Draft climate action plan for Bloomington includes recommendations for 17 changes to local law

On Tuesday, Nov. 17, the week before Thanksgiving, a draft of a climate action plan for Bloomington was presented to the city council’s four-member standing committee on climate action and resilience.

The meat of the 158-page draft climate action plan is a table of 266 recommended actions, organized under 61 strategies, which fall under 26 goals for eight general topics.

The eight topics are: transportation and land use, energy and built environment, waste management, water and wastewater, local food and agriculture, health and safety, greenspace and ecosystem health, and climate economy.

The plan is supposed to provide a blueprint for Bloomington to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions from all sources, with a goal of carbon neutrality, and make preparations for climate change.

The draft includes 17 different recommendations for changes to local law, among them some changes to the unified development ordinance (UDO).

The recommended changes to the UDO in the draft climate action plan (CAP) do not include any revisions to the zoning code on residential building forms (i.e., plexes), which are expected to generate considerable controversy when they’re taken up by the plan commission in the second half of January.

Included in the draft CAP are recommended changes to the UDO that would eliminate parking minimums and would require developers to “unbundle” parking from lease prices for rental units. Other  changes recommended for the UDO include one to encourage water conservation in new construction and renovations.

Another recommendation in the draft CAP is to consider a change to local law that would create a universal zero waste ordinance, which would require all property owners to provide recycling and compost collection services and require businesses to use those services.

The mid-November presentation of the draft CAP to the city council’s committee was made by Lauren Travis, who’s assistant director of economic and sustainable development for the city of Bloomington.

The city council will eventually be asked to approve the plan.

The consultant who has been working on Bloomington’s CAP is Pale Blue Dot out of Maplewood, Minnesota. The company has also prepared a climate action plan for Dubuque, Iowa. Bloomington’s $98,000 contract with Pale Blue Dot expires at the end of the year.

Travis told the committee that she was hoping to get written feedback from them, compiled by committee chair Matt Flaherty by Dec. 1.

Travis told committee members there’s not yet a spot on the calendar for the full council’s consideration of the CAP: “We don’t have a date set yet for the plan to go in front of council.”

Travis added, “If you need more time, we could always push it back.” Travis wrapped up her comment on the topic of timing by saying, “I’m more concerned about making sure that everyone’s feedback is included than having a certain date for passage.”

The city’s director of economic and sustainable development, Alex Crowley, told The Square Beacon on Tuesday that there’s some internal discussion about the possibility of getting additional community input on the draft CAP.

The content of the finalized CAP will likely factor into any discussions next year that take place on the topic of additional taxpayer investments to fund climate change initiatives.

The CAP got a mention from Flaherty during the city council’s mid-September debate on the increase to the local income tax, which failed on a 4–5 vote.  One of the motivations for the proposed local income tax increase was provide a way to fund climate change initiatives.

At the time, Flaherty put the forthcoming CAP in the context of other key planning documents that would guide expenditures from a local income tax increase. Those include the comprehensive plan, the transportation plan, and the sustainability action plan.

The Square Beacon has converted the table of recommended actions in the draft CAP into a shared Google Sheet. Some errors of spelling may be The Square Beacon’s because some digital process was necessary to make the conversion.

Table: Legislation Suggested in Bloomington’s DRAFT climate action plan

ActionNumber Sector Goal / Strategy / Action
TL1-E-1 Eliminate minimum parking requirements from Unified Development Ordinance and replace with a transportation reference guide for development that includes considerations for all modes. Allow developers to determine and defend their transportation needs.
TL1-E-5 Establish an ordinance to require developers and landlords to “unbundle” parking from rent structures. Policy should focus on maintaining transit and transportation equity.
TL1-B-6 Amend zoning code to allow and encourage “mini city centers” through the development of Neighborhood Commercial Districts and Neighborhood Corridor Commercial Districts in neighborhoods in order to create more walkable/bikeable communities. Districts should be prioritized in areas to maximize equity considerations and alternative transportation options and minimize community wide VMT.
TL2-B-2 Create an Electric Vehicle (EV) Action Plan to guide access to chargers on City property and citywide, explore alternative technologies like Smart cable technology and streetlight/ev charger integration, address barriers to charging for garage-free homes and rental properties, increase use of EVs in car sharing programs, assess options to lower EV and EV charger implementation costs, and recommend an EV charging amendments to the Unified Development Ordinance to support EV plan.
EB1-B-7 Establish a Solar Ready Ordinance to require all new residential and commercial buildings to be solar ready.
EB1-C-2 Establish Solar Access Ordinance and policies which recognize changing conditions due to the proliferation of residential rooftop solar energy systems.
EB2-B-1 Adopt, implement, and promote a Commercial Building Energy Benchmarking and Disclosure ordinance for all public buildings and all commercial buildings 30,000 square feet and larger
EB2-B-13 Adopt, implement, and promote a Residential Energy Benchmarking and Disclosure or “Truth In Sale” ordinance for homes listed for sale.
WM1-A-7 Based on results of the Food Scraps Bag pilot project, establish a policy or ordinance expanding or requiring in-trash food scrap composting based on results of pilot.
WM1-A-9 Based on Compost Soil Amendment pilot project results create a policy encouraging or an ordinance requiring use of compost soil amendments for all projects meeting appropriate threshold as supported by the pilot project.
WM1-C-6 Establish a policy or ordinance expanding or requiring textile reuse and recycling based on outcomes of the Clothing Reuse and Recycling pilot project.
WM1-C-11 Based on best practice research and the Hydrofluorocarbon Pilot Project, recommend city policy or ordinance modifications.
WM1-D-3 Explore the creation of a Universal Zero Waste Ordinance, requiring all property owners to provide recycling and compost collection services and requiring businesses to use these services.
W1-B-3 Update Unified Development Ordinance to encourage water conservation measures e.g., grey water infrastructure, drought resistant landscaping) in new construction and renovations.
W2-A-1 Strengthen riparian/stream/wetland protection in local ordinances and regulations where feasible
FA3-A-2 Revise zoning ordinances to allow urban agriculture and clarify acceptability to remove barriers to front yard and rooftop vegetable gardens, edible landscaping and foraging. Proactively promote and educate the public on urban agriculture ordinances, options and approaches
CE3-B-2 Explore the potential of developing a “Carbon Impact Fee” similar to the City of Watsonville CA. Additional funds raised to be used for Climate Mitigation and Adaptation implementation. Increased revenue to be used to fund Climate Mitigation and Adaptation implementation with a focus on the actions and strategies which increase the community’s equity.



The city is soliciting feedback on the climate action plan with an email address and a link to a form on the city web page set up for the climate action plan.

The email address is: sustain@bloomington.in.gov

The link to the form is: https://cityofbloomington.research.net/r/MJKLWYB

3 thoughts on “Draft climate action plan for Bloomington includes recommendations for 17 changes to local law

  1. Do they have a plan for getting these changes past the neighborhood associations that are bound to oppose them? It’s the neighborhood associations that get upset about things like vegetable gardens in the front yard and commercial buildings in the middle of residential areas. The park & ride scheme that used to exist near Bryan Park was closed down by neighborhood opposition. Anything in these suggestions that could possibly affect property values or “change the character” of a neighborhood is going to be fiercely fought against.

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