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”

Bloomington city council strips its sidewalk committee of duties

After about 2 hours and 45 minutes of deliberations on Wednesday night, Bloomington’s city council eliminated two of its 11 committees.

White dots with lines indicate projects recommended for funding by Bloomington city council’s sidewalk committee over the last 17 years. The darker the blue shading, the higher income the area is, based on US Census data. The image links to Bloomington resident Mark Stosberg’s “Sidewalk Equity Audit”

Not surviving the night was the council’s sidewalk committee.

The council started with a resolution could have eliminated as many as four of its committees. But the council unanimously agreed to preserve its housing committee and its climate action and resilience committee.

The council’s sanitation and utilities committee was merged with the community affairs committee.

The council’s sidewalk committee was not exactly eliminated.

But on a 5–4 vote, the sidewalk committee’s function was assigned to the transportation committee. That function is to make recommendations to the full council on the use of about $330,000 from the city’s alternative transportation fund, which purpose is to reduce the community’s dependence on automobiles.

The 5–4 vote by itself did not eliminate the sidewalk committee.

By the end of the meeting, it was not clear if the elimination of the sidewalk committee would come at a future meeting, in a housekeeping resolution, or if it would be eliminated through an authorization given to the council attorney, on a separate vote, to make revisions to the resolution.

The status of the sidewalk committee took up most of the council’s deliberative time on Wednesday night. The committee’s work had been put under close scrutiny by a report done by Bloomington citizen Mark Stosberg, which called into question the equitable geographic allocation of sidewalk funding over the last 17 years. Continue reading “Bloomington city council strips its sidewalk committee of duties”

Analysis by Bloomington resident: Sidewalk project funding not equitable, political bias a factor

A report released by Bloomington resident Mark Stosberg late Monday questions the way funding for construction of new sidewalks has been allocated in the city for the last 17 years.

White dots with lines indicate projects recommended for funding by Bloomington city council’s sidewalk committee over the last 17 years. The darker the blue shading, the higher income the area is, based on US Census data. The image links to Bloomington resident Mark Stosberg’s “Sidewalk Equity Audit”

The report concludes that the process a four-member city council sidewalk committee has used  to recommend funding has caused an inequitable distribution of limited resources.

From the executive summary of Stosberg’s report: “The audit found that the current politically-biased process resulted in skewing sidewalk projects towards neighborhoods that were wealthier, less dense and had lower pedestrian demand.”

To fund all the projects on last year’s potential project list would take around $17 million. Using just the roughly $330,000 a year that’s allocated to building new sidewalks with the city council’s program would mean a half-century wait until all those sidewalks are built.

City staff and councilmembers alike have over the last year talked about the need to find more money to pay for new sidewalk construction.

Based on Stosberg’s remarks at a July meeting of the city’s bicycle and pedestrian safety commission (BPSC), the audit helps make the point that if funding is limited, then it’s that much more important to make sure the resources are distributed equitably.

Stosberg is president of the BPSC.  The commission got a preview of a draft version of the report at its October meeting. Other members gave Stosberg some feedback, but the authorship of the report is Stosberg’s.

The idea that the current approach could be a “politically biased process” is conceivable, based on the fact that it’s a four-member city council committee that works closely with staff from different city departments to select the projects for funding recommendations.

Stosberg’s audit uses US Census data on income to identify “a concentration of wealthier census blocks in the southeast part of town.”

About those wealthier census blocks, Stosberg’s report says, “That’s also where the about half of sidewalk committee funded projects landed and significantly overlaps with city council District 4, which has been continuously represented on the sidewalk committee for 17 years.”

Dave Rollo, who represents District 4, has served on the city council since 2003.

Rollo was appointed again this year to the council’s sidewalk committee, along with Kate Rosenbarger (District 1), Ron Smith (District 3) and Jim Sims (at large). Sims is chair of the committee. This year is the first for Smith and Rosenbarger to serve on the committee, because it’s their first year of service on the city council. Continue reading “Analysis by Bloomington resident: Sidewalk project funding not equitable, political bias a factor”