Bloomington awards $330K in socials services funds, Jack Hopkins total now $5.8 million since 1993

At its regular Wednesday meeting last week, Bloomington’s city council approved a total of $339,000 in grants, to 28 different projects for which local non-profits had requested funding.

These are the top 10 Jack Hopkins social services awards by amount of the grant. A complete table appears below.

The funding is described by the city as supporting projects that “make a difference in the lives of city residents in need.”

The annual allocation of social services funding has been made since 1993. Counting this year, about $5.8 million has been awarded, compared to around $12 million that has been requested.

This year, a total of $563,516 was requested for 32 different projects.

The top five awards were to: St. Vincent de Paul for a utility assistance program ($30,000); Boys and Girls Clubs of Bloomington for accessibility improvements for Crestmont youth with disabilities ($23,005); Monroe County United Ministries to pay for a new service van ($23,000); Indiana Recovery Alliance to pay for a syringe service program coordinator position ($21,600); and HealthNet Inc. to pay for rent ($20,875).

This year’s $7,500 award to Planned Parenthood drew objection during the meeting’s public comment time, because the nonprofit also provides abortion services. This year’s Jack Hopkins award is to fund the contraceptives for the non-profit’s safety net family planning services. Continue reading “Bloomington awards $330K in socials services funds, Jack Hopkins total now $5.8 million since 1993”

Bloomington redistricting advisory commission finally appointed, has 12 weeks to complete first task

Nearly 18 months after it was supposed to be seated, a citizens redistricting advisory commission has been appointed by Bloomington’s city council.

99-year-old Liberty silver dollar used for coin flip to determine membership on redistricting advisory commission.

Their task is to recommend to the city council new boundaries for the six city council districts, to even out the population imbalances that might have resulted from the 2020 census.

The five members of the new commission were chosen by the council’s selection committee, which met early Friday morning to determine five two-person candidate pools.

The choice between the two candidates in each pool was made by a coin flip.

Under the ordinance that the city council enacted in late 2020—then amended in early February this year, and again in mid-May—the commission was supposed to be seated by Jan. 1, 2021.

The five-member group has to give the city council a recommendation for a new district map by the first Wednesday in September this year. But there’s nothing in the ordinance that says the recommendation can’t come sooner.

That first deadline is just shy of 12 weeks away. The city council has a regular meeting scheduled for Sept. 7, which is the first Wednesday of the month. That means, at the latest, the city council would have a chance on Sept. 7 to decide the council districts that will be used for the 2023 municipal elections. Continue reading “Bloomington redistricting advisory commission finally appointed, has 12 weeks to complete first task”

3 OKs in 3 days: Bloomington gets needed nods for high-speed internet fiber deal with Meridiam

Bloomington mayor John Hamilton (right) addresses the Bloomington city council on June 15, 2022.

At its Wednesday meeting, Bloomington’s city council took a couple of steps, on 8–1 votes, as a part of a potential deal to get high-speed internet connections built for most of the city.

The pending agreement would be inked between Paris-based Meridiam and Bloomington.

Under the arrangement, Meridiam would construct a fiber-to-the-home open-access network offering symmetric 1-Gigabit service. Meridiam would offer symmetric 250-Megabit service to low-income residents at zero net cost.

The arrangement would add another competitor to Bloomington’s market by giving an as-yet-unnamed internet service provider (ISP) exclusive access to the new network for at least five years. The initial ISP would also have exclusive access to the roughly 17 miles of conduit and fiber—the Bloomington Digital Underground—which has already been constructed by the city.

The agreement has been analyzed by the Indiana Cable & Broadband Association as “unfairly favoring one provider over others,”  which ICBA says conflicts with the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996. ICBA’s legal objections got no mention during deliberations by Bloomington public officials this week.

Wednesday was the third day in a row that three different public bodies took required steps for the deal to go through. All of the votes were unanimous except for those by the city council. Continue reading “3 OKs in 3 days: Bloomington gets needed nods for high-speed internet fiber deal with Meridiam”

Council defers to Johnson’s Creamery owner wish, delays alley vacation vote until after own vacation

At its Wednesday meeting this week, Bloomington’s city council was expected to vote on a request from Peerless Development to vacate an east-west alley on the Johnson’s Creamery building property off 7th Street.

A future housing development, based on its current design, depends on the vacation of the alley.

But the council voted to postpone its vote until July 20, which is the next scheduled regular city council meeting. The month-long gap in meetings reflects the council’s “summer recess”—its own seasonal vacation—on its annual schedule.

Vacating an alley means ceding to private ownership some land that is now public right-of-way.

It is the second time the council has postponed a vote on the question—the first occasion was on June 1.  Both times, the request to postpone came at the request of Peerless.

Peerless wants additional time to explore its options with its title company and with the engineering firm that did a study of the 140-foot historic smokestack located in the middle of the alley. Continue reading “Council defers to Johnson’s Creamery owner wish, delays alley vacation vote until after own vacation”

Bank building on Kirkwood designated as notable historic structure by Bloomington city council

Any future modifications of the People’s Bank building at the corner of Kirkwood Avenue and Washington Street in downtown Bloomington will need approval from Bloomington’s historic preservation commission.

On an 8–0 vote, Bloomington’s city council approved the building as a “notable” historic structure in its own historic district. That’s a designation that is higher than “contributing” but not as high as “outstanding” in the four-tiered rating system for historic buildings.

The council’s vote followed the unanimous recommendation of the city’s historic preservation commission (HPC).

The owner of the building, ​​Bailey 8 LLC, had requested demolition of the building, to construct a three- or four-story building that would include apartments. That meant the HPC reviewed the structure under the city’s ordinance on demolition delay. Continue reading “Bank building on Kirkwood designated as notable historic structure by Bloomington city council”

Column: Should city lawmakers regulate employee parking rates or focus on legislating land use?

Because it operates under Indiana state law, the city of Bloomington’s local government is divided along familiar lines—between legislative and executive branches.

But when it comes to policy on parking prices for city hall employees, that division is not easy to discern.

The distinction is hard to see, because on the question of regulating employee parking permit pricing for the city hall lot, city councilmembers have veered into the executive lane.

For a couple of years, Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, didn’t yield to the council. But last fall, as a part of the 2022 budget negotiations, Hamilton agreed to set up a pilot “parking cash-out” program for city hall employees.

The idea behind the “parking cash-out” program is to reward city employees who work in city hall but who don’t park in the lot. If they’re not parking in the lot, then they’re arriving at work in some way that is consistent with the city’s climate change and sustainability goals.

Under this year’s pilot program, an employee pays $200, instead of the old $2 nominal fee—but gets reimbursed by the city for the $200 cost. Employees who choose not to purchase a permit can instead request a taxable $200 “stipend.”

It’s not surprising that Hamilton’s administration has not been eager to try “parking cash-out” for its employees. That’s because the city of Bloomington’s circumstances—as the owner of the parking spaces in question—are different from those that apply in classic “parking cash-out” programs.

Further, by distracting themselves with city personnel issues that are beyond their knowledge and responsibility, city councilmembers have avoided addressing policies over which they have actual legislative control. Continue reading “Column: Should city lawmakers regulate employee parking rates or focus on legislating land use?”

Vacation of alleys for hospital site redevelopment gets yes from Bloomington council on second try

At its meeting on Wednesday, Bloomington’s city council voted unanimously to vacate parts of two alleys in one of the blocks near the former site of the IU Health hospital.

The request came from the Hamilton administration through the Bloomington redevelopment commission (RDC).

The block in question is bounded by Morton and Rogers streets on the east and west, and by 2nd and 1st streets on the north and south.

The vacation of alleys approved by the council on Wednesday was the same proposal that had failed on a 4–5 vote in the first week of April.

But the council used an uncommon procedure from Robert’s Rules—called “renewal” of a motion—to consider the question again on Wednesday.

Convincing the council to revisit the question were several concessions made by the administration in connection with the planning for the former hospital site, which has been named the Hopewell neighborhood. Continue reading “Vacation of alleys for hospital site redevelopment gets yes from Bloomington council on second try”

Bloomington city council decision on Johnson’s Creamery alley vacation to wait until June 15

At its regular meeting on Wednesday (June 1), Bloomington’s city council postponed a vote on a request from Peerless Development to vacate an east-west alley that cuts across the parcel where the Johnson’s Creamery building sits.

Vacating the alley means ceding to private ownership some land that is now public right-of-way. The vote to postpone a vote until June 15 was unanimous. That’s the last regular meeting before the council’s summer recess.

The alley vacation would be needed in order for Peerless to move ahead with a development on the northern part of the parcel. The housing development is supposed to include 51 apartments right next to the B-Line Trail, off 7th Street. Bloomington’s plan commission approved the site plan for the new development in October 2021.

But that approval was contingent on getting a greenlight from the city council for the vacation of the east-west alley—because part of the proposed new building would sit in the right-of-way. Continue reading “Bloomington city council decision on Johnson’s Creamery alley vacation to wait until June 15”

Bloomington alters zoning to reduce monoliths, spur affordability; city council could push more tweaks

At its Wednesday meeting, Bloomington’s city council approved a raft of changes to the city’s unified development ordinance (UDO) that were in many cases purely technical in nature.

But some of the changes were meant to support specific policy goals— like preventing massive buildings that have been called as “monolithic” in character, and encouraging developers to use the affordability incentives that are already included in the UDO.

Developers will now get a smaller building floor plate “by right.” They’ll get a bit of a bump in square footage if they use either the sustainable development incentive alone or the affordable housing incentive alone. But they’ll get a significant increase in floor plate area, if they use both incentive types.

The changes to the UDO approved by the city council were spread across four different ordinances. The legislation had been initiated by planning staff and recommended for approval by the city’s plan commission.

During an interlude in Wednesday’s proceedings—to solve some remote connectivity issues—Bloomington director of planning and transportation Scott Robinson reminded city councilmembers that they, too, can initiate changes to zoning code. Continue reading “Bloomington alters zoning to reduce monoliths, spur affordability; city council could push more tweaks”

Johnson’s smokestack: Owner’s alley request seen as chance to “leverage” historic tribute

The Johnson’s Creamery smokestack will soon be back in the civic spotlight—for two reasons.

First, at its meeting this Tuesday,  Bloomington’s three-member board of public works will be asked to affirm an order from the city’s housing and neighborhood development (HAND) department,  which requires AT&T to remove its communications equipment from the top of the smokestack by midnight on May 31.

The removal of AT&T’s equipment will help set the stage for the owner’s partial demolition of the smokestack—from 140 feet down to 60 feet. The building, with its smokestack, is owned by Peerless Development.

The partial demolition was ordered by HAND because an engineering study determined the smokestack is unsafe.

Second, Peerless Development will be asking the city council to vacate an east-west alley that cuts across the parcel.

The alley vacation is needed in order for Peerless to move ahead with a development on the northern part of the parcel. The housing development is supposed to include 51 apartments, right next to the B-Line Trail. Bloomington’s plan commission approved the site plan for the new development in October 2021.

The request for an alley vacation will likely land on the city council’s May 18 agenda as a first reading, and possibly get final action at the council’s regular meeting on June 1.

Vacating a public-right-of-way means that the city is ceding to a private entity the public’s claim to the land.

In connection with the requested alley vacation, Bloomington’s city council could be looking to extract a concession from Peerless to construct some kind of creative artwork to commemorate the lost height of the smokestack. That’s based on the discussion at the city council’s work session held last Friday.

The idea of a commemorative artwork is not new. Continue reading “Johnson’s smokestack: Owner’s alley request seen as chance to “leverage” historic tribute”