Second big housing project for Bloomington city council in 2020: 1,000 bedrooms, donation of 45 ready-to-build single-family lots

A roughly 1,000-bedroom project proposed by Trinitas Development for 39 acres nestled in the southeast corner of the I-69 and SR 45/46 interchange, is headed to Bloomington’s city council for a first reading in the first week of February.

The city’s plan commission gave the planned unit development (PUD) an 8–0 nod of approval at its Jan. 13 meeting. The project includes four housing types: single-family, student-oriented four-story multi-family, duplexes (cottages), and town homes.

It’s coming to the city council, because the project would require a change in zoning, and zoning is part of local law. Any change in local law needs approval from the legislative branch.

The city council held a work session last Friday to get its first look at the project. Councilmembers got briefed on a novel feature of the proposal. Trinitas proposes to donate to the city of Bloomington about 7.5 acres of the land—with 45 ready-to-build lots for single-family housing, complete with streets and utilities.

Councilmember Isabel Piedmont-Smith said on Friday she wanted some kind of statement or assurance from the city’s administration that the donated parcels would be used for affordable housing.

At the same meeting when the first reading of the Trinitas project is given—that’s planned for Feb. 5—a different PUD will likely be in front of the council for a second reading.

That PUD is the Curry Urban Properties project, which is a  344-bedroom building with 19,000 square feet of commercial space, proposed for the empty lot on the north side of the Longview Avenue, between Pete Ellis Drive and 7th Street. The project needs the kind of customized zoning that can be achieved through a PUD, because its proposed density is double the 15 dwelling units an acre that commercial limited  (CL) zoning allows.

The Curry PUD is currently still in control of the council’s four-member land use committee. The project gets its second hearing in front of the land use committee this Wednesday, starting at 5:45 p.m.

The Trinitas PUD encompasses more than 10 times the land area of the Curry development’s 3.2 acres, so its overall density is not as great, even though the tally of bedrooms is about three times as high.

Not counting the bedrooms constructed on the 45 lots to be donated, Trinitas puts the bedroom number for the project at 825, with 458 parking spaces. The exact number of total bedrooms for the project is hard to peg, according to city zoning planner Eric Greulich, because of the size of the houses to be built on the 45 single-family lots is unknown.

It was Greulich who walked the council through some of the key elements of the project at Friday’s work session. He agreed with the ballpark figure of around 1,000 total bedrooms that councilmember Steve Volan estimated.

The 45 ready-to-build lots make up just one of the four distinct types of housing that are proposed. Nearest to I-69 on the northern edge of the property is where the densest housing is proposed. It’s planned to be oriented towards students, Greulich said on Friday, though in principle anyone could rent an apartment there, he said.

The remaining two areas are proposed to be built out with townhouses and duplexes.

labeled Trinitas Outline Plan_Commission-20200113-Packet
Graphic from Trinitas with additional descriptive labels by The Square Beacon. The numbers indicate acres.

In part, the change in zoning is from a business park (BP) district to a PUD that will allow residential uses. Crucial to the consideration that the council has to give such a project is the public benefit that comes from allowing the zoning change.

Besides the 45 ready-to-built lots, Trinitas counts as a public benefit the 14.62 acres, out of the 39 acres (about 37 percent of it), that will be preserved as open space. Trinitas estimates the total value of the parcels to be $2.9 million.

Trinitas also says that it plans to contract with Bloomington Transit to provide a new public bus route to serve the development. The route would also serve passengers along the way to and from the Indiana University campus and downtown area. It’s the same kind of public benefit that helped convince the city council last year to approve a 750-bed PUD proposed by Collegiate Development Group at the site of the current Motel 6.

Trinitas is planning a 10-foot multi-use path that will run parallel to the main roadway from Arlington Road to 17th Street, as well as paths and sidewalks inside the site. The proposal says that Trinitas looked a the idea of constructing a sidewalk along Arlington Road, but the cost of acquiring the necessary right-of-way was prohibitive, according to Greulich.

Land use committee work looks like it could be evolving, in collaboration with city staff, towards an approach where all councilmembers read the information packet before the first reading, then formulate questions and send them in writing to the city’s planning staff. When Volan asked Greulich at Friday’s work session if he wanted questions submitted in writing, Greulich replied, “If you want—it makes my life easier.”

Preparing in advance, submitting questions in writing, and being content with an abbreviated staff presentation are all part of an approach that Volan is now urging. At this Wednesday’s council meeting he’s making a revised pitch for creating additional city council standing committees, beyond just the land use committee. Written questions, submitted in advance, are a part of Volan’s revised standing committee proposal.

Volan’s initial proposal for standing committees came on Jan. 8, the first meeting of the year. It was postponed until this Wednesday. The proposal was not well received by city staff at a work session two days after it was proposed.  Since then, Volan has set about trying to clarify the proposal and to reassure staff of his goals, one of which which is to reduce the length of individual council meetings.

Volan has removed some of the language he’d used in a previous draft, which he said was “inflammatory.”

The council’s meeting on Wednesday will start after the land use committee’s meeting about the Curry PUD, but no earlier than 8 p.m.

cropped 2020-01-24 council work session IMG_6286
Bloomington’s council work session, Friday Jan. 24, 2020, in the council library Starting from the head of the table on the left, clockwise around the table: Steve Volan, Eric Greulich (city planner), Sue Sgambelluri, Matt Flaherty, Nicole Bolden (city clerk), Jim Sims, Kate Rosenbarger, Isabel Piedmont-Smith, Ron Smith. Seated at left is council attorney/administrator Dan Sherman. Seated at right is deputy council attorney/administrator Stephen Lucas. (Dave Askins/Square Beacon)