City Council Preview July 31, 2019: Scooters, a PUD, not Dunn parking

When Bloomington’s common council meets on Wednesday in regular session for the first time since June 12, the city’s nine elected representatives will confront for the fifth time a package of legislation that regulates shared-use (and other) e-scooters.
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Local scooter laws are likely to be the focus of detailed deliberations at the regular meeting, unlike the other two main topics on the agenda.

The council will get a first reading of a proposed zoning ordinance change to allow for construction of an 820-bedroom project at the site of the current Motel 6 on Walnut Street, across from Miller Showers Park. Based on a note in the packet of meeting materials, the first council deliberations on the project are not expected to take place until Aug. 7, at a committee meeting.

The council will also get a first reading of some changes to ordinances involving parking. Those ordinance changes are on the agenda for the committee of the whole, which will convene right after the regular session adjourns on Wednesday. One parking ordinance change would remove some, but not all, “no parking” restrictions on Dunn Street. The other ordinance involving parking involves loosening the membership requirements of the parking commission.

More on e-scooters, student housing and parking after the jump. [Meeting agendas and information packets are available for download on Bloomington’s website. Regular meetings start at 6:30 p.m. in city council chambers at city hall. They’re live streamed on CATS.]

Scooter legislation

The shared use e-scooter legislation is a response to the September 2018 deployment of scooters by two companies—Bird and Lime. The Beacon’s working timelime for scooters in Bloomington, includes the first complaint about scooters that was logged in the city’s uReport system: Sept. 13, 2018.

ScooterComplaintsthroughJuly2019Complaints in the uReport system showed a steady monthly increase until January 2019. Why the drop? Because the companies sharply reduced the number of scooters deployed in Bloomington during Indiana University’s winter break. Bird wrote to The Beacon: “Some of the Birds are going on winter break while students are away during the holidays. We look forward to being back on the road soon and to providing Bird as a last mile transportation option to individuals who are not away for the holidays.”

The geographic distribution of scooter complaints in the uReport system is not surprising—they’re centered on areas where students live and attend class. One obvious outlier in the plot is a complaint north of town near Griffy Lake. Was the geocode incorrect? No, the description reads: “Scooter report – in ditch at Griffy causeway.”

The most recent uReport, as of the end of last week, is pointed. Logged under “Debris Removal,” the July 17 complaint reads: “There are a pile of scooters blocking the 6th St. sidewalk in front of the public library. When will the city start removing this debris?”

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The city signed interim agreements with the two scooter companies in mid-November of 2018. Under the agreements, according to Bloomington’s city controller, each company has made one payment of $10,000 (for a total of $20,000) at towards the end of March this year.

Indiana University is operating “from a policy perspective” as opposed to under contracts, according to Amanda Turnipseed, the director of Indiana University’s parking operations. That approach, according to Turnipseed, also allows for regulation of personally-owned scooters. The university’s approach to “rogue scooters” parked in inappropriate places is for university staff to relocate them—to a bike rack if possible. If it’s not possible to re-locate a rogue scooter, it’s impounded and a fine is assessed, which has to be paid in order for the company to recover it.

According to IU media relations director Chuck Carney, sometimes the fine is passed along by the company to the scooter user. The university has met with both companies to talk through the university’s expectations under the policy. And the scooter companies have increased the number of their own staff who canvass the campus looking for incorrectly parked scooters, Carney said.

A few highlights of the city’s legislation, first introduced on April 3, include: licensing by companies by the city’s board of public works; caps on numbers associated with licenses; regulations for the way all scooter pilots—shared use or not—operate their scooters (e.g., yielding the right-of-way to pedestrians); regulations on the locations and manner of scooter parking (e.g., only if in upright position); safety features of scooters (e.g., configured so scooters cannot exceed 15 mph); data sharing; required public outreach; and affordability and accessibility.

Counting its introduction on April 3, scooter legislation has appeared on the council’s agenda at four meetings, the last time on May 15, when the council voted to postpone it until July 31.

Several amendments to the package of new laws were considered on April 17 and May 1. At those two meetings, seven amendments passed and two failed. The amendments and voting tally for each one are included in The Beacon’s timeline. One of the two that failed was an amendment to lower the speed limit from 15 mph to 10 mph. The other failed amendment was a general prohibition against riding on sidewalks.

The seven amendments that passed included a correction to the year (2018 not 2019) when the scooters arrived in Bloomington. Substantive amendments included: allowing a different form of discounts for those in federal, state, or local assistance programs; removal of a requirement for periodic reporting by scooter companies; extending dismount zones for sidewalk riding; eliminating prohibited hours of deployment; changing “painted boxes” to “corrals”; eliminating prohibited hours of deployment; and a prohibition of parking on all sidewalks.

The amendment prohibiting parking on all sidewalks, put forward by councilmember Isabel Piedmont-Smith, will be revisited on Wednesday in the form of an additional amendment (Amendment 15). The five amendments to be considered by the city council on Wednesday, all sponsored by Piedmont-Smith, are summarized in the information packet as follows:

  • Am 13 (CM Piedmont-Smith, Sponsor) – would require all persons operating a scooter to dismount when passing any pedestrians on sidewalks and dismount when overtaking those pedestrians with a visual impairment while on a multi-use path or trail, or within a crosswalk.
  • Am 14 (CM Piedmont-Smith, Sponsor) – would broaden the requirement for shared-use scooter vendors to make helmets available locally so that they must be made available “at convenient locations throughout the community, with such locations determined by areas of highest shared-use motorized scooter usage.”
  • Am 15 (CM. Piedmont-Smith, Sponsor) – would limit scooter parking on sidewalks to bicycle parking facilities, including bike racks and bike hoops, while still emphasizing accessibility of the public right-of-way for all users; would change the term “bike rack” to “bicycle facility”; and, would request that the Administration install additional such facilities, with those on sidewalks placed parallel to the sidewalk.
  • Am 16 (CM Piedmont-Smith, Sponsor) – would specify the ADA when requiring compliance with all local, state and federal law, as requested by members of advocates from the accessibility community.
  • Am 17 (CM Piedmont-Smith – would shift the effective date of the ordinance from July 1 to September 1 (or to another date) to allow for implementation of these provisions.

CDG PUD proposal for 820-bed development at Motel 6 Site

Under city code, the city council can’t debate or amend a proposed ordinance at a first reading, except under limited circumstances. The council also can’t pass an ordinance on the same day or at the same meeting when it’s introduced, except under limited circumstances.

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So on Wednesday, the Collegiate Development Group’s proposal for an 820-bed student housing development at the current Motel 6 site will likely be referred to either the committee of the whole or the four-member land use committee. The land use committee is composed of Allison Chopra, Isabel Piedmont-Smith, Chris Sturbaum and Steve Volan.

Under city code, a motion to refer the PUD to a standing committee, like the land use committee, has to be considered before any motion to refer it to the committee of the whole. Based on a note in the meeting information packet, it’s likely the PUD will be referred to the land use committee. That committee would then meet on Aug. 7, after the regular session of the council, to consider the PUD and make a recommendation to the council.

Consideration of the student housing development is somewhat time sensitive—the council has to act no later than Sept. 17. That’s the day council attorney Dan Sherman gave councilmembers at their work session on July 19, because it’s 90 days from the date in mid-June when the plan commission’s 8–0 recommendation in favor of the planned unit development (PUD) was certified.

If the city council doesn’t act within 90 days of certification, then under city code the PUD rezoning ordinance “takes effect as if it had been adopted…ninety days after certification.” A PUD zoning proposal is not like an ordinary site plan, which is decided only by the plan commission. That’s because a change to zoning is a change to the city’s ordinances, which the city council has the legislative authority to approve or deny.

Based on the conversation at the city council work session, the student housing PUD could face some close scrutiny from councilmembers when they deliberate on it. Concerns floated at the work session included the setback of the building from Walnut Street, and the number of bedrooms per unit. Most of the units include four bedrooms. Some councilmembers are concerned that some longer range (10-year) projections for Indiana University enrollment are for declining numbers of students.

Another point that could draw some scrutiny is the developer’s proposal to fill in a sidewalk gap on North Walnut leading south up the hill to 19th Street. The idea is to provide an alternative to a more direct path through Varsity Villa to the east: “The petitioner has also committed to completing a segment of missing sidewalk south of this site. The segment of sidewalk would extend south along the property occupied by Parkview Apartments and would extend east along 19th Street. This would complete a sidewalk system along Walnut Street and extend it east to connect to existing sidewalks along 19th Street.”

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Looking south on the east side of North Walnut Street, the sidewalk ends. As part of the conditions for approval of the CDG project at the Motel 6 site, the sidewalk would be extended to 19th Street around the corner to join an existing sidewalk on 19th Street. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

From Walnut to Dunn, 19th Street runs east-west about 520 yards. Starting at Walnut, heading east on the south side of 19th Street, the first sidewalk slab appears about 400 yards along, just before Grant Street, where it was installed as a part of the Evolve student housing development. On the north side of 19th Street, after the sidewalk gap in front of Parkview Apartments, to filled in by CDG, the existing sidewalk extends about 100 yards east before ending, leaving a 100-yard gap—before another 100-yard section of sidewalk appears, followed by another gap.

When the plan commission considered the project, the commission’s chair, Joe Hoffmann, said 19th Street should eventually be considered as a possible candidate for a bicycle boulevard.

The PUD proposal from CDG acquisitions includes a formula-based contribution to the city’s city’s affordable housing fund. If the project winds up including 820 bedrooms as currently proposed, the contribution would amount to $2.46 million. If the implicit negotiations that could unfold between the city council and CDG result in fewer bedrooms, the formula would yield a smaller contribution to the fund.

Are We Dunn With Parking? (Plus Parking Commission)

The city council will consider loosening the restrictions on membership requirements for the nine-member parking commission. It’s been difficult to maintain a full complement of members since the commission’s formation in 2016. Councilmember Steve Volan’s memo accompanying the proposal says, “The Commission has in its first two and a half years never had nine members present; it currently has three vacancies.” The scheduled commission meeting on July 25 was cancelled due to a lack of quorum.

Establishing the commission in 2016 required an override of Mayor Hamilton’s veto, which was done on a 9–0 vote.

The new criteria would eliminate the requirements that some members have an interest in an organization located in a downtown metered zone or live in a neighborhood parking permit zone. The new criteria would read as follows:

(1) One member appointed by the mayor and one member appointed by the common council shall be a merchant owning and operating a business located at an address within the city limits.
(2) One member appointed by the mayor shall be a board member or an employee of a non profit organization which operates at property that is owned or leased by the non profit organization and located within the city limits.
(3) Four members, two appointed by the mayor and two appointed by the council, shall be residents living within the city limits.
(4) One member appointed by the common council shall be from among its membership and
(5) One member appointed by the mayor shall be from within the transportation and traffic services division of the planning and transportation department.

Also related to parking is a proposal from Volan, to eliminate current no-parking restrictions on some blocks of Dunn Street. The blocks of Dunn between 6th and 10th would no longer have “no-parking signs.” The idea is to increase parking supply, and slow down traffic. From Volan’s memo: “Dunn Street between Tenth and Seventh Streets is relatively wide and can be a speedway. It has room to add to the neighborhood parking supply, which serves the University Village Overlay as well as the residences within the zones. Adding parking here would increase the supply while slowing down speeding car traffic.”

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Looking south on Dunn Street where one of the “no parking signs” would be removed, if a proposed change to the parking ordinance is approved. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

The previously intimated possibility of changes to boundaries of one of the new neighborhood parking permit zones and to the permitting system aren’t on the agenda. Other solutions were found to the problems they were meant to address.

One proposal involved carving out a section of the newly established neighborhood parking permit Zone 6, in the Garden Hill neighborhood, west of the Indiana University football stadium. The idea was to exclude some area around the Windfall Dancers location, in response to the dance studio’s concerns about the new zone’s effect. But that boundary change has been scrapped in favor of a different approach. From Volan’s memo: “Windfall…is open to using a system of temporary permits instead;…”

An issue involving a reduction in the number of neighborhood zone parking permits that can be allocated to the Monroe County Public Library under the new ordinance—from 50 to 16—seems to have been resolved in favor of the library. Volan relayed the news to his colleagues at the council’s July 19 work session.

The new ordinance gave the parking services director the authority to allocate one permit to every 10 employees. And there’s a cap of 40 permits for Zone 4, where the library is located.

Responding to an emailed query from The Beacon, parking services director Michelle Wahl said the legal department had interpreted the part of the ordinance that gives her discretion to mean she can issue additional permits. And Jane Cronkhite, MCPL’s associate director, confirmed to The Beacon the library had received an allocation of 50 Zone 4 passes for the library.