4th Street parking garage site plan review delayed a month

The Bloomington plan commission’s already-started review of the city’s 4th Street parking garage site plan proposal won’t resume until Sept. 9.

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The Monday, Aug. 12, meeting packet, which was posted on the city’s website Friday afternoon, includes the parking garage site plan under the heading: “Petitions Continued To: September 19, 2019”

Based on the outcome of deliberations at the July 8 meeting of the plan commission, discussion of the 4th Street parking garage was expected to be continued at the Monday, Aug. 12 meeting, with a possible vote on the question.

Why is the site plan review being continued an additional month? And how can a continuance to September happen without the plan commission voting to continue the issue to September?

The answers to both those questions were provided by city planner Jackie Scanlan in response to an emailed question from The Beacon.

She wrote: “Per our Rules and Procedures, Article VIII (B), petition continuances can be approved by [planning and transportation] if the requests are made more than a week before the hearing. That is what occurred in this case. The petitioner (City) requested continuance in response to the desire of some Plan Commissioners to wait until the eminent domain process is further settled.”

The eminent domain process to which Scanlan referred is the city’s attempt to acquire the property at the south end of the block, currently home to Juansells.com Realty Company. The owner, Juan Carlos Carrasquel, does not want to sell the building to the City. The legal proceedings are grinding along, and have included some extensions of time periods and a change of judge.

The pending eminent domain issue has already had a logistical impact, affecting the sequencing of the demolition.

But the concern of some plan commissioners is not logistical. It’s a question of the plan commission’s legal authority to hear a petition from someone who does not own all the property in question. That issue arose at the July 8 meeting. It was not the lack of ownership that prompted the legal question—it’s not uncommon for a petitioner to have a land purchase agreement in place that’s conditioned on site plan approval. In those cases, the owner gives written consent for the site plan to be submitted and reviewed.

What makes the site plan review legally problematic is the lack of owner consent. Bloomington’s corporation counsel, Philippa Guthrie, under questioning from commissioner Brad Wisler at the July 8 meeting, conceded a legal point: “It is true that the UDO requires [consent] for petitioners who are not the owner.”

Guthrie added: “… We are now in an eminent domain action…We’ve been unable to reach an agreement. So, we can’t get his consent.”

On Friday, plan commissioner Nick Kappas, who voted for the continuance on July 8, told The Beacon he wasn’t speaking for other plan commissioners, but “I was very vocal in the July plan commission meeting that the case should not have come before us and it was a shame.”

The continuance to the Aug. 12 meeting was not based on an affirmative vote of the plan commission to continue the matter. On July 8, the vote to continue to the Aug. 12 meeting failed on a 3–4 tally with only Brad Wisler, Joe Hoffman and Kappas voting for it. But no commissioner made a motion to approve the site plan, so it was continued by a kind of default.

The site plan submitted by the city is for a six-story garage with 510 parking spaces and roughly 11,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor. The footprint would extend for 4th Street to the south end of the block at 3rd Street.