UDO Update: Bloomington’s plan commission OKs city council amendments, elects officers, moves Trinitas PUD forward

Plan commission Screen Shot 2020-01-13 at 11.47.16 PM
Jillian Kinzie adds the vice president tab to her nameplate, a position on Bloomington’s plan commission to which she was elected Monday night. (CATS screen grab)

At a meeting that took less than an hour Monday evening, Bloomington’s plan commission voted unanimously to approve the version of the updated unified development ordinance (UDO) that the city council adopted last year.

Commissioners also elected officers. Brad Wisler will continue as president, and Jillian Kinsey will serve as vice president.

The plan commission also sent a proposed planned unit development, from Trinitas Development, to the city council with a unanimous positive recommendation. The proposed project is on 39.29 acres on West 17th Street, southeast of the I-69 and SR 46 interchange.

The Trinitas development proposes to include 387 housing units, with a total of 825 bedrooms and 458 parking spaces. Trinities is proposing to turn over to the city 45 single-family lots to be used was whatever housing the city sees fit.

The UDO was back in front of the plan commission for action, because the city council made several amendments, Scott Robinson, assistant director of the city’s transportation and planning department told plan commissioners. Under state law, the plan commission could do nothing, approve the council’s adopted version, or disapprove the council’s version, Robinson said.

Commissioners opted to approve the council’s amendments.

In his remarks to commissioners, Robinson didn’t get into much detail on the amendments  He described the biggest change as involving accessory dwelling units (ADUs). ADUs were a conditional use in the plan commission’s draft, but the city council amended the UDO to make ADUs by-right, Robinson said.

Some of the most acrimonious debate—on the city council and among the public—was on the status of duplexes and triplexes in areas zoned R1, R2 and R3. In the plan commission draft, the plexes were a conditional use in those areas. An amendment that passed on a 6–2 vote, sponsored by Dave Rollo and Chris Sturbaum, prohibited plexes in those areas.

Robinson summarized that battle by saying, “The plexes didn’t really change—they are not permitted in the older areas, but are allowed in the newer areas.”

A significant policy change that enjoyed unanimous support on the city council was the elimination of a payment-in-lieu option for planned unit developments. Payment in lieu is still an option for developers seeking to earn incentives based on affordable housing.

Counting revised versions of amendments, the city council put together 77 amendments, not all of which were introduced, and some of which were withdrawn without a vote, after they were introduced. The tally for amendments at the end of the process was: 59 adopted, 3 withdrawn, 8 failed, 6 not introduced, 1 not released.

Officer elections were not controversial. Late last year, Brad Wisler was voted in as president to replace Joe Hoffmann, who resigned, after the plan commission completed its work on the UDO. On Monday, Wisler was tapped again to lead the plan commission to start 2020.

When Wisler was promoted from vice president to president last year, Nick Kappas was chosen by his colleagues to serve as vice president. It wasn’t an option for Kappas to continue in that role this year, because he was at the end of his term and he was not re-appointed by the mayor, John Hamilton.

About his service on the plan commission, Kappas told The Square Beacon, “It was a great opportunity to serve Bloomington in that capacity! Hopefully, I’ll be able to serve in another way.”

The seat Kappas filled is one of five mayoral appointments—it’s still vacant. Under state statute, the five mayoral appointments can’t be made to more than three people affiliated with the same political party. Kappas counted as a non-Democrat, because he had no primary election voting record. That’s how the state statute defines political party affiliation. Whoever is tapped to replace Kappas can’t be affiliated with the Democratic party.

The seat left vacant by Joe Hoffmann is not a mayoral appointment. Hoffmann’s old spot has to be filled by one of the four park commissioners. For the last couple months, the seat has been filled by Les Coyne.

Mary Catherine Carmichael, Bloomington’s director of public engagement, told The Square Beacon that Israel Herrera, who currently serves on the city’s commission on hispanic and latino affairs, will be appointed to the board of park commissioners as Hoffmann’s replacement.

Herrera has agreed to serve on the plan commission if the other commissioners assign him that spot, Carmichael said.