Déjà Duplex: Text amendment included in zoning map process would allow plexes in all areas zoned for residential use

A screenshot of a story map to proposed zoning changes that could eventually wind up in front of the Bloomington plan commission and city council in 2021. Image links to the UDO Zoning Map: Public Outreach Draft webpage.

A press release issued Thursday afternoon by the city of Bloomington announced the start of a public engagement process to revise the zoning map of the city.

Action by the plan commission and city council is not scheduled until 2021.

Substantive revisions to the zoning map were the next, expected step after the final adoption of a new unified development ordinance (UDO) earlier this year. The UDO revision created some new zoning categories, among them “mixed use student housing” or MS. That’s a category that could make it onto the zoning map ahead of other new categories, because a specific development is requesting a rezone to that category.

But the general approach is not to wait for specific requests for rezoning to put the new zoning categories from the UDO onto a map of the city. That’s why the public engagement process announced on Thursday was not a surprise.

Also making it an expected bit of news is the fact that the current IU Health hospital on 2nd Street will be redeveloped as something other than a hospital, when the new facility opens out on the SR 46 bypass. The 24-acre site will be handed over to the city in late 2021 by Indiana University Health in a $6.5 million real estate deal. That means a probable rezone from MH (mixed-use health care) to something else, like MN (mixed-use neighborhood scale).

Not necessarily expected as a part of the public engagement process is the re-opening of the kind of question that led to acrimonious community debate last year over the question of duplexes, triplexes and quads in core neighborhoods of the city.

But one of the issues the public will be asked to think about again, according to the city’s press release is “Adding ‘plexes’ as a housing option in all districts that allow residential uses.”

It’s not the same proposal that was considered last year as a part of the UDO, the city’s development development services manager Jackie Scanlan told The Square Beacon. “The plexes proposal is different from the previous proposal.” She added, “We are planning to prepare an exhibit to compare the proposals.”

The first public engagement meeting is five days away, set for Oct. 27 from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. by Zoom video conference. Details are supposed to be posted on the project website: UDO Zoning Map: Public Outreach Draft. Continue reading “Déjà Duplex: Text amendment included in zoning map process would allow plexes in all areas zoned for residential use”

Rezone for replacement of Brownstone Terrace gets plan commission recommendation, now goes to Bloomington city council

Aerial view from Monroe County GIS system of the Brownstone Terrace in spring 2020.
Aerial view from Monroe County GIS system of the Brownstone Terrace in spring 2020.

On Monday night, a project that would replace the predominantly student-rented Brownstone Terrace with a larger student-oriented development called The Standard got a unanimous recommendation of approval from Bloomington’s plan commission.

The specific request was for a rezoning. That’s why it now requires approval by Bloomington’s city council.

The rezoning request is from planned unit development (PUD) to a new zoning classification in the recently adopted unified development ordinance (UDO), which is multi-use student housing (MS).

The Standard would demolish several two-story buildings with a total of 120 apartments. The PUD zoning for the current project was approved by the plan commission in 1984.

In place of the current development, The Standard would build a new student-oriented, residential development with 433 apartments and 1,072 bedrooms in five- and six-story buildings. A parking garage with 681 parking spaces would be built as a part of the development. The project would fit within the zoning specifications of the requested MS zoning. Continue reading “Rezone for replacement of Brownstone Terrace gets plan commission recommendation, now goes to Bloomington city council”

Robinson confirmed as head of Bloomington’s planning and transportation department

On Monday night, Scott Robinson was confirmed by the city plan commission as director of a Bloomington city department that, for the time being at least, is called the planning and transportation department.

The unanimous vote by plan commissioners came after a rare appearance by the mayor at a plan commission meeting, who introduced Robinson as his appointment to head the department.

Mayor John Hamilton intends to rename the department, to eliminate the word “transportation.” The intended move provoked the ire of some city councilmembers, when it was revealed at a recent public meeting of the city council about the proposed 2021 budget. Councilmembers had some objections based on substance, but were also annoyed because the news came as a surprise.

Not a surprise was Hamilton’s introduction of Robinson to the plan commission on Monday night. For one thing, a press release issued a couple of weeks ago announced that Robinson, who was assistant director of the department, was the mayor’s choice to replace Terri Porter. She retired on Sept. 25 after serving as director for about three and a half years. Continue reading “Robinson confirmed as head of Bloomington’s planning and transportation department”

Bloomington plan commission gives rezoning for student housing a standard second hearing

A commonly known connection between Bloomington, Indiana, and Athens, Georgia is based on the 1979 movie “Breaking Away.” The film was shot in Bloomington, where both the movie and short-lived TV series were set. The TV series was shot in Athens.

A second connection between the two small cities was highlighted at Monday night’s meeting of Bloomington’s plan commission. The new property developer for the predominantly student-rented  Brownstone Terrace, who wants to demolish the complex and build a new, bigger student-oriented housing in its place, is Landmark Properties, based in Athens.

Landmark Properties develops student housing under its brand, “The Standard.” The owner’s name on the property records is The Standard at Bloomington.

On Monday night, plan commissioners got a formal introduction to the request from The Standard to rezone the property from planned unit development (PUD) to a new zoning classification in the recently adopted unified development ordinance (UDO), which is multi-use student housing (MS).

The plan commission’s reaction to the proposal seemed neutral to somewhat favorable. After giving the request less than an hour of deliberations, no action was taken except to move the rezoning request along to a second hearing. That was planning staff’s recommendation.

The second hearing will take place at the plan commission’s regular second-Monday monthly meeting on Oct. 12. The question in front of the plan commission is whether to grant the rezoning request, not to approve the site plan—even if some the presentation includes the kind of detailed renderings often associated with site plan presentations.

The Standard would demolish several two-story buildings with a total of 120 apartments. The PUD zoning for the current project was approved by the plan commission in 1984, five years after “Breaking Away” first appeared in theaters.

In place of the current development, The Standard would build a new student-oriented, residential development with 433 apartments and 1,072 bedrooms in five- and six-story buildings. A parking garage with 681 parking spaces would be built as a part of the development. The project would fit within the zoning specifications of the requested MS zoning. Continue reading “Bloomington plan commission gives rezoning for student housing a standard second hearing”

Court of appeals could now weigh in on Bloomington plan commission case

Bloomington’s nine-member plan commission has continued to meet and consider petitions for the last few months, even as litigation proceeds on the question of the rightful appointment to one of its seats.

On Monday, local judge Erik Allen cleared the way for Indiana’s court of appeals to review a ruling in the middle of the lawsuit over the appointment.

Called an “interlocutory appeal,” the court of appeals could now accept jurisdiction over an appeal to review Allen’s ruling, which was made in mid-August to deny Bloomington’s motion to dismiss the case.

The case involves a claim made by Monroe Republican Party chair William Ellis—that the appointment to fill a vacancy on the plan commission at the start of the year was his to make. The claim is based on the idea that Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, did not fill the vacancy in a timely way.

The case will decide who serves on Bloomington’s plan commission: Chris Cockerham or Andrew Guenther. Cockerham, the mayor’s pick, has been serving for a few months now and will continue to serve on the commission until the case is decided. That includes tonight’s plan commission meeting, which starts at 5:30 p.m. Continue reading “Court of appeals could now weigh in on Bloomington plan commission case”

Big Bloomington student housing complex south of football stadium could be demolished to make way for bigger student housing complex

Aerial view from Monroe County GIS system of the Brownstone Terrace in spring 2020.
Aerial view from Monroe County GIS system of the Brownstone Terrace in spring 2020.

At its regular monthly meeting on Monday, Bloomington’s plan commission will get a first look at a request from The Standard at Bloomington, LLC to rezone the property where Brownstone Terrace now stands, about three blocks southwest of the Indiana University Memorial football stadium.

If the rezoning—from planned unit development (PUD) to multi-use student housing (MS)—is eventually approved, The Standard would demolish several two-story buildings with a total of 120 apartments. In their place, The Standard would build a new student-oriented, residential development with 433 apartments and 1,072 bedrooms in five- and six-story buildings. A parking garage with 681 parking spaces would be built as a part of the development.

According to the plan commission’s meeting information packet, a possible timeline would be to start construction in spring 2022 and finish by summer 2024.

Bloomington’s planning staff conclusion reads in part: “While the project is large, the Department believes that this location is ideal for redevelopment and intensification because of its proximity to the IU campus and the characteristics of its surroundings.” Continue reading “Big Bloomington student housing complex south of football stadium could be demolished to make way for bigger student housing complex”

Monroe County officials apologize: Change to denser zoning went through automatically when 90-day window was missed

A 5.34-acre parcel just south of Bloomington, where just a single house stands, now has the right zoning for the eventual construction of a couple dozen residences.

The developer is Charles Layne LLC with Bynum Fanyo & Associates as the engineering consultant.

In Monroe County’s zoning scheme, the parcel has been rezoned from Estate Residential I (REI) to High Density Residential (HR). The old zoning allowed for just one residence per acre. The new zoning, with some commitments made by the developer, makes for a density of around 4.2 residences per acre.

The news of the rezoning was announced at Wednesday morning’s regular meeting of Monroe County’s board of commissioners. It came with apologies all around.

The Holland Pines rezoning was not the result of a decision made by the three commissioners. It was due to a missed deadline. Continue reading “Monroe County officials apologize: Change to denser zoning went through automatically when 90-day window was missed”

Bloomington wants a quick appeal to intermediate ruling in lawsuit over disputed plan commission seat

After a judge ruled on Friday to deny Bloomington’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit about a plan commission seat, on Monday the city asked the judge to allow for a quick appeal on the ruling.

3-guenther kappas cockerham
From left: Andrew Guenther, Nick Kappas, Chris Cockerham.

By ruling on Friday against Bloomington’s bid to get the case dismissed, local special judge Erik Allen was allowing the lawsuit to go forward. If successful, the lawsuit could change the membership of Bloomington’s city plan commission.

If the lawsuit filed by Monroe County GOP chair William Ellis and would-be plan commissioner Andrew Guenther is successful, Guenther would replace Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s appointment to the seat, Chris Cockerham.

The seat became vacant at the start of the year when Bloomington’s mayor John Hamilton decided not to re-appoint Nick Kappas to the plan commission.

On Monday, Bloomington filed a request asking local special judge Erik Allen to certify his denial of the city’s bid to get the case dismissed, so that Bloomington can ask for the court of appeals to look at Allen’s ruling.

It’s called an interlocutory appeal, which is a way for a party in a lawsuit to ask for a second opinion on a ruling during a case, before proceedings have concluded in the lower court.

Assuming Allen goes ahead and grants Bloomington’s request, that pauses the discovery process for the next phase of case. Continue reading “Bloomington wants a quick appeal to intermediate ruling in lawsuit over disputed plan commission seat”

Opinion: It would be great if Bloomington’s government followed its own laws

This coming week offers a great chance to learn how Bloomington’s city government works. From Monday through Thursday, the city council will hold hearings on the mayor’s proposed budget for 2021.

cropped what I did on my summer vacation
Image links to Bloomington’s body of local law in Municode.

Every department begins its presentation by addressing the question: Why do we even exist?

Everyone in the city of Bloomington should try to tune in for at least part of this weeklong civic event.

Parents could use it as a reward for finishing homework on time: If you finish these math problems, I will let you watch the budget hearings.

Some Bloomington citizens might wonder about the start time for the budget hearings. Each night’s hearing starts a half hour earlier than for a regular city council meeting—6 p.m. instead of the usual 6:30 p.m.

That’s possible, because budget hearings aren’t “regular meetings” of the city council, which are prescribed to start at 6:30 p.m. under Bloomington law. The regular meeting start time was changed from 7:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. by enactment of an ordinance in late 2016.

Other Bloomington citizens might not wonder so much about the clock time as about the time of year for the budget hearings. Why the third week in August? Why not earlier, say in the third week of July? Continue reading “Opinion: It would be great if Bloomington’s government followed its own laws”

Disputed plan commission seat: Judge denies Bloomington’s bid to get case dismissed

Ten days ago, on Aug. 5, a hearing was held about Bloomington’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit that could affect the membership the city’s plan commission.

Greene County Courthouse Screen Shot 2020-08-05 at 12.25.18 PM
Greene County courthouse, Bloomfield, Indiana, the home court of special judge Erik Allen, and the scheduled location of the Aug. 5 hearing. The hearing was switched to a telephonic conference. Image links to image source, which is Google Street View.

On Friday (Aug. 14), special judge Erik Allen issued an order that lets the lawsuit go ahead.

Allen denied Bloomington’s motion to dismiss the case in a 125-word order that included a lifting of a previously imposed stay on the discovery process. That means both sides can now proceed with document requests and deposition of witnesses.

On one side are Monroe County GOP chair William Ellis and his pick for city plan commissioner, Republican Andrew Guenther. On the other side is Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, with his pick, Republican Chris Cockerham.

For now, it’s Cockerham, a commercial real estate broker, who serves in the disputed seat. It became vacant at the start of the year when Bloomington’s mayor John Hamilton decided not to re-appoint Nick Kappas to the plan commission. Continue reading “Disputed plan commission seat: Judge denies Bloomington’s bid to get case dismissed”