Bloomington rezoning proposal gets less dense before start to formal hearings on March 8

Bloomington’s planning and transportation department announced late Thursday afternoon that a citywide zone map revision will start formal hearings in front of the city plan commission on March 8.

Blue shaded areas indicate areas that are no longer proposed to be changed to R4 zoning on the citywide zoning map. The areas that are proposed to be rezoned to R4 are indicated in green. Orange indicates areas proposed to be zoned to residential multifamily (RM).

Also a part of the formal hearings will be text amendments to the unified development ordinance (UDO) that alter the allowable uses of land in different zoning districts.

The public engagement process started in the last part of 2020.

Compared to the public engagement drafts—for both the zone map and the text amendments—the planning staff is now proposing less-dense land uses.

The plan commission can amend the proposal during the course  of its deliberations. The city council will have the final say.

The less-dense use is proposed in connection with all four of these residential uses: R1 (Residential Large Lot); and R2 (Residential Medium Lot); R3 (Residential Small Lot); and R4 (Residential Urban).

A map provided on the project web page shows a significantly reduced amount of area proposed for the R4 zoning district. It’s a new district that was created as part of a revision to the unified development ordinance (UDO) that was approved by the city council in late 2019.

The Residential Urban (R4) district has been scaled down in two ways: (1) amount of proposed area in the city; and (2) the allowable land uses in the R4 district.

Duplexes, triplexes, and quadplexes were by-right permitted uses in R4, as defined in the new UDO, which was adopted by the city council in late 2019.

But according to the press release, a text amendment now proposed for the R4 district will still allow duplex, triplex, quadplexes, live/work, multifamily, and cottage development. But the now-proposed amendment will designate all of those uses as conditional, instead of by-right permitted uses.

That would me all plexes that are proposed to be built in R4 would require a public review and approval through the board of zoning appeals (BZA).

The amount of area on the map that is designated as R4 is also significantly less than what was proposed in late 2020. It’s about 25 percent of the amount R4 area that was proposed during the public engagement process in 2020, according to the city’s press release.

The revised geographic coverage of the R4 district is described in the press release as “significantly reduced and concentrated in nodes or corridors across the city offering proximity to transit routes, major employers, schools, and/or shopping centers, or in new undeveloped areas.”

In the now-proposed text amendments, triplexes in R1, R2 and R3 zones triplexes have been removed as any kind of allowable use (not as a permitted or a conditional use), according to the press release.

Duplexes in R1, R2 and R3 zones would be allowed on a conditional use, according to the press release. That would be a change from the existing UDO, which does not allow them on any basis.

Whether duplexes should be permitted uses or only conditional uses was debated by the plan commission and the city council in fall 2019.

Plan commissioners were not able to pass an amendment to convert duplexes from conditional uses to permitted uses for their recommendation to the city council.  City councilmembers later voted to remove duplexes as allowable, even on a conditional use.

According to Thursday’s press release, compared to the staff proposal from late 2020 the use-specific standards for duplexes in the existing R1, R2 and R3 zones, have been modified to include physical spacing and timing requirements “that will avoid concentration and allow ongoing evaluation and monitoring.”

The draft text for the proposed text amendments to the UDO is not yet available. The project web page indicates February dates by which they’re expected to have live hyperlinks.

Bloomington’s planning and transportation director, Scott Robinson, told The Square Beacon that “Staff is working hard to upload all the information.” He added, “Everything will be posted over the weekend. Monday is a holiday so that complicated the timing.”

The plan commission can amend the staff’s proposal in the course of its consideration. A recommendation from the plan commission will be made possibly by the end of March. After that, the city council will have a chance to make a final decision.

For text amendments, the city council can further amend the plan commission’s recommendation and adopt the UDO as amended. For the citywide zone map, the city council has only the option of voting the plan commission’s recommendation up or down.

Besides adding the new R4 district to some areas of the citywide zone map, the draft map proposal from fall 2020 converted several PUDs (planned unit developments) to base zoning districts, among other things.