On a 7–1 vote at its Monday meeting, Bloomington’s plan commission recommended a new zoning map for the city that includes several areas designated as R4 (Residential Urban) and MS (Student Housing) districts.
Those are two zoning districts that were newly defined in the unified development ordinance (UDO) that was adopted by the city council in 2019, but not yet placed on the zoning map.
The zoning map ordinance would also change more than 100 planned unit developments (PUDs) to a basic zoning district.
Dissenting on the vote was the city council’s representative to the plan commission, Susan Sandberg. The 7–1 tally did not add up to 9, because commissioner Israel Herrera had to leave the meeting early, to attend to another commitment.
Public engagement for Bloomington’s zoning map revision process is underway, with three Zoom video-conference meetings now in the books and at least three more now listed on the city’s zoning map project page.
Two meetings are scheduled that will each combine two controversial topics. The first topic is where to put the newly defined R4 district on the map. The second topic is possible changes to the text of the unified development ordinance (UDO), to allow for duplexes, triplexes and four-plexes in all the residential areas of the city.
The first of the R4-“plexes” meetings is set for Thursday this week, starting at 5:30 p.m. The project page also includes a link for a 9 a.m. Thursday “office hour” with a city planner, who will be available to take questions.
Where R4 (Residential Urban) districts are placed on the zoning map is controversial because R4 includes duplexes, triplexes and four-plexes as by-right, permitted uses, which some residents are opposed to allowing in areas that have up to now allowed only single-family houses.
Another way that “plexes” could be added to older neighborhoods is through a text amendment to the UDO that would change the allowed uses for R1 (Residential Large Lot), R2 (Residential Medium Lot), and R3 (Residential Small Lot) districts. Those districts would be changed to allow “plexes” as permitted or conditional uses.
One significant detail about the eventual process—which has emerged over the first set of meetings—involves the lack of flexibility that city councilmembers will have when the map revision reaches them for consideration next year.
Responding to a question to planning staff and the legal department from The Square Beacon, planning and transportation director Scott Robinson said that the city council will have just three options after it receives a recommended map from the plan commission: (1) adopt the proposal; (2) reject the proposal; (3) do nothing for 90 days. If the city council does nothing, the plan commission’s recommendation is enacted automatically.
That means the city council can’t amend the map, then adopt its amended map.
Tuesday night’s presentation by the city’s development services manager, Jackie Scanlan, included an introduction to the online tools that city planners have built for the project.
Also on Tuesday, Scanlan gave an overview of the mapping project, which comes after last year’s update to the text of the city’s unified development ordinance (UDO).
That text update included the creation of some new zoning districts, like R4 (Residential Urban) and MS (Mixed-Use Student Housing), which don’t yet appear anywhere on the zoning map of the city.
A developer has already requested that the Brownstone Terrace, south of the Indiana University football stadium, be rezoned to MS, so that it can be replaced with a larger student-oriented housing development. That request has been recommended for approval by the plan commission and will appear on an upcoming city council agenda.
During Thursday’s presentation, which focussed on the MS zoning district, Scanlan said it’s important to proactively rezone parcels to MS, based on the city’s comprehensive plan, and not just respond in a reactive way to petition requests.