Schedule of days for UDO hearings set, leaves scant room for other city council business by year’s end

Bloomington’s city council made some progress on Wednesday night towards setting its schedule for hearing, amending and adopting an updated unified development ordinance. cropped udo schedule calendar-4159913_1280The sometimes tedious character of the half-hour discussion on scheduling was summed up by the council’s attorney/administrator Dan Sherman, when he said to the council, “Thank you for entertaining that can of worms!”

One basic feature of the schedule was already known, based on discussion at a work session last Friday: Hearings on revisions to the city’s basic land use document will start on Oct. 16, which is a Wednesday, the usual day for council meetings.

But the start time for Wednesday’s event will be different from regular meetings. It will be called to order at 6 p.m. And it won’t go past 10 p.m.—unless the council votes at the meeting to extend the time, based on how things unfold at the meeting.

The 6 p.m. start time is common to all of the scheduled UDO hearing dates, except for one. How long the other meetings will last, time limits for public speaking turns and time limits for councilmember questions and comments will be decided at the Oct. 16 meeting.

On Wednesday, the council voted to adopt a schedule featuring a dozen dates for work on the UDO update. The first four meetings are devoted to presentation of parts of the updated UDO and public commentary. That is, no amendments will be considered at the first four hearings.

Preliminary UDO hearing schedule

Oct. 16 Chapter 1, Chapter 2, structuring debate
Oct. 22 Chapter 3
Oct. 23 Chapter 4, Chapter 5
Oct. 30 Chapter 6, Chapter 7, consideration of written objections
Nov. 13 Consideration of amendments non-UDO business?
Nov. 14 Consideration of amendments
Nov. 19 Consideration of amendments
Nov. 20 Consideration of amendments
Dec. 04 [6:30 p.m.] Announcement of further UDO consideration? non-UDO business?
Dec. 10 Consideration of amendments
Dec. 11 non-UDO business?
Dec. 12 Consideration of amendments
Dec. 17 Consideration of amendments
Dec. 18 Further consideration of written objections; FINAL ACTION

The schedule is subject to revision by vote of the council. The public can monitor a separate web page set up on the city’s website for scheduling information. Continue reading “Schedule of days for UDO hearings set, leaves scant room for other city council business by year’s end”

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”

Christmas Eve deadline looms for Bloomington city council, friction on UDO hearing schedule might mean approaching apocalypse

At a work session held Friday, Bloomington city councilmembers tried for an hour to settle on an approach to its schedule of upcoming hearings and votes on amendments to the updated unified development ordinance (UDO). It’s the basic local law on land use and zoning in the city.

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Bloomington’s city council meets Friday in the McCloskey Room of city hall to hash through scheduling of UDO update hearings. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

They made only incremental progress.

What’s certain is that the UDO will appear as a first reading on the council’s Oct. 2 meeting agenda. It’s likely the council will vote that night to establish Oct. 16 as the first hearing date. From then through Christmas Eve—which is the end of the 90-day window for council action to amend and adopt the UDO—the council’s UDO calendar is still mostly a vacant lot, even after Friday’s work session.

The deadline is keyed to the certification of the plan commission’s 9–0 vote on Sept. 24 to recommend adoption of the draft. The commission considered and, to some extent amended the updated UDO, over a series meetings that started a month earlier.

The council’s Friday work session concluded with the understanding that council president, Dave Rollo, and attorney/administrator, Dan Sherman, would confer later, to draft a possible framework for the council’s UDO scheduling. If Sherman and Rollo are able to hammer out enough procedural details to them put to a vote on Oct. 2, it will mean they managed to reconcile two basic approaches debated at the work session.

Councilmember Isabel Piedmont-Smith championed an approach weighted in favor of detailed presentations on four chunks of the UDO, spread out over at least four different meetings. She wants possible amendments  to be handled as they arise, in the course of the council’s methodical review of each chunk of the document. Piedmont-Smith said she wants the public to understand the “hot button” issues—like accessory dwelling units (ADUs) and duplexes—in the broader context of all of the city’s land use regulations.

Councilmember Chris Sturbaum advocated for an approach that deals with the most controversial items as soon as possible, scheduled in a way that makes clear to members of the public when they should show up to advocate on a particular issue. “It would be smart to hit the hard stuff right off the bat,” he said. Some amendments on ADUs and duplexes, triplexes and four-plexes had been handled by the plan commission early in the process, and after that, Sturbaum said, the commission had “coasted home.”

Sturbaum attended some of the plan commission’s hearings, and spoke from the podium during public commentary time, advocating against ADUs and plexes. Sturbaum said that the planning staff agreed with the approach he supported, even though they disagreed on the issues like ADUs and plexes:

“I think the fact that planning and I are on the same page is either a sign of the apocalypse, or maybe it means that we know what we’re talking about. We sat through those meetings.” Continue reading “Christmas Eve deadline looms for Bloomington city council, friction on UDO hearing schedule might mean approaching apocalypse”

Bloomington’s plan commission sends revised unified development ordinance (UDO) to city council with 9–0 recommendation to adopt

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Plan commission chair Joe Hoffmann got interrupted briefly at Monday’s meeting by other commissioners who gave him a round of applause to recognize his 32 years of service on the plan commission. It was his last meeting, special or regular, as a plan commissioner.

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.

The updated UDO recommended by the plan commission allows the du- tri- and four-plexes only as conditional uses. A plan commission amendment to make them by-right failed. City planning staff prepared an amendment that would prohibit plexes in core neighborhoods, but none of the plan commissioners moved it for consideration. Continue reading “Bloomington’s plan commission sends revised unified development ordinance (UDO) to city council with 9–0 recommendation to adopt”

Hoffmann to helm plan commission just until end of month, a chance UDO will wrap up by then

For his last vote at a regular meeting of Bloomington’s plan commission, Joe Hoffmann joined in the unanimous decision of the other commissioners Monday night, giving approval to the city’s proposed new three-story, 379-space parking garage to be built just west of city hall.

Hoffmann has served 32 years on the plan commission, which is the city’s land use and development policy body. Mayor John Hamilton used the commission’s agenda slot for reports and communications near the start of the meeting to issue a proclamation declaring Sept. 9, 2019 as Joe Hoffmann Day in Bloomington. Hamilton pegged the number of plan commission meetings Hoffmann had attended at around 380.

Hoffmann will serve through September. That means he still has possibly four more commission meetings to attend—they’re special meetings to conduct hearings and to make a recommendation to the city council on a new, revised unified development ordinance (UDO). And he might get a chance to vote on the final UDO recommendation that’s sent to the city council, if those four meetings wrap up the commission’s work on the UDO. Continue reading “Hoffmann to helm plan commission just until end of month, a chance UDO will wrap up by then”