Circuit court trial on demolition permit could come before mid-March BZA hearing on $83.5K fine

Now expected to appear on the March 19 agenda of Bloomington’s board of zoning appeals (BZA) meeting is an objection to the city’s decision last fall to impose an $83,500 fine on the owners of a West 7th Street house.

The owners demolished the house without a required certificate of zoning compliance (CZC).

cropped 2020-01-21 historic house demolition IMG_6189
View of 523 West 7th St. facing south on Jan. 21, 2020. A house stood there until late September 2019.

The house had previously been reviewed by the city’s historic preservation commission for historic designation.

The BZA hearing was originally set for last November, but it has been put off a couple of times due to scheduling conflicts.

In the last week of February, a related lawsuit filed by the owners against city and county officials saw a light flurry of filings in the Monroe County circuit court. The lawsuit seeks a mandate from the court ordering the city’s planning and transportation director, Terri Porter, to issue the required CZC.

The question now is whether a ruling on the court case will come before or after the BZA hearing.

Just how connected are the court case and the BZA hearing? Continue reading “Circuit court trial on demolition permit could come before mid-March BZA hearing on $83.5K fine”

Owners of demolished house fight Bloomington’s $83.5K fine two ways: Court action, appeal to BZA

After the owners of a house on West 7th Street demolished it last year, the city of Bloomington imposed an $83,500 fine—for not first getting a certificate of zoning compliance.

Before the house was demolished, it was reviewed for possible historic designation. According to city officials, it was still under the review process, when it was demolished.

The city imposed the fine in late October, after the house was demolished on Sept. 27.

What has happened since then?

Baker and Holdman immediately appealed to the city’s board of zoning appeals (BZA). A bit later, in mid-December, they filed a mandamus action in Monroe’s circuit court. Continue reading “Owners of demolished house fight Bloomington’s $83.5K fine two ways: Court action, appeal to BZA”

Bloomington city council OKs new conservation district, gets a quick lesson in black history

When the 1940 U.S. census was taken in Bloomington, Indiana, the enumerator who visited 935 W. 7th Street took down the information about the residents of the house from Ada Deal, a 40-year-old black woman.

She was born in Kentucky, like her husband, Maceo, who was one year older. The Deals had nine children at that time, ranging from seven-month-old Charlotte to 19-year-old Mary. They owned the house they lived in, which was valued at $1,200.

Maceo Deal, who’s listed as the “head of household,” is described as an “interior decorator” who worked for a department store.

Deal got a mention a couple weeks ago, at the Dec. 4 meeting of Bloomington’s city council. That’s when the council gave unanimous approval to  a new conservation district on the west side of town, where Deal used to live. A conservation district is similar to, but less restrictive than, a historic district.

It was New West Side citizen Betty Bridgwaters, who cited Deal, when she made remarks from the public podium.

Deal’s name came up in connection with some descriptions of local black history, which left the staff report about the new district “a little skewed,” as Bridgwaters put it. Continue reading “Bloomington city council OKs new conservation district, gets a quick lesson in black history”

Odds good for historic conservation district on near west side of Bloomington

Annotated R Map HISTORIC DISTRICT Historicxxxx

At its committee-of-the-whole meeting last Wednesday—the day after municipal elections were held in two city council districts—the Bloomington city council’s deliberations included the outcome of a different kind of public vote.

A referendum among the owners of 325 properties in the proposed Near West Side Conservation District came out 70-47 in favor of establishing the district. It’s the area roughly bounded on the north by the railroad right-of-way alongside Butler Park, on the south by Kirkwood Avenue and on the west by North Adams.

The council’s vote on Wednesday to recommend (to itself) approval of the conservation district was 8–0. The conservation district is planned to be taken up for a council vote at it’s Dec. 4 meeting. Based on the committee vote, it can be expected to pass.

Another, future vote among property owners, to be taken three years after the district is approved, will determine whether the district remains a conservation district or is elevated to a historic district. Unless a majority of property owners object, the conservation district automatically converts to a historic district.

In a historic district, any exterior alterations are subject to review by the city’s historic preservation commission (HPC). In a conservation district, it’s just moving or demolishing buildings, or constructing new buildings that are subject to HPC review. Continue reading “Odds good for historic conservation district on near west side of Bloomington”

Historic house teardown technicalities could add fuel to upcoming UDO debate

The demolition late last week of the house at 523 W. 7th Street was initially analyzed as a flagrant flouting of Bloomington’s due process  for assigning historic designation to a property. That’s because the city’s historic preservation commission passed a resolution on Aug 8, recommending to the city council that it vote to designate the house as a separate historic district.

Conor Herterich, the city’s historic preservation program manager, told The Beacon on Monday that the demolition violated the property’s interim protection against demolition—a protection provided by the commission’s resolution.

As of late Tuesday afternoon, however, it appears that the commission’s resolution, initially believed by city officials to have given the house interim protection, was not worded so that the intended protection was given. The meeting minutes from the Aug. 8 meeting say: “…the HPC recommends its historic designation under Title 8 of the BMC to the Common Council with the attached map.” There doesn’t appear to have been any explicit mention of “interim protection.”

Based on information from a source with the city, there’s been an preliminary conclusion by city staff that the property owners did not flout any interim protection, because the wording of the resolution didn’t explicitly mention “interim protection.” According to the source, there’s a second technicality that’s apparently in favor of the property owner, David Holdman. The second technical glitch is the city’s possible failure to give Holdman proper notice of the HPC’s finding and recommendation. Continue reading “Historic house teardown technicalities could add fuel to upcoming UDO debate”