Contested Bloomington plan commission seat goes to Sandberg

On Wednesday at its first meeting of the year, Bloomington’s city council decided on a 5–4 vote that Susan Sandberg, not Isabel Piedmont-Smith, would serve as its appointment to the city plan commission in 2021.

It was a night when the council settled on a raft of appointments of its own members to various boards and commissions.

That included the appointment of Sandberg to the city plan commission. She’s served on the nine-member group for the last couple of years.

Sandberg’s appointment to the plan commission was the only one that required a vote of the council to settle the question of which councilmember would serve. A couple of other competing councilmember interests were resolved when one deferred to the other.

Voting for Sandberg to serve on plan commission were: Sandberg, Dave Rollo, Jim Sims, Sue Sgambelluri, and Ron Smith. Voting for Piedmont-Smith were: Piedmont-Smith, Steve Volan, Kate Rosenbarger, and Matt Flaherty.

The plan commission this year will be in the political spotlight probably by the end of January, when it takes up the question of zone map revisions and proposed text amendments to the UDO.

Continue reading “Contested Bloomington plan commission seat goes to Sandberg”

Leftover rezone request for warehouse next to Switchyard Park to start Bloomington plan commission’s year

A mixed-use development with 123 residential units, 184 parking spaces and 7,000 square feet of commercial space might be replacing the southern two-thirds of the warehouse just north of Hillside Drive next to Switchyard Park.

The development would also stretch south of Hillside Drive by one parcel.

To make a residential project possible at that location would require a rezone from the existing planned unit development zoning (PUD). The request is to maintain the PUD designation, but use different development standards from the existing PUD. A PUD is a kind of custom zoning, which includes its own custom development standards.

In December, plan commissioners voted unanimously to continue their deliberations until January, even though they appeared inclined to send the rezone proposal to the city council, with a positive recommendation.

A main sticking point for the city’s planning staff appeared to be the way townhomes are proposed to be oriented to the park. As the city’s development services manager Jackie Scanlan put it when she commented on the project renderings: “When you look down the sides of these buildings, you can tell that these are the sides of buildings, and we would prefer that they look like the front of buildings.”

Planning staff wanted to make sure that the development standards of the proposed PUD rezone—that is, the written narrative—require that the townhomes present their fronts to the park. An alternative to written development standards would be renderings that show townhomes facing the park.

That means the rezone request is set to be considered again by Bloomington’s plan commission at its first meeting of the year, on Jan. 11. Continue reading “Leftover rezone request for warehouse next to Switchyard Park to start Bloomington plan commission’s year”

A hen’s tooth grows in Bloomington: Court of appeals agrees to review ruling mid-trial in plan commission seat case

On Friday morning, a three-judge panel from the Indiana court of appeals decided unanimously that it would hear an appeal made in the middle of a trial about the rightful appointee to a Bloomington plan commission seat.

The case will decide who serves on Bloomington’s plan commission: Chris Cockerham or Andrew Guenther. Both are Republicans. 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.

Friday’s ruling means the usual sequence of written legal memoranda submitted by the two sides can start. Now that it has permission to file its appeal, the city will do that, along with a brief in support. Guenther and GOP Monroe County chair William Ellis, who are represented by local Bloomington attorney Carl Lamb, will have a chance to file a brief responding to Bloomington’s arguments. Finally, Bloomington will get a chance to reply to the response.

Either side can ask for oral arguments to be heard. Whether oral arguments are heard is at the court’s discretion. The court can itself decide to hear oral arguments, even if neither side requests it.

Given the allowable timelines for each step in the rules of Indiana appellate procedure, it seems unlikely that a ruling will come on the appeal before year’s end. The lawsuit was filed in June of this year.

Each side filed a brief with the court of appeals arguing that the court should either accept the case, or not. [Bloomington’s memorandum in support] [Ellis and Guenther’s memorandum in opposition]

An initial ruling went against the city of Bloomington, when local judge Erik Allen, out of Greene County, denied Bloomington’s motion to dismiss the case. The case is being handled by Allen, a special judge, after Monroe County judges recused themselves. Continue reading “A hen’s tooth grows in Bloomington: Court of appeals agrees to review ruling mid-trial in plan commission seat case”

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”