Monroe County commissioners reject another residential development south of Bloomington: “This is a lot of housing on not a lot of space.”

Sample designs for paired townhomes in proposed Southern Meadows.

On Wednesday, Monroe County commissioners rejected a request for a rezone of 37 acres south of Bloomington for a housing project called Southern Meadows, a proposed development of 95 paired townhomes for a total of 190 housing units.

In that configuration, a townhome sits on its own lot with its own yard, and shares a wall on one side with its neighbor.

It’s the second time in about a month that county commissioners have turned down a rezone request in the Clear Creek area, south of the city of Bloomington boundary, but inside an area that’s a part of the current Bloomington annexation proposal.

In mid-May, commissioners rejected the rezone request for a much smaller proposal called Clear Creek Urban, just to the east of the Southern Meadows parcel.

Clear Creek Urban was mixed-use residential proposal that would have a developed a 4-acre parcel with five residential and commercial buildings that called for 31 new residences. The Clear Creek Urban petition, brought by Blind Squirrels, LLC, would have constructed attached townhomes, multi-family residences, and commercial space.

Blind Squirrels gets a mention in the meeting information packet about Southern Meadows, because of an easement granted by the owner of the smaller parcel to allow for access from Southern Meadows to the east-west That Road.

For both projects the stumbling block was density. As president of the board of commissioners Julie Thomas described the Southern Meadows project on Wednesday: “This is a lot of housing on not a lot of space.” Continue reading “Monroe County commissioners reject another residential development south of Bloomington: “This is a lot of housing on not a lot of space.””

Monroe County poised for return to in-person government meetings with option for remote participation

Rank-and-file members of the public will be able to participate remotely in future county board meetings, even after pandemic protocols are lifted, and when commissioners start holding in-person meetings.

That was a key takeaway from Wednesday’s Monroe County commissioners meeting.

The current emergency health order from Indiana governor Eric Holcomb, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, is set to expire at the end of May. Local county officials are assuming the order won’t be renewed this time around, as it has been several times before.

The emergency order provided the legal basis for governing bodies, like the Monroe County board of commissioners, to meet with remote participation of members, using video conferencing options like Zoom.

That broad basis for remote participation will end when the governor’s order expires. All other things being equal, that would mean a return to the legal requirements of public meetings in pre-pandemic times, which include an in-person requirement for members of public bodies.

But under a state statute enacted by the state legislature during this year’s session, the members of a governing body can, in a more limited way, still participate in meetings from a distance, by using electronic platforms. [HEA 1437] Continue reading “Monroe County poised for return to in-person government meetings with option for remote participation”

Monroe County commissioners reject mixed-use proposal at Rogers Street, That Road: “We are the county. We are not the city.”

On a unanimous vote taken at their regular Wednesday meeting, the three Monroe County commissioners turned down a proposal to redevelop a 4-acre parcel just south of the current Bloomington city limits, with five residential and commercial buildings.

The conceptual plans in the meeting information packet call for 31 new residences—15 in one building, five in each of three other buildings and one in a fifth building. The petition, brought by Blind Squirrels, LLC, would have constructed attached townhomes, multi-family residences, and commercial space.

Called “Clear Creek Urban,” the proposal was in front of the commissioners, because it was a proposed rezone from different types of residential zoning districts, and a planned unit development (PUD), to a new PUD. A PUD is a kind of custom zoning created to suit unique characteristics of a site.

When she explained her vote against the proposal, Julie Thomas, president of the county board of commissioners, first said that she thinks some kind of development for the parcel is needed. Thomas praised the creativity of the proposal, which was presented by Tamby Wikle-Cassady for Blind Squirrels.

Thomas said, “It’s nice to imagine a sort of a community feel that would have emerged from this—sort of like when you go through Unionville or Harrodsburg or other communities that we have.” Thomas added, “The building design is great. The ability to adapt and to make changes has been really phenomenal. And I want to thank Ms. Cassady for that.”

The problem for Thomas was the project’s density. “While I support the idea of having mixed use, I just think that this is too much density for the county…The first building is going to be very tall [three stories], especially compared to the immediate surrounding community,” Thomas said. Continue reading “Monroe County commissioners reject mixed-use proposal at Rogers Street, That Road: “We are the county. We are not the city.””

Monroe County turns map blue for COVID cases, but still in yellow advisory

At their regular Wednesday meeting, Monroe County commissioners heard a bit of good news related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

County health administrator Penny Caudill told them the 92 confirmed positive cases for the week ending on Sunday were low enough to put Monroe County in the blue category for the state’s dual-metric classification scheme.

That’s the first time in a couple of months that the county has been blue. Blue designates the best category, which is “low community spread.”

The other metric, besides the number of confirmed cases per 100,000, is positivity rate. Monroe County has consistently scored in the best category for the positivity metric, due in part to the massive amount of mitigation testing that Indiana University has undertaken.

Mitigation testing, of randomly selected people, by its nature will show a lower positivity rate than testing of those who decide they want a test for some reason.

Based on the number of positive cases, Monroe County is still in the next-best category, but when averaged with the score for positivity rate, the county comes out blue.

Caudill also cautioned the commissioners that under the dual-metric color-coded advisory scheme, the county needs to maintain its blue status for two weeks in a row in order to be considered out from under the cautions associated with the yellow rating. Continue reading “Monroe County turns map blue for COVID cases, but still in yellow advisory”

Bloomington budget advance session swapped out for talk about American Rescue Plan, same time as separate county meeting

Historically, April’s annual “budget advance” for Bloomington’s city council has been an occasion when councilmembers sketch out their aspirations for the next budget year.

The idea is to try to influence the mayor’s budget proposal, which is presented in August.

Based on “city council” by Thomas Deckert from the Noun Project

This year’s budget advance was set for April 27 at 6 p.m., when the city council adopted its calendar for the year.

Now, instead of using that slot on the next week’s calendar for the budget advance, Bloomington’s city council will use the time to get an initial briefing from mayor Hamilton’s administration on the city’s estimated $22-million share of funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) .

Also on Tuesday (April 27), the county council and the county commissioners are convening a joint work session about ARPA  funding. The county’s meeting starts at 5:30 p.m.

The estimated Monroe County share of the total $1.9-trillion federal package is about $29 million.

The announcement about the change in topic for next Tuesday’s city council session came from council administrator/attorney Stephen Lucas towards the end of Wednesday’s regular city council meeting. Continue reading “Bloomington budget advance session swapped out for talk about American Rescue Plan, same time as separate county meeting”

Monroe County OKs start of right-of-way acquisition for 2023 Fullerton Pike roundabout construction

Design concept from 2019 for Phase 3 of the Fullerton Pike road project.

In fall 2023, Monroe County expects to start construction on two new roundabouts. One is at the intersection of Fullerton Pike and Rockport Road. The other is at the intersection of Clearview Drive and Gordon Pike, across from Batchelor Middle School.

The project also includes road improvements like raised medians, bicycle lanes, and a multi-use path.

None of that is breaking news. This is Phase 3 of a larger project, and the initial public meetings on the topic were held in 2019.

But action taken at its regular Wednesday meeting by Monroe County’s board of commissioners is an indication that the project is moving ahead on its expected timeline.  The schedule calls for acquisition of the necessary right-of-way, starting this summer, on July 1.

On Wednesday, county commissioners approved a contract with the Indiana Department of Transportation to start acquiring the right-of-way (ROW) from property owners along Fullerton Pike and Gordon Pike. Continue reading “Monroe County OKs start of right-of-way acquisition for 2023 Fullerton Pike roundabout construction”

Approaching $750K: Monroe County reimbursement grants to businesses using CARES Act money

Monroe County’s total allocation of awards to local businesses, nonprofits and other governmental entities using federal COVID-19 pandemic relief money is now approaching three quarters of a million dollars.

This is a partial list of businesses, nonprofits and taxing units that have received reimbursement pandemic relief grants through Monroe County government, sorted by grant amounts. A complete table is include below.

At their regular Wednesday meeting, county commissioners approved a total $64,724 in the latest round of allocations to local businesses to reimburse COVID-19 expenses. The grand total amount that’s been awarded so far now stands at $743,654.

Wednesday’s grantees included: Dimension Mill; Hive; Jerry G. Miller; Katherine James Designs; Monroe County Public Library; Nick’s English Hut, Inc; One World Catering; Pizza Express, Inc; Rainbow (Hopscotch) Bakery; The Wonderlab Museum; Upland Brewing Company, Inc;VTG Enterprises; Landlocked Enterprises, Inc; Innovative Financial Solutions; Laughlin Financial LLC; Litwin Enterprises; and BloomingPaws LLC.

On Wednesday, after Monroe County’s financial director, Brianne Gregory, presented the item, commissioners approved the allocations without a lot of extra discussion.

Board of commissioners president Julie Thomas noted that the application deadline for the grants is April 30. That means only a couple more weeks are left for businesses, nonprofits, and other governmental entities to apply for the reimbursements.

The county has set up a web page with a form for applicants to fill out.

The basic purpose of the funds is to reimburse non-payroll pandemic-related expenses that haven’t been covered by some other program. Continue reading “Approaching $750K: Monroe County reimbursement grants to businesses using CARES Act money”

Time to attend memorial services of colleagues now covered for Monroe County workers, under revised personnel policy

At their regular Wednesday meeting, Monroe County’s board of commissioners approved a change to the county’s personnel policy.

This image, extracted from the Monroe County sheriff’s office recording of Deputy James Driver’s memorial service, links to the full video.

The change explicitly allows for employees to receive compensated time in order to attend memorial services for anyone actively employed by, or volunteering for the county.

Prompting the change was the recent death of sheriff’s deputy James Driver, who died in a car crash on March 29.

Commissioner Lee Jones said at Wednesday’s meeting, “The recent tragic death that we experienced is what caused us to notice that this needed to be included in the personnel policy.”

According to the press release from the sheriff’s office, Driver was at the time responding with emergency lights and sirens, to a different crash with reported injuries. The location of the crash in which Driver died was near State Road 45 and Eller Road, according to the news release.

The effective date of the ordinance was made April 1, 2021, which covers the time of the memorial services held for Driver in the first week of April. Continue reading “Time to attend memorial services of colleagues now covered for Monroe County workers, under revised personnel policy”

Housing as a human right gets county support, a good first step, housing advisory group says

At their regular Wednesday morning meeting, Monroe County commissioners approved a resolution recognizing housing as a human right.

The key clause from the resolution reads: “…Monroe County joins other jurisdictions across the country in declaring housing as a human right.”

Commissioners Penny Githens and Lee Jones both voted to support of the resolution. President of the board of commissioners Julie Thomas was not able to attend the meeting to cast a vote, but Githens relayed Thomas’s support.

The resolution was put forward by the county’s affordable housing advisory commission (AHAC). At Wednesday’s meeting, Githens said, “I want to thank the affordable housing commission for their work on this. They didn’t just sit back, they kept pushing, they kept talking. They kept doing things. They’re pretty tireless.”

About the resolution, Jones said, “During this time of COVID, it’s been made so clear just how dangerous homelessness can be both for the homeless and for society.” She continued, “It is well known that the best outcomes for disadvantaged people come about when they are in stable housing.”

Attending the Wednesday meeting in support of the resolution were current AHAC chair Cathi Crabtree, and past chairs Deborah Myerson and Vauhxx Booker. It was Booker who read the resolution into the record of Wednesday’s meeting. Continue reading “Housing as a human right gets county support, a good first step, housing advisory group says”

County government preps for post-pandemic hybrid in-person, video-conference meetings

At its regular meeting in the first week of March, Monroe county commissioners got an update from chief technology officer Eric Evans on upgrades to technical audio-visual features of the Nat U. Hill meeting room.

In pre-pandemic times, it was the meeting place for the county commissioners, the county council, and the plan commission, among other groups. That’s where those government bodies will resume meeting, when restrictions are lifted—possibly sometime in the next few months.

The tech upgrades aren’t being made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Problems with acoustics in the room—due to its high ceilings and wall of windows—were already well known. Also well established was the low-definition video feed from CATS.

The reliance during the pandemic on Zoom video-conference meetings has led to some modifications to the Nat U. Hill project, to accommodate hybrid in-person-Zoom meetings. It’s also led to plans for the deployment of a mobile Zoom package for use in other meeting spaces.

Evans told commissioners at their early March meeting, “We started pivoting the Nat Hill project to create a blended environment, where we could combine a live in-person meeting with online teleconferencing elements, so that we can have the best of both worlds.” Continue reading “County government preps for post-pandemic hybrid in-person, video-conference meetings”