UDO Update: Height limit for residential single-family stays 40 feet, multi-family use still permitted in multi-family zones, parking maxes same

Bloomington’s city council dispatched with 20 more amendments to the updated unified development ordinance (UDO) on Tuesday night. That brought the total to almost 60 since the council started convening some sessions in mid-November dedicated only to UDO amendments.

Voted down by a tally of 2–6–1 was an amendment proposed by councilmember Sturbaum that would have reduced the height limit for residential singe-family from 40 feet to 35 feet. [Am 40]

Another amendment offered by Sturbaum was defeated by a 1–7–1 tally—it would have made four-plexes and multi-family buildings a conditional use instead of a permitted use in multi-family zones. [Am 42]

One uncontroversial amendment for the council—it was approved unanimously—is connected to a legal controversy in front of the Indiana Court of Appeals. In its ruling, the Monroe Circuit court found: “[Bloomington] has improperly delegated the authority to Indiana University to unilaterally define what constitutes fraternity or sorority under the respondent’s Unified Development Ordinance.”

The court found that Bloomington’s UDO violated the Indiana State Constitution. Bloomington has appealed the ruling. Oral arguments were heard on Oct. 8. A decision has not yet been made. [The case number for public.courts.in.gov is 19A-PL-00457]

City attorney Mike Rouker told the council the city believes that the existing language defining a fraternity/sorority is constitutional. But the amendment changing the definition, which removes any specific mention of Indiana University, eliminates potential controversy. [Am 57 ]

The remaining amendments that the council will consider between now and the end of the UDO update process are supposed to be technical in nature. Three more sessions focused just on the UDO are scheduled—Dec. 10, 12, 17 and 18.

So the council now appears poised to wrap up the remaining amendments by Dec. 17, which would leave Dec. 18, the last scheduled meeting of the year, open for other business.

About half of the amendments on Tuesday were part of a consent agenda, which meant the council voted on the whole set, all in one go. A couple of the amendments were simply withdrawn by their sponsors.

After several minutes of substantial discussion, councilmember Steve Volan wound up withdrawing an amendment that would have specified reductions in the amount of allowed on-site parking for several different land uses. He withdrew the proposal when it became apparent, based on comments from other councilmembers, that the amendment would fail.

The basic objection from Volan’s colleagues, and from city staff, was that the amendment treated different non-residential land uses the same. One example was a pawn shop and a grocery store. Volan countered that because the maximum allowances were defined in terms of floor area, the allowable amount of parking for those land uses would work out to be appropriate.

Another feature of Volan’s parking maximum proposal that gave the planning staff pause was its 20-year schedule of downward ratcheting allowances for several uses. Scott Robinson, assistant director of planning, said he thought it would be better to simply re-visit the issue every five years or so make changes if they were needed.

One feature of the marking maximum proposal that did seem to have solid support was its substitution of the word “allowance” and “limit” for “requirement”—given the basic meaning of the word “maximum.” [Am 45]

Another example of a withdrawn amendment was one initially offered by councilmember Chris Sturbaum, which would have said that HVAC equipment and other equipment that service buildings are subject to noise control regulations. City attorney Mike Rouker said such equipment is already subject to noise control regulations in the city’s code, because the code uses a general standard of reasonableness. Rouker also said the legal department preferred to have all the noise regulations in a single spot in the code. Based on Rouker’s remarks, Sturbaum withdrew the amendment.

Voting Table

Topic Sturbaum Granger Chopra Rollo Piedmont-Smith Volan Ruff Sandberg Sims
absent yes absent yes yes yes yes yes yes
Am 57 fraternity and sorority definition absent yes absent yes yes yes yes yes yes
Amend to Am 48: universal design yes yes absent yes yes yes yes yes yes
Am 48 as amended: universal design yes yes absent yes yes yes yes yes yes
Am 40 reduce height from 40 to 35 yes no absent yes no no no no no
Am 42 conditional use not permitted use yes no absent no no no no no no
Am 47 allow creative
yes yes absent yes no no yes yes yes
Amend to Am 50
yellow groove bamboo
yes yes absent yes yes yes yes yes yes
Am 50 landscaping
yes yes absent yes yes yes yes yes yes
Am 51 changes to fence heights yes no absent no no yes yes yes no
Am 52 remove reference to use variance process yes yes absent yes yes yes yes yes yes
Withdraw Am 45 on parking maximums yes yes absent yes yes yes yes yes yes

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