Bloomington plan commission punts parking garage site plan to December

Bloomington’s plan commission voted at its regular meeting on Monday night to put off until December its consideration of the city’s proposed replacement parking garage at 4th and Walnut Streets

The site plan appeared on the agenda but was not indicated as continued, as it had been from August to September,  from September to October, and from October to November.

The short-handed plan commission voted Monday 5–0 for the continuance. That’s the minimum the nine-member commission needs for a quorum or for an affirmative vote. The site plan might be heard at the plan commission’s Dec. 9 meeting.

The reason for the repeated continuance on the site plan stems from the fact that the city does not own part of the land—the south end of the block between 4th and 3rd streets—on which the replacement garage is supposed to be built.

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.

The building at 222. S. Walnut, on the south end of the block, is owned by Juan Carlos Carrasquel. It’s home to his real estate business The city is trying to take the property under an eminent domain proceeding.

The lawsuit over the attempted taking awaits a ruling from the court. Final papers were filed a week ago. The ruling could come at any time, which factors into the question of whether the site plan for the parking garage can be heard by the plan commission.

If a ruling had come from the court in the eminent domain lawsuit by the time of Monday’s meeting, the request for a continuance by the city might not have been needed. A ruling in Carrasquel’s favor would presumably have dropped the matter from the agenda. A ruling in the city’s favor would have cured the violation of city code caused by the plan commission’s consideration of the site plan, making a continuance unnecessary.

The fact that it’s a violation of city code for Bloomington to bring the site plan in front of the plan commission without the landowner’s consent—in this case Carrasquel’s consent—emerged at the initial hearing of the site plan in July.

It’s a point that Carrasquel reiterated during public comment at Monday night’s meeting.

At Monday’s meeting, the city’s planning services director, Jackie Scanlan, described the requested continuance at Monday’s meeting as part of the city’s third continuance.

How the continuances are counted—it looks like there had already been three administrative continuances starting in August—had a potential impact on the plan commission’s vote on Monday. According to the plan commission’s rules of procedure,  a fourth consecutive continuance can’t be granted administratively. It has to get a vote by the commission:

Similarly, if a petition is continued for three (3) consecutive hearings, any further request for continuance, even within the above-referenced deadline, requires a majority vote by the Commission or Committee.

President of the plan commission, Brad Wisler, said he did not think the outcome of the vote had any impact on the continuance. He said if the vote failed, it would be automatically continued to December.

That’s what happened in July. The vote to continue the matter to August failed, but no one wanted to make another motion—to approve or deny. So it was automatically continued.

The commission’s vote on Monday passed 5–0, so the question of how many continuances had previously been granted became a moot point.

The item appeared on the agenda, without a note that administrative continuance had been granted, because the city’s request for a continuance had not be made at least a week in advance of the meeting, according to Scanlan. So the following section of the commission’s rules of procedure applied:

No case shall be continued at the request of the petitioner unless such request has been made to the Planning and Transportation Department not later than noon, one (1) week before the scheduled hearing, and the request has been noted on the agenda before it is distributed. … However, any request for continuance that occurs after the above-mentioned deadline requires a majority vote by the Commission or Committee.

The demolition of the 4th Street garage is almost complete. In a press release  issued on Nov. 1, the city said that starting Monday, Nov. 4, the elevator and stair shafts that are connected to the elevated pedestrian bridge will be removed.

A crane will be positioned on 4th Street. So 4th Street will be closed between College Avenue and Walnut Street during business hours for the week of Nov. 4, according to the press release.