Basic zoning map for Bloomington gets final OK from city council, but COVID-19 means map revisions unlikely before 2021

In unanimous votes taken on Wednesday night, Bloomington’s city council approved a conversion map for the unified development ordinance (UDO), as well as some technical text amendments.
zoning conversion map

The UDO is the basic zoning and land use document for the city.

The council’s vote was not controversial—it was akin to a legislative coronation. The conversion map is just a way of translating labels.

A future debate is expected citywide over changes to the way the lines are drawn for zoning districts on the map. That level of revision was not addressed in this go-round of UDO amendments, which started in February of 2018.

The drawing of new lines to accommodate newly defined zoning districts almost certainly won’t be done until 2021, assistant planning director Scott Robinson told the city council on Wednesday.

That’s because the public engagement process for the city-wide map redrawing won’t take place ahead of the public planning process that’s specific to the old hospital site, according to Robinson.

Public input for the hospital redevelopment was to start around now, but the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has made its timing uncertain. IU Health has agreed to sell the property to the city for $6.5 million, because once IU Health’s facility on SR 45/46 is completed, in 2021, it will be relocating to that new facility.
Beacon final high res for inset R Map IU Health RDC Acquisition Locator YYYxxxx

The council’s Wednesday votes followed a January vote by the plan commission that adopted the council’s amendments to the draft of the UDO. The draft was forwarded by the plan commission to the city council in fall 2019.

The plan commission recommended the conversion map at its March 9 meeting, which set up the city council Wednesday night for a final vote on the legislation. Once the conversion map gets the mayor’s signature, the new UDO will be effective and developers can propose projects based on the new code.

The conversion map just translates the old labels for zoning districts in the old UDO to the new labels in the revised UDO. For example, the zoning district previously known as Residential Core is translated in the conversion map to R3 Residential Small Lot.

The revised UDO made certain revisions to the allowable uses for existing zoning districts already drawn on the map of the city.

At January’s plan commission meeting, Robinson described the biggest change the city council made, compared to the plan commission’s draft, 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, using the revised UDO’s labels. 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.

At January’s plan commission , 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.”

Because the updated UDO includes some zoning districts that don’t yet exist on the conversion map, the substance of the map can now be revisited. Examples of still unmapped zoning districts are R4 (residential urban) and MS (mixed-use student housing).

At Wednesday’s council meeting, in addition to the hospital site, Robinson gave the southwest area of the city as examples of areas where revisions to the zoning map might be made. But he did not think  many more areas of the city would be subjected to redrawing of zoning districts. He said that would depend on the public engagement process.

To pass Wednesday’s legislation, the council required eight separate votes, all of them by roll call.  The roll-call nature of the voting owed to the fact that the council was conducting the meeting via a Zoom video conference. It’s a requirement that can be traced to the application of Indiana’s Open Door Law.

The number of the votes was increased by the fact that for both the map and the text revisions, the council needed to suspend the rules. The rules needed to be suspended so that the legislation could be given final enactment on the same day, at the same meeting, when the legislation was first introduced. Ordinarily the council has to wait until the next meeting, on a different day, to enact legislation after it has been introduced.