Bloomington board of public works notebook: Boxed-in bamboo wins appeal

A stand of bamboo can continue to screen the hawks and herons that eat the excess fish in a backyard Bloomington water feature.

That was ruling from Bloomington’s three-member board of public works at its Tuesday meeting.

In the first week of September, Bloomington resident Carolyn Geduld had been cited by the city’s housing and neighborhood development (HAND) department for allowing the bamboo to grow on her property in the southeast part of town. It was a warning that the HAND department issued, not a fine

Under Bloomington’s city code, bamboo is defined as an invasive species and cannot be planted or maintained on a property.

Geduld appealed her notice of violation. And the city’s legal department was persuaded by her argument.

Assistant city attorney Chris Wheeler addressed the board in support of the appeal. Geduld attended Tuesday’s board of public works meeting, but did not address the board.

The key to winning over the legal department was not the hawks and herons that Geduld described in her appeal, but the fact that the bamboo was confined to a structure where it could not spread. Continue reading “Bloomington board of public works notebook: Boxed-in bamboo wins appeal”

US Census Vintage 2021 estimates: 800 more people in Bloomington compared to 2020 decennial count

Based on new estimates released on Thursday, Bloomington’s population has bumped up by 800 people compared to the 2020 census count.

The US Census Bureau (USCB) now estimates the city of Bloomington to have 79,968 residents. That’s as of July 1, 2021. The USCB calls this set of estimates the Vintage 2021 population estimates.

While some amount of estimated growth could be encouraging for Bloomington officials, it does not change the fact that the 2020 census counted just 79,168 residents, compared to 80,405 ten years earlier.

Bloomington’s still relatively low figure in Thursday’s release of new estimates does not bear on the question of how accurate the 2020 census count was. That’s because the estimates start with a base that is calculated using 2020 census data as one of the components.

The city of Bloomington’s position is that the 2020 census missed a few thousand residents in Bloomington—because Indiana University student residents were told to return to their hometowns when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. That was just before April 1, 2022, which was the official census count day. Continue reading “US Census Vintage 2021 estimates: 800 more people in Bloomington compared to 2020 decennial count”

Stay granted: GOP pick for Bloomington plan commission won’t be seated pending appeal

Andrew Guenther will not be serving as a Bloomington plan commissioner—at least not for the next several months—even though a mid-November order from special judge Erik Allen installed him in a plan commission seat effective immediately.

From left: Chris Cockerham and Andrew Guenther.

On Monday morning, Allen granted a request
from the city of Bloomington for a stay of his November order, pending the appeal for which the city has given notice.

That means Chris Cockerham will continue serving on the Bloomington plan commission while the appeal is battled out in court.

The order granting the stay came the morning of the same day when the plan commission next meets—Monday at 5:30 p.m.

The stay means that it will be Cockerham, not Guenther, who appears in the Zoom videoconference square for the plan commission’s Monday night meeting.

The end of 2021 will mark the half-way point in the four-year term of the disputed plan commission seat. It is conceivable that the appeal could take up much of the remaining two years in the term.

It was in mid-2020 when the lawsuit over the plan commission seat was filed by Monroe County Republican Party chair William Ellis and Andrew Guenther. Continue reading “Stay granted: GOP pick for Bloomington plan commission won’t be seated pending appeal”

Appeal denied: Mask violation citation of Seven Oaks Classical School upheld by county commissioners, fine waived

A citation given to Seven Oaks Classical School for a violation of the county’s Aug. 5 mask mandate was upheld on Thursday afternoon by a unanimous vote of the three Monroe County commissioners.

Although commissioners denied the school’s appeal, they waived the $250 fine.

The citation was appealed by Seven Oaks on Aug. 25.

A formal hearing on the appeal was held earlier this week, on Monday.

The Aug. 5 mask mandate says that when community spread of the COVID-19 pandemic is high in Monroe County, as determined by state metrics, everyone “must wear a face shield, face covering, or mask…over their nose and mouth when in an indoor public place and shall at all times, follow current CDC guidelines in every situation.”

Schools get a specific mention in the Aug. 5 order: “For academic and extracurricular activities, all K-12 schools in Monroe county shall follow the guidelines of the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Indiana Department of Education (IDOE), and the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH).” Continue reading “Appeal denied: Mask violation citation of Seven Oaks Classical School upheld by county commissioners, fine waived”

No same-day decision after hearing on school’s appeal of mask mandate citation

No decision was made Monday afternoon on the appeal filed by Seven Oaks Classical School, which challenged a $250 citation it had received from Monroe County’s department of health for an alleged violation of the county’s Aug. 5 mask mandate.

The mask mandate says that when community spread of the COVID-19 pandemic is high in Monroe County, as determined by state metrics, everyone “must wear a face shield, face covering, or mask…over their nose and mouth when in an indoor public place and shall at all times, follow current CDC guidelines in every situation.”

Schools get a specific mention in the Aug. 5 order: “For academic and extracurricular activities, all K-12 schools in Monroe county shall follow the guidelines of the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Indiana Department of Education (IDOE), and the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH).”

The citation was based on a visit to the school from county health administrator Penny Caudill. The note on the citation reads: “Observed few masks, although some students, faculty and staff had masks on.”

The three-member Monroe County board of commissioners voted unanimously on Monday to wrap up the hearing after around 2 hours and 40 minutes of presentations and cross examinations that were at times intense.

Commissioners decided Monday to put off a vote on the appeal. But under the county code that regulates the appeals process for health order citations, which was enacted in May of 2021, the commissioners will have to issue a written decision not more than 15 working days from Monday. Continue reading “No same-day decision after hearing on school’s appeal of mask mandate citation”

Tickets for failure to clear snow from Bloomington’s sidewalks so far this year: 24 minus 1

In the city of Bloomington, property owners are responsible under local law for clearing the sidewalks next to their land.

The red triangles denoted locations for complaints logged by citizens in the uReport system about uncleared sidewalks or unplowed streets.

The fine is graduated: $50 (first offense), $100 (second offense), and $150 (third offense).

The city’s housing and neighborhood and development (HAND) department enforces the ordinance.

How many tickets and fines has Bloomington’s foot of snow in February, caused HAND to issue?

According to HAND’s interim director, Brent Pierce, for the 2021 snow removal ticket cycle, the city of Bloomington has so far issued 24 tickets with fines.

Of the total 252 citations, 228 were warnings, Pierce said. It is HAND policy to issue a warning, and if the snow has not been removed after a second visit, then a ticket is issued with a fine.

The snow removal warning/ticket cycle starts on Aug. 1 of each year.

The time frame spelled out in the ordinance for required clearing or snow and ice is “within twenty-four hours after snow or ice has ceased to fall or in any way accumulate.” Continue reading “Tickets for failure to clear snow from Bloomington’s sidewalks so far this year: 24 minus 1”

Bloomington wants a quick appeal to intermediate ruling in lawsuit over disputed plan commission seat

After a judge ruled on Friday to deny Bloomington’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit about a plan commission seat, on Monday the city asked the judge to allow for a quick appeal on the ruling.

3-guenther kappas cockerham
From left: Andrew Guenther, Nick Kappas, Chris Cockerham.

By ruling on Friday against Bloomington’s bid to get the case dismissed, local special judge Erik Allen was allowing the lawsuit to go forward. If successful, the lawsuit could change the membership of Bloomington’s city plan commission.

If the lawsuit filed by Monroe County GOP chair William Ellis and would-be plan commissioner Andrew Guenther is successful, Guenther would replace Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s appointment to the seat, Chris Cockerham.

The seat became vacant at the start of the year when Bloomington’s mayor John Hamilton decided not to re-appoint Nick Kappas to the plan commission.

On Monday, Bloomington filed a request asking local special judge Erik Allen to certify his denial of the city’s bid to get the case dismissed, so that Bloomington can ask for the court of appeals to look at Allen’s ruling.

It’s called an interlocutory appeal, which is a way for a party in a lawsuit to ask for a second opinion on a ruling during a case, before proceedings have concluded in the lower court.

Assuming Allen goes ahead and grants Bloomington’s request, that pauses the discovery process for the next phase of case. Continue reading “Bloomington wants a quick appeal to intermediate ruling in lawsuit over disputed plan commission seat”

Bloomington files notice of appeal on rulings in 4th Street parking garage eminent domain case

cropped 2020-02-02 parking garage 222 IMG_6726
The view to the northwest from the corner of Walnut and 3rd Streets. Left is the 222 Hats building the city wants to use eminent domain to acquire.  Right is the empty lot where the 352-space 4th Street parking garage once stood. Feb. 3, 2020 (Dave Askins/Beacon(

In a filing made last Friday, Jan. 31, Bloomington gave notice of an appeal of rulings made against the city in the 222 Hats eminent domain case involving the replacement of the 4th Street parking garage. Continue reading “Bloomington files notice of appeal on rulings in 4th Street parking garage eminent domain case”

Analysis: After lower court ruling against Bloomington, when does 4th Street parking garage get rebuilt?

cropped 12-25-2019 IMG_4528
Looking south on Dec. 25, 2019, from 4th Street across the empty lot where the city’s 352-space parking garage previously stood. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

Christmas morning dawned bright over the now empty lot at 4th and Walnut streets where a parking garage once stood. It offered 352 spaces for people to park their cars, then go to work, shop, or take care of errands in the downtown area.

The demolition started in earnest in late September and was done by early November.

After last Friday’s court ruling, the now smoothed-over dirt lot will probably remain empty for at least a few more months.

Likely to be completed ahead of the 4th Street parking structure replacement is a new 379-space city parking garage for the Trades District. In a press release issued on Dec. 24 the city announced that preparations for construction would start this Friday. It’s scheduled to be completed about a year from now.

For the 4th Street structure, the city of Bloomington is still sorting out its options. A Monroe County circuit court judge ruled on Friday in favor of the property owner in the city’s eminent domain lawsuit. Continue reading “Analysis: After lower court ruling against Bloomington, when does 4th Street parking garage get rebuilt?”

Bloomington annexation lawsuit update: Deadline for appeal brief extended until July 25

In 2017, Indiana’s state legislature passed a law terminating the annexation process that Bloomington was undertaking at the time. The city of Bloomington filed suit and in late April won a judgement in the Monroe Circuit Court against the state: The court concluded that the annexation law, passed as a part of the budget bill, violated two different parts of the state constitution.

order granting extension

The state of Indiana has already taken the first step to appeal the Monroe County court’s ruling—to give formal notice of appeal.

The state’s deadline for the next step, filing a brief with the state’s Supreme Court, would have been this Thursday, June 27. The time limit is 30 days after the date when the trial court clerk gave notice that the record was complete—which was May 28.

But the state filed a motion—which was unopposed by the city of Bloomington, and granted by Chief Justice Loretta H. Rush—for an extension of the deadline by four weeks. So the state now has until July 25 to file its brief. Continue reading “Bloomington annexation lawsuit update: Deadline for appeal brief extended until July 25”