Lack of compliance with traffic plan: $25K in fines on student housing developer upheld by Bloomington

At its regular Tuesday meeting, Bloomington’s three-member board of public works upheld about $25,000 in fines on Landmark Properties.

The developer is constructing a 1000-bed student-oriented housing development a few blocks south of Indiana University’s football stadium.

Landmark had appealed the fines, which were imposed for violations of its maintenance of traffic plan. That’s a plan that the city requires all developers to submit and follow in the course of construction. It includes signage and barricades for pedestrian walkways when sidewalks are closed, with directions to an alternate route.

The photos accompanying this article were taken on Jan. 31, 2022, and show what appear to be conditions that have now been put in compliance with the maintenance of traffic plan.

The project is called The Standard, which is replacing the old Brownstone Terrace complex just south of 14th Street. Factoring in the bedrooms that were in the old Brownstone terrace, The Standard will net about 830 additional bedrooms for the city’s student housing supply, when it opens in fall 2023.

The $25,300 in fines that were upheld by the board of public works on Tuesday adds to the $7,700 in fines that Landmark had previously paid, for similar violations of its maintenance of traffic plan.

During public comment time, Bloomington resident and pedestrian advocate Greg Alexander spoke against the reduction or elimination of the fines that Landmark was hoping for. He first sketched out some historical background: “I’ve been working towards this day for about eight years now—ever since I had a terrifying experience, walking in the street on College Avenue with my infant son, because both sidewalks were closed.”

Alexander continued, describing his efforts, “Two years ago, for the first time, I got staff to admit there’s a problem. They had no enforcement capability whatsoever. So they did something. They presented an ordinance to [city] council, who passed it.”

Bloomington’s city council action to beef up its ordinance on maintaining pedestrian ways during construction projects came a little more than a year ago, in late 2020.

“Now there is enforcement. And this is what that looks like,” Alexander said about the fines that were levied on Landmark.

Alexander told the board that if they waived or reduced the fines, it would say to the developer there would be no need to communicate the details of the traffic maintenance plan to the various subcontractors who would come in the later stages of the project. It’s the subcontractors who are notorious for blocking the pedestrian routes around construction sites, Alexander said.

Tuesday’s board of public works meeting information packet includes around 100 pages of email exchanges and photographs documenting various violations.

Making the pitch for a reduction in the fines was the project manager from Landmark Properties, Eric Schulte. He described how all the correct signage had been in place, but wound up getting removed after an initial phase of work had been done. The notification from the city had come late in 2021. Trying to get the signage re-installed required working over a New Year’s holiday period, he said.

The fines for those initial violations had been paid, Schulte said. And some subsequent issues in early January were addressed promptly, he said.

Schulte’s letter of appeal concludes by saying: “Due to Landmark paying all fines up until January 7th, 2022 without appeal and prompt action being taken after the meeting on January 11th, 2022, we are kindly requesting that the fines be dropped or reduced for the NOV [notice of violation] dated 1/18/2022.”

Director of public works Adam Wason and director of engineering Andrew Cibor both weighed in for denying Landmark’s appeal and upholding the fines.

Wason told the board, “As Mr. Alexander alluded to, and as the board knows, the city council did update city code in the last couple years to address these exact issues—that when you have projects that are not in compliance with approved maintenance of traffic plans, that fines be levied.”

Board of works president Kyla Cox Deckard summed up the view of the board: “When we review maintenance of traffic plans, we take very seriously the ability for people who are on foot or on bicycle or other modes of transportation to be able to get through.”

The motion to deny the appeal also got support from the other two members of the board of public works, Elizabeth Karon and Beth Hollingsworth.

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