Last week, Bloomington’s planning staff hosted two more public sessions by video conference, about possible changes to the city zoning map as well as the text of the unified development ordinance (UDO).
The UDO was repealed and replaced last year amid an acrimonious community-wide debate. Proposed changes to the zoning map were expected this year, as some newly created zoning districts R4 (residential urban) and MS (mixed-use student) appeared only in the text, but not on the map.
Not necessarily expected was a reconsideration of the text, affecting which residential districts allow for duplexes, triplexes and four-plexes. That was a main point of friction last year.
Residents of older neighborhoods who opposed the idea of plexes as allowable uses where they live, question the re-introduction of the issue, just a year after the city council voted 6–2 against plexes, even on conditional use, in R1, R2 and R3 neighborhoods.
Part of the message from planning staff over the last few weeks of video conferences with the public has focused on the preliminary nature of these late-year information sessions.
“We are not even in the public hearing process yet at all,” said Jackie Scanlan, who’s development services manager for Bloomington’s planning department. She added, “We are just in an information gathering process. We put out ideas. We are taking feedback on those, so that we can craft a draft zoning map and text amendment.”
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.”
At a meeting that took less than an hour Monday evening, Bloomington’s plan commission voted unanimously to approve the version of the updated unified development ordinance (UDO) that the city council adopted last year.
Commissioners also elected officers. Brad Wisler will continue as president, and Jillian Kinsey will serve as vice president.
The plan commission also sent a proposed planned unit development, from Trinitas Development, to the city council with a unanimous positive recommendation. The proposed project is on 39.29 acres on West 17th Street, southeast of the I-69 and SR 46 interchange.
On Tuesday this past week, Bloomington’s city council dealt with 11 amendments to its unified development ordinance (UDO). They were thought to be the final amendments to the UDO. The first of the council’s special sessions devoted specifically to UDO amendments took place on Nov. 13.
But the council’s work on the update to the city’s basic planning and zoning document is not quite done.
Four new amendments appear on the council’s agenda for its final session on the UDO. Three are technical or semantic in character, but one is substantive. The substantive amendment, sponsored by councilmember Piedmont-Smith, would allow a flat-roofed building in a residential district, if the building has more than 1,000 square feet of gross floor area.
The final UDO session will take place on Wednesday, Dec. 18—just before the last regular city council meeting of the year. Other scheduled sessions on the UDO have been cancelled
Both questions related at least indirectly to the issue of the availability and affordability of housing. The council chambers were packed each night.
The following week, the council’s docket started off with another amendment related to the affordability of housing.
Sponsored by councilmember Isabel Piedmont-Smith, Amendment 08 changed the planned unit development (PUD) qualifying standards, by eliminating the option for a developer to donate a sum to the city’s housing development fund, instead of building income-restricted affordable units on site as a part of the project.
PUDs are projects that depart significantly enough from existing zoning standards that they require their own custom zoning, which means that unlike by-right projects, they have to win approval from the city council.
The UDO update builds a 15-percent affordable housing requirement into the qualifying standards for a PUD. So elimination of the payment-in-lieu option means that the only way a PUD could be approved without including affordable units as a part of the project is through waiver of the PUD qualifying standard.
Judged by the smattering of attendees at the following week’s meeting, and the council’s 8–0 vote, the amendment on payment-in-lieu (PIL) for PUDs was not controversial.