Bloomington’s city council voted 9-0 on Wednesday night to approve an update to its unified development ordinance (UDO), which is the basic zoning and land use document for the city.
The vote came after a half dozen additional amendments and an unsuccessful bid by councilmember Steve Volan to get a re-vote on a previous amendment. Volan’s previous amendment, which would have eliminated parking minimums, had failed on a 4–4 tie. With the council at full force, he’d hoped to get the amendment passed.
The council’s final vote on adoption doesn’t mean the ordinance can go into effect. That’s because the council approved dozens of amendments to the document. So the UDO update, as amended, has to be returned to the plan commission for review.
The plan commission also has yet to consider, recommend, and forward to the city council the conversion map that’s associated with the UDO. What the map “converts” are just the zoning district names, from the old terminology to the new terminology. For example, what’s known in the old UDO as RC (Residential Core) is called R3 (Residential Small Lot) in the updated UDO.
Assistant director of planning and transportation, Scott Robinson, said at Wednesday’s meeting that he hopes that the conversion map can be in front of the city council before its summer recess in June.
The conversion map is not expected to be controversial—it can be characterized as a translation of vocabulary. But it will take some time for the plan commission to take the conversion map through the approval process. There are various noticing requirements and opportunities for public input.
Robinson said the conversion map was treated separately from the text, to avoid the possible misunderstanding that the boundaries of zoning districts were also changing, in addition to the definitions of land uses in those districts.
Still, because the updated UDO includes some zoning districts that don’t yet exist on the conversion map, after the conversion map and UDO are adopted, the substance of the map will need to be revisited. Examples of as yet unmapped zoning districts are R4 (residential urban) and MS (mixed-use student housing).
Another reason to revisit the map, Robinson said on Wednesday, is that facts about certain areas of the city will change. As one example, he gave the Bloomington Hospital site on 2nd Street. After IU Health moves to its new facility by the SR-46 bypass, the city will take over the hospital real estate, and has plans to redevelop it—as something different from a hospital. That means a change of zoning, from medical (“mixed use healthcare”) to something else.
Robison said at Wednesday’s meeting, he did not have a timeframe for consideration of changes to the zoning map. Based on the June target for adoption of the conversion map, the zoning map changes won’t come before the second half of 2020.
It was in late September this year that the plan commission voted 9-0 to recommend adoption of its version of the UDO update.
The plan commission’s vote came after a little more than 19 hours worth of meetings. The city council’s consideration of the UDO added another 32.5 hours worth of meeting time.
For the city council, the UDO meeting time stretched across 10 sessions that, from a parliamentary point of view, counted as a single meeting. The council recessed on each occasion instead of adjourning.
The fact that the 10 sessions amounted to a single meeting was something that councilmember Steve Volan hoped to use on Wednesday, in order to get a re-vote on an amendment he had proposed a month ago, on Nov. 19. The amendment would have eliminated all parking minimum requirements. The vote was 4–4, thus did not achieve the required five-vote majority and failed. Allison Chopra was absent.
Under the council’s rules, a councilmember who’s on the prevailing side—in this case, someone who voted against the amendment—can bring back the question for reconsideration at the same “meeting” when the initial vote was taken.
In November, when the vote was first taken, Volan tried to change his vote, after the roll call was taken, and the result was announced. The point of changing his vote was to join the prevailing side, so that he could bring back the question for reconsideration. That sparked a controversy.
Even councilmembers Andy Ruff and Isabel Piedmont-Smith, who voted with Volan on the amendment, didn’t like the parliamentary maneuver. Under the council’s rules Volan couldn’t change his vote without permission from his colleagues, so that gambit failed.
On Wednesday, with Chopra in attendance, Volan tried again for a re-vote, with a different approach. The council’s attorney/administrator, Dan Sherman, said the first step would be to to amend the meeting agenda to add a possible reconsideration. If the attempt to change the agenda succeeded, someone on the prevailing side would need to move to reconsider the amendment, Sherman said.
Volan told The Beacon after the meeting, that he was hoping it would be the council’s president, Dave Rollo, who would move for reconsideration. Rollo was a technical possibility because he voted against Volan’s amendment in November.
For Rollo to support a procedural move that could have an outcome counter to his view on a issue was not out of the question. Several details were different, but in a similar scenario this fall, Rollo voted to support a procedural move, even though by opposing it, he could have helped get the outcome he wanted as an individual member of the council.
That scenario unfolded when the council reconsidered the CDG proposal for North Walnut at a special meeting. Rollo could have banded together with Andy Ruff and Dorothy Granger to prevent the motion to suspend the rules from achieving a two-thirds majority. Chopra was absent on that occasion, so the vote to suspend the rules would have failed on a 5–3 vote, falling short of the six votes it needed. Instead, the vote to suspend the rules was unanimous.
And on Wednesday, Rollo supported the first step in the process, which was to amend the agenda. He said he would vote for amending the agenda, to allow for a councilmember on the prevailing side to move for reconsideration, but added, “I will not be that councilmember.”
Ruff, who voted with Volan in November, declined to support the procedural move to amend the agenda. In declining to vote for the agenda change, Ruff cited the CDG proposal, reminding his colleagues that he was in principle willing to support a procedural move to ensure that the will of the council’s majority was done. In this case, however, he did not support the procedure.
Granger, who also voted with Volan in November on the amendment, voted against the change to the agenda.
Would one of the other three no votes in November—Chris Sturbaum, Susan Sandberg and Jim Sims—have moved for reconsideration, if the agenda had been amended? It appeared unlikely. In voting against the agenda change, Sims said he didn’t think any one amendment to the UDO was more important than the others.
So Wednesday’s vote to amend the agenda failed, with support only from Volan, Piedmont-Smith, Rollo and Chopra. How would Chopra have voted, if the change to the agenda had been successful, and if someone on the prevailing side had moved for reconsideration? Chopra told The Beacon she would have supported Volan’s amendment.
Even though Volan was not able to get his colleagues to reconsider the amendment that would have eliminated parking minimums, he did get a wording change approved for parking maximums.
The wording change was a revised version of something he had proposed previously, but then withdrawn. Am 45-R, as presented on Dec. 3, would have reduced parking allowances for several possible land uses. That’s in addition to changing the wording from maximum “requirement” to “allowance,” or in some cases “limit.”
The wording change, to give an accurate portrayal of the impact of the ordinance, got a favorable reception from Volan’s colleagues, when he presented it a week and a half ago. But the reduction in the number of parking spaces allowed didn’t get a positive reception. So for the revised amendment, Volan stripped out the reductions in numbers, and left intact the change in terminology. It got a unanimous vote on Wednesday.