended for approval by the plan commission’s 9–0 vote on Sept. 23.

Several amendments—starting with duplexes, triplexes, accessory dwelling units, and payments in lieu of providing onsite affordable units—are a part of the information packet for the council’s Nov. 13 and Nov. 14 meetings.

The 90-day window for city council action started a few days after the plan commission’s vote, when the outcome was certified to the council.

Based on the Sept. 26 submission date indicated on an amendment co-sponsored by councilmembers Chris Sturbaum and Dave Rollo, the first of the council’s amendments was submitted just about as soon as the plan commission’s draft was certified to the council. Continue reading “Analysis: Amendments to Bloomington’s unified development ordinance to be debated, decided next week and beyond”