Commission staves off demolition of former Boxman’s Restaurant, aka Player’s Pub building

Getting a reprieve from demolition on Thursday night was the building on the 400 block of South Walnut Street in Bloomington, just north of Seminary Park, which most recently was home to The Player’s Pub.

A vote by the city’s historic preservation commission (HPC) to end the 90-day period of demolition delay, and to allow owner Josh Alley to tear down the structure, failed on a 3–5 vote.

On a nearly mirror image vote—5–2 with one abstention—the HPC voted to start the formal process for a review of the property, with an eye towards putting it in front of Bloomington’s city council for local historic designation.

The building is not in a local historic district or local conservation district that is under the jurisdiction of the HPC. But the request to demolish the building had to go in front of the HPC because it is listed as “contributing” in the Indiana Historic Sites and Structures Inventory as well as the local inventory.

When the HPC hands off the question to Bloomington’s city council, the HPC can also put the property under interim protection, which would prohibit the owner from demolishing the building in the meantime. The interim protection can remain in effect until the city council approves the proposed historic district boundary map, by adopting it in an ordinance, or rejects the map.

Under local code [BMC 8.08.010(d)] the next steps for the HPC include: preparing a map setting forth the new historic district’s boundaries and building classifications; holding a public hearing on the question; notifying adjacent property owners about the public hearing; deciding to submit the map to the city council for consideration; and preparing a report for the city council detailing which of the specific criteria justify historic designation. Continue reading “Commission staves off demolition of former Boxman’s Restaurant, aka Player’s Pub building”

Indiana’s highest court name checks Animal House’s Dean Wormer as it hears arguments in Bloomington zoning case

The day after Monroe County’s health department announced that Alpha Epsilon Pi and Indiana University had reached an agreement to shut down the fraternity through next summer, Indiana’s five supreme court justices heard oral arguments that could impact how Greek organizations are defined in the state.

Screenshot of Indiana Supreme Court oral arguments in City of Bloomington Board of Zoning Appeals v. UJ-Eighty Corporation on Sept. 24, 2020 Speaking (yellow box) is assistant city attorney Larry Allen.

The case heard by the Indiana Supreme Court on Thursday morning involves a decision by Bloomington’s board of zoning appeals dates back to summer 2018. A key question of law: Can a city rely on a university to decide what counts as a fraternity when it comes to the definition in the city’s zoning code?

Thursday’s oral arguments were unrelated to the recent AEP shutdown, or the COVID-19 county health regulations the fraternity apparently violated.

But COVID-19 did get a specific mention Thursday morning, from chief justice Loretta Rush, who opened proceedings by thanking people who’d sent well wishes for her recovery from the pandemic virus.

On Thursday morning, the court heard arguments on two questions. The first was whether the court would accept transfer from the court of appeals. That is, the court is still weighing whether to issue a ruling in the case at all. One option is to neither affirm nor reverse the court of appeals ruling, which went 2–1 against Bloomington. Not accepting transfer would let the court of appeals ruling stand.

The other question on which the court heard arguments on Thursday was the usual one: Was the court of appeals right? Specifically, was the court of appeals right in saying Bloomington’s zoning code violated the US Constitution because it delegated to Indiana University the city’s authority to determine zoning compliance?

The authority in question is the ability to determine if an organization is or is not a fraternity or sorority.

Continue reading “Indiana’s highest court name checks Animal House’s Dean Wormer as it hears arguments in Bloomington zoning case”

Judge denies Bloomington’s motion, 222 Hats owner keeps building, appeal by city not certain

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From Judge Holly Harvey’s ruling on the city’s eminent domain case, issued on Jan. 28, 2020

In a ruling issued Tuesday, Monroe County circuit court judge Holly Harvey denied Bloomington’s request to have a second try at acquiring the 222 Hats property on S. Walnut Street.

Bloomington wanted to use the land as part of the footprint of its planned replacement parking garage.

Tuesday’s ruling appears to wrap up the 222 Hats eminent domain litigation in the land owner’s favor, at least until a decision is made by Bloomington about a possible appeal. Continue reading “Judge denies Bloomington’s motion, 222 Hats owner keeps building, appeal by city not certain”

UDO Update: Dec. 3 amendments include height and parking maximums, conditional use for some multi-unit dwellings

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A revised figure to illustrate how building height is measured in the unified development ordinance. The image is proposed to be inserted in place of a previous one so that it’s clearer how building height is measured.

Cued up for the Bloomington city council’s consideration next Tuesday are 20 more amendments to the draft update to the unified development ordinance, which is the city’s basic zoning and development document. Continue reading “UDO Update: Dec. 3 amendments include height and parking maximums, conditional use for some multi-unit dwellings”

UDO update: Plexes banned in core neighborhoods, ADUs allowed by right

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.

Two meeting moments stood out as somewhat suspense-filled, before a councilmember revealed their final position. Continue reading “UDO update: Plexes banned in core neighborhoods, ADUs allowed by right”

Analysis: Next verses of crescendoing UDO debate cued up for Nov. 13 city council meeting

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The notes are unaltered. The lyrics to the local university’s fight song have been amended to achieve a humorful effect. 

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 UDO draft update was recommended for approval by the plan commission’s 9–0 vote on Sept. 23.

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.

Piedmont-Smith’s amendments could be described as an attempt to achieve some harmony between the outright prohibition of plexes in core neighborhoods and the current UDO draft, which allows them under the conditional use requirement of a public review process. Continue reading “Analysis: Next verses of crescendoing UDO debate cued up for Nov. 13 city council meeting”

Analysis: Amendments to Bloomington’s unified development ordinance to be debated, decided next week and beyond

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Much of the debate on the updated unified development ordinance has focused on whether duplexes and triplexes should be allowed in areas zoned as “residential core” and “residential single family” (or R3 and R2 in the updated zoning scheme). They’re circled in red in this zoning map.

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.

Next up this week are possible amendments to the UDO draft, which was recommended for approval by the plan commission’s 9–0 vote on Sept. 23.

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.

Based on the Sept. 26 submission date indicated on an amendment co-sponsored by councilmembers Chris Sturbaum and Dave Rollo, the first of the council’s amendments was submitted just about as soon as the plan commission’s draft was certified to the council. Continue reading “Analysis: Amendments to Bloomington’s unified development ordinance to be debated, decided next week and beyond”

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”

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”

Zoning for 750-bed student complex gets OK, after local lawmakers relent

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Proposed planned unit development (PUD) zoning for a 750-bed student housing project on North Walnut Street, at the site of the current Motel 6, is now approved after a special meeting of the Bloomington City council on Monday night.

Responding to a question from The Beacon after the meeting, St. Louis-based Collegiate Development Group’s Brandt Stiles said construction is planned to start in July 2020, and the first tenants are expected to be able to move in by August 2022.

The council had defeated the proposed PUD zoning 12 days earlier with a vote of 3-5-1. Those five votes against the project on the nine-member council were enough to reject it on Sept. 4, after the city’s plan commission had recommended it unanimously.

Of the five previous no votes on the city council, two changed to yes—Steve Volan and Isabel Piedmont-Smith’s. Changing his vote from abstention to a yes was Chris Sturbaum. So the PUD zoning was approved on a 5-3 tally. Possibly adding a sixth to the yes side would have been Allison Chopra, who voted for the PUD on Sept. 4. She was absent from Monday’s meeting.

Voting no were Dave Rollo, Dorothy Granger and Andy Ruff.

Achieving clarity in writing about various concessions offered by CDG, through “reasonable conditions,” proved to be persuasive enough to add the three yes votes.

Those conditions included: sliding the building to the west nearer Walnut Street; creating a plaza in place of parking in front of the building, with two pedestrian access points to the plaza; removal of one floor from the east building; 50 solar panels generating a total of 20kW; a 20,000 square-foot green roof; parking offered to tenants only on an a-la-carte basis; $300,000 worth of sidewalk improvements on Walnut, and from Walnut to Dunn on 19th Street; funding of a Bloomington Transit route five miles long (around $130,000 a year); and adding additional brick to the facade.

Also a part of the project is a donation to the city’s housing development fund of more than $2 million.

The three councilmembers in opposition to the project did not exploit a chance they had towards the beginning of the meeting to end the proceedings early, and let the council’s Sept. 4 vote stand. That’s because the motion to suspend the rules, in order to bring back the question, needed a two-thirds majority, which is six votes on the nine-member council.

Had all three voted against suspending the rules, the motion, in Chopra’s absence, would fallen short of the six votes it needed. If that vote had failed, the next motion would have been to adjourn.

During the meeting, Rollo said that as a councilmember he might have voted against suspending the rules, but as president of the council, he wanted to allow the council’s majority to prevail on the merits of the project, which he understood to be in favor. After the meeting, Ruff called the decision to treat as separate issues the motion to suspend the rules and the vote on the project itself the “right thing to do.”

Continue reading “Zoning for 750-bed student complex gets OK, after local lawmakers relent”