Thursday night was the second session of the Bloomington city council’s ongoing consideration of amendments to the city’s update of the unified development ordinance.
The council voted on two amendments, approving both. One was co-sponsored by councilmembers Dave Rollo and Chris Sturbaum. It eliminated duplexes and triplexes as possible uses of land in core neighborhoods. The tally was 6–2 on the nine-member council. Allison Chopra was absent.
The other amendment approved by the council on Thursday changed the status of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) from a conditional use, which requires a public review process, to a by-right use. A by-right use eliminates the public review process, but does not eliminate use-specific standards.
For ADUs, the use-specific standards include: a limit of one ADU per lot; a requirement that only lots greater than the minimum size for the zoning district are allowed to have an ADU; a maximum of two bedrooms; and a limit of one family. The vote that made ADUs by-right was 5–3.
On Wednesday night, Bloomington’s city council started its deliberation on possibly 80 different amendments to the update of the college town’s unified development ordinance.
The first tussle unfolded over which of four amendments about the status of duplexes and triplexes would be heard first. The outcome of a ranked-voting scheme, which required two iterations to break a tie, was to consider first a pair of amendments sponsored by Councilmember Isabel Piedmont-Smith.
Both of Piedmont-Smith’s amendments proposed to change the use-specific standards for plexes.
One of Piedmont-Smith’s amendments (Am 03) proposed to reduce the number of total bedrooms in duplexes and triplexes from six to four and from nine to six, respectively. At Wednesday’s meeting, she added a stipulation that the bedroom count per unit would not exceed two bedrooms for either duplexes or triplexes.
Am 03 failed on a 4–5 vote after around 90 minutes of public comment.
The other of Piedmont-Smith’s amendments (Am 05) establishes a limit to the portion of a house that can be demolished in order to create a duplex or triplex. It passed on a 6–3 vote.
Piedmont-Smith’s amendments were seen as a kind of compromise position. The other two amendments that were in the mix for first consideration by the council on Wednesday did not address use-specific conditions. They were more general in character.
Steve Volan submitted an amendment (Am 02) that would make plexes in core neighborhoods “by-right.” So it would remove the conditional use public review process, but leave the use-specific standards intact.
The next amendment considered by the council, starting at 6 p.m. on Thursday, is one that is co-sponsored by Chris Sturbaum and Dave Rollo (Am 01). It would prohibit plexes in core neighborhoods.
Near the start of the meeting, it became clear why there was no Amendment 04 in the sequence. It had been a proposal from Piedmont-Smith to add an owner-occupancy requirement for plexes, which turns out to be legally problematic.
Word from the city’s corporation counsel was relayed at Wednesday’s meeting by Scott Robinson, assistant director of planning and transportation: Case law from other states suggests that owner-occupancy for plexes would not likely survive a court challenge in Indiana. In contrast, the city’s legal staff thinks that requiring owner-occupancy for accessory dwelling units (UDO) could be defended in court.
The council considered a motion made by Andy Ruff to extend deliberations until 11 p.m., but it failed on a 3–6 vote. The council had adopted a schedule that called for the meeting to adjourn by 10 p.m. unless the council voted to extend it.
Put in orchestral terms, starting Wednesday night at 6 p.m., Bloomington’s city council president Dave Rollo will conduct a political choir of sorts. Not everyone will be singing from the same song book.
On the council’s agenda are proposed amendments to a proposed update to the unified development ordinance (UDO), which is the city’s basic land use and development policy document. Presentation to the council of the draft UDO update has already stretched across four separate evenings recently, starting with the first one on Oct. 16. It was followed by meetings on Oct. 22, Oct. 23 and Oct. 30.
The crucial concept that has created community-wide discord is density: How concentrated should living arrangements be in different parts of the city? The four proposed amendments that are first in numerical sequence on the council’s agenda all deal with density.
An amendment co-sponsored by Rollo and councilmember Chris Sturbaum would revise the plan-commission-recommended UDO draft so that the use of property as duplexes and triplexes in core neighborhoods would be prohibited.
A competing amendment from councilmember Steve Volan would remove the “conditional use” requirement for duplexes and triplexes that’s in the UDO draft. That means a required public review process would be eliminated, but the use-specific standards for the plexes would remain. The use-specific standards include a maximum number of total bedrooms: six for duplexes and nine for triplexes.
The use-specific standards for plexes are the subject of two amendments put forward by councilmember Isabel Piedmont-Smith. One of the amendments would reduce the maximum bedrooms to four bedrooms in duplexes and six bedrooms for triplexes.
The Bloomington city council’s hearing of a proposed update to the unified development ordinance (UDO) has already stretched across four separate evenings recently, starting with the first one on Oct. 16. It was followed by meetings on Oct. 22, Oct. 23 and Oct. 30.
The hearings each night on the city’s basic land use and development document consisted of staff presentations, councilmember questions, and opportunities for citizens to sway their elected representatives.
Several amendments—starting with duplexes, triplexes, accessory dwelling units, and payments in lieu of providing onsite affordable units—are a part of the information packet for the council’s Nov. 13 and Nov. 14 meetings.
The 90-day window for city council action started a few days after the plan commission’s vote, when the outcome was certified to the council.
Bloomington’s plan commission voted 9–0 Monday night to recommend adoption of a revised version of the city’s unified development ordinance (UDO) to the city council. That starts a 10-day clock ticking for the commission’s action to be certified. Once certified, the city council has 90-days to act on the commission’s recommendation.
The 19 hours and 9 minutes worth of hearings held by the commission, starting in late August, were on occasion punctuated by contentious remarks delivered from the public podium. Particular points of controversy were duplexes, triplexes and quadplexes in core neighborhoods, as well as accessory dwelling units.
The recommended UDO that the city council will take up, probably starting in mid-October, makes accessory dwelling units conditional uses. An amendment approved by the planning commission in the last couple of weeks changed them from accessory uses to conditional uses.