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”

2023 Bloomington city council elections: Guenther forms committee for independent at-large run

Early Thursday morning, Andrew Guenther filed the paperwork required to create an exploratory committee for a Bloomington city council run in 2023.

Photo included with Guenther’s news release.

Guenther will be starting law school at Indiana University this fall. He holds an undergraduate degree from IU in public affairs, and is currently working on a masters degree.

Guenther is former chair of Bloomington’s environmental commission. He has also served on Monroe County’s environmental commission and Bloomington’s board of housing quality appeals.

In 2019 Guenther ran for the District 2 city council seat as a Republican, but lost in the general election to Democrat Sue Sgambelluri.

Compared to 2019, two things are different about a potential run next year. First, Guenther is considering a run as an independent candidate, unaffiliated with any political party. Guenther announced on Jan. 2, 2021 that he was no longer a member of the Republican Party.

A second difference is that Guenther would be a candidate for an at-large seat on the council.

The three at-large seats are elected citywide, which means candidate eligibility is based just on city residency. That removes from the equation any uncertainty related to the outcome of this year’s redistricting process—which will likely see some changes to the boundaries of the six council districts.

The current at-large councilmembers are: Susan Sandberg, Jim Sims, and Matt Flaherty. Continue reading “2023 Bloomington city council elections: Guenther forms committee for independent at-large run”

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”

Planned limestone heritage site now under Monroe County control, as $600K land purchase gets final OK

Monroe County will now own another 70 acres of land at the northwest side of the interchange of SR-46 and I-69.

On Tuesday, the county council approved the $640,000 purchase of the land, which contains several limestone quarry holes.

The purpose of the land acquisition is to establish the location as a kind of outdoor limestone museum that celebrates Monroe County’s heritage of high quality limestone, and the role the limestone industry has played in local history.

The tally on Tuesday’s vote by the seven-member council was 5–1. Councilor Marty Hawk dissented. Councilor Cheryl Munson was absent.

The 70-acre parcel is just south of another 29 acres, which were purchased by the county in fall 2021 for the same purpose.

Hawk’s objections were known, based on the land’s history adjoining an EPA Superfund site.

The three-member board of county commissioners gave its approval for the land purchase at its meeting three weeks ago. Continue reading “Planned limestone heritage site now under Monroe County control, as $600K land purchase gets final OK”

Bloomington police investigate late Tuesday evening shooting of 21-year-old woman

A 21-year-old woman was shot late Tuesday evening on the 1200 block of North Maple Street, according to a Wednesday afternoon news release from Bloomington police department (BPD).

BPD is asking anyone with information about the shooting to contact detective Kevin Frank at (812) 349-3322.

Just before 11 p.m. officers responded to a report of a person who had been shot, according to the news release. They found a 21-year-old woman in an apartment with several gunshot wounds.

At the scene, officers gave the woman emergency medical care. She was then taken to IU Health’s Bloomington hospital and later flown by LifeLine helicopter to an Indianapolis hospital. The news release says her condition is not known.

According to the news release, the woman and a 17-year-old man had been standing outside the apartment when someone fired at them several times from the area of the parking lot. Police do not know how many shots were fired or how many shooters there were.

A passenger car was seen speeding away from the area, but it is unknown if the car was involved in the shooting, according to the release. Continue reading “Bloomington police investigate late Tuesday evening shooting of 21-year-old woman”

Two down, one to go: High-speed internet deal gets OK from Bloomington EDC

On Tuesday, Bloomington’s economic development commission (EDC) helped a potential deal between Paris-based Meridiam and the city of Bloomington take another step forward.

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.

On a 4–0 vote, the EDC approved a resolution that among other things green-lighted an  expenditure agreement that reimburses to Meridiam 95 percent of the roughly $10.9 million in personal property taxes that Meridiam will pay over a 20-year period.

The personal property taxes would be paid on the company’s conduit and fiber. The mechanism the city is using to reimburse Meridiam’s taxes is a tax increment finance (TIF) allocation area, not a tax abatement, even if the effect is basically the same.

The TIF area is exactly the physical space where the conduit and fiber is installed, which has an appearance that some have characterized as web-like. That’s what gives rise to the moniker “spider TIF.”

For Tuesday’s decision, the five-member EDC was missing Matt Flaherty. He is the city council’s representative on the EDC. But Flaherty will have a say when the city council considers two related questions on Wednesday.

That’s because a third step for the high-speed internet deal is teed up for Bloomington’s city council at its Wednesday meeting. Continue reading “Two down, one to go: High-speed internet deal gets OK from Bloomington EDC”

One down, two to go: Fiber-to-home deal passes muster with Bloomington plan commission

Bloomington plan commission (June 13, 2022)

A deal between a Paris-based infrastructure company and the city of Bloomington, to construct a fiber-to-the-home open-access network offering symmetric 1-Gigabit service, took a step forward Monday evening.

On a unanimous vote, the city’s plan commission found that an already-approved redevelopment commission (RDC) resolution and its associated economic development plan—on which the Bloomington-Meridiam fiber deal depends—is consistent with the city’s comprehensive plan.

That’s the first of three approvals the city’s administration is hoping to get this week for a tax increment finance (TIF) arrangement, that would see about $10.9 million in personal property taxes reimbursed to Meridiam over a 20-year period. That’s down from the estimated $14.4 million that had been previously negotiated for a 25-year period.

Next up will be an approval from the (economic development commission (EDC)), which the city administration is hoping to get at the EDC’s 4 p.m. Tuesday meeting.

That could be followed by an approval at this Wednesday’s city council meeting.

Last week, the city’s RDC took the first step towards all the approvals necessary when it passed the required declaratory resolution.

On Monday, the administration’s case for conformity with the city’s comprehensive plan was presented to the plan commission by development services manager Jackie Scanlan. Continue reading “One down, two to go: Fiber-to-home deal passes muster with Bloomington plan commission”

Bloomington-Meridiam fiber-to-home internet deal: 3 public bodies, 3 meetings, 3 days

Now pending is a deal between the city of Bloomington and Meridiam, a Paris-based infrastructure company, that would build a fiber-to-the-home network offering symmetric 1-Gigabit service, reaching at least 85-percent of the city.

The image links to a dynamic map. (UG = underground; AE = aerial)

The city describes the deal in terms of a $50 million investment that Meridiam will make. Meridiam has made the arrangement contingent on a kind of “tax rebate” for the company, amounting to $14.4 million over 20 years.

Meridiam says the creation of the wholesale open-access network—after an initial 5-7 year period of exclusive operation by an as-yet-unnamed internet service provider (ISP)—would create about 10 new jobs, with a payroll of about $1.1 million.

Bloomington’s redevelopment commission (RDC) got the legal process started last week, when it voted 4-0 to approve a declaratory resolution.

For the deal to go through, three different public bodies will need to give approvals, at three separate meetings, which are set for Monday (plan commission), Tuesday (economic development commission), and Wednesday (city council) of this week.

The final vote, by the RDC, is set for July 5. Continue reading “Bloomington-Meridiam fiber-to-home internet deal: 3 public bodies, 3 meetings, 3 days”

Downtown Bloomington march for stronger gun laws: “It is not about rights. It’s about lives.”

On Saturday afternoon, about 150 people were gathered on the southeast lawn of the Monroe County courthouse in downtown Bloomington. They stood in silence for 21 seconds.

The silence commemorated the lives of 21 children and teachers who were shot and killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, two weeks earlier.

The reflective moment was part of a demonstration and march that was organized by Bloomington North High School students Ingrid Pendergast and Alexandra Shirley, under the banner of the national movement called March for Our Lives. The non-profit organization advocates for stronger gun laws.

Demonstrators on Saturday marched from the southeast corner of the courthouse square, eastward down Kirkwood Avenue to Indiana Avenue, headed one block north to 6th Street, turned west, and headed back to the courthouse along 6th Street.

After demonstrators had again gathered on the courthouse lawn, Pendergast and Shirley gave remarks and invited several people to address the crowd. Then they turned the mic over to anyone who wanted to speak.

Pendergast told the crowd, “We can no longer allow gun violence to be a partisan issue. It is killing us. It is not about Republican versus Democrat.” She added, “It is not about rights. It’s about lives.” Continue reading “Downtown Bloomington march for stronger gun laws: “It is not about rights. It’s about lives.””

Appeals on fines heard by Monroe County election board, 2023 space needs not yet active topic

At its regular monthly meeting on Thursday, the Monroe County election board handled some routine business for the recent primary election cycle: appeals on fines for late paperwork.

On Thursday, just one of the cases got action from the three-member board

That was due in part to the fact that last week’s meeting was canceled and rescheduled for this week—without notice to the late filers that the hearing would be this week instead. That meant that the board could hear only the cases of the late filers who happened to attend on Thursday.

In the one case where the board took action, the board waived the fine as a first offense, which is the board’s typical approach to late filings.

So far, since the May 3 primary, the planned location of election operations for the 2023 municipal cycle has not been a topic of discussion for the election board.

The 2023 elections could see continued use of the former NAPA auto parts store building, at 3rd and Walnut streets, but that’s not certain. Continue reading “Appeals on fines heard by Monroe County election board, 2023 space needs not yet active topic”