Negative stamp on rezone for jail by Bloomington plan commission, could still win city council’s OK

The Monroe County government’s planned construction of a new jail on an 87-acre parcel in the southwest corner of Bloomington hit a snag on Monday night.

By a 6–3 vote, Bloomington’s plan commission supported the planning staff’s recommendation to send a negative recommendation to the city council about Monroe County government’s request for a rezone of the 87 acres, so that a jail could be built there.

The county government’s request would change the zoning of the land from mixed-use employment (ME) to mixed-use institutional (MI). Use of the property as a jail would not be allowed under ME, but could be allowed under MI.

A jail is a “conditional use” under MI zoning.

That means even if the city council were to approve the rezone, Monroe County government would still have to go through the conditional use approval process in front of the city’s board of zoning appeals.

On Monday, a staff attorney for the county, Jeff Cockerill, told the plan commission that Monroe County had a purchase agreement for the land, contingent on approval of a rezone—but that agreement expires at the end of the year.

After this Wednesday, the city council’s calendar for the rest of the year has two more regular meetings.

There’s now a 10-day timeframe for planning director Scott Robinson to certify the outcome of the plan commission’s Monday recommendation to the city clerk. That would set up Monroe County government with enough time to hit the deadline for submission of the materials to the city council office for the council’s Dec. 7 meeting, when the rezone could get a first reading.

That could set the table for the city council to approve the rezone, when it would get a second reading at the council’s final meeting of the year on Dec. 21. Continue reading “Negative stamp on rezone for jail by Bloomington plan commission, could still win city council’s OK”

First rezone hearing for potential new jail highlights employment center versus institutional use

On Monday, a lot of ground got covered at the Bloomington plan commission’s first hearing about a rezone request from Monroe County government.

The rezone is needed if a new jail is to be built in the southwest corner of the city.

But one topic emerged as a big concern for plan commissioners: Should they depart from the “employment center” designation for the area that is reflected in the city’s comprehensive plan?

The current mixed-use employment (ME) zoning for the 87-acre parcel squares up perfectly with the comprehensive plan’s designation. The county’s request would change the zoning of the land from mixed-use employment (ME) to mixed-use institutional (MI). Use of the property as a jail would not be allowed under ME, but could be allowed under MI. A jail is a “conditional use” under MI zoning.

President of the plan commission, Brad Wisler, put it like this: “A large chunk of our employment in Bloomington comes from those uses that the ME zone is designed for.” Wisler added, “If you look at things like Cook, Catalent, et cetera, if we ever want to attract another one of those types of employers, this seems like a prime spot for it.”

The second hearing in front of the plan commission is set for Nov. 14. The plan commission’s recommendation will feed into the Bloomington city council’s decision on the rezone. Continue reading “First rezone hearing for potential new jail highlights employment center versus institutional use”

Rezone request for potential county jail property to be heard by Bloomington plan commission

Should an 87-acre parcel in the southwest corner of Bloomington be rezoned so that a new Monroe County jail can be built there?

That’s the question that Bloomington plan commissioners will start tackling at their regular meeting on Monday (Oct. 10).

Instead of voting at that meeting on the rezone request from Monroe County, city plan commissioners will likely move the matter to a second hearing to be held at their November meeting.

The county’s request would change the zoning of the land from mixed-use employment (ME) to mixed-use institutional (MI). Use of the property as a jail would not be allowed under ME, but could be under MI. A jail is a “conditional use” under MI zoning.

Monroe County has made an offer to purchase the property for about $10 million. But that offer is contingent on  an eventual rezone, approved by the city council.

The plan commission’s recommendation on the rezone, for or against, will be a big factor eventually considered by city councilmembers when the request comes before them. Continue reading “Rezone request for potential county jail property to be heard by Bloomington plan commission”

Bloomington OKs 135-bedroom apartment building across from IU football stadium

A six-story building with 75 apartments and 135 total bedrooms across Dunn Street from IU football stadium was approved on a unanimous vote of the Bloomington plan commission at its regular monthly meeting on Monday.

Construction on the project, which was put forward by University Properties VI, LLC, is expected to start in November and finish by August 2024.

The site spans the block between Dunn and Grant streets along 19th Street. Now on the east end of the site are two vintage 1966 apartment buildings with a total of 30 units. On the west end of the site are two single-family houses that were built in 1950.

The site is north of the Evolve student housing complex. Continue reading “Bloomington OKs 135-bedroom apartment building across from IU football stadium”

Did Bloomington plan commission meeting follow state law on electronic meetings?

Monday’s regular meeting of Bloomington’s plan commission was the first one since Indiana governor Eric Holcomb’s emergency health order was lifted.

The plan commission’s meeting was conducted on a hybrid in-person-electronic platform.

Just four commissioners attended in person, out of nine voting members. Two participated via Zoom video conference.

Four out of nine is 44.4 percent, which is less than the 50 percent required to be physically present at a hybrid meeting—under an amendment to the Open Door Law (ODL) made by the state legislature in 2021.

For insight on the question of the plan commission’s possible violation of the ODL, The B Square has reached out to city attorney Mike Rouker, who attended Monday’s plan commission meeting.

The change to the ODL in 2021 recognized the benefit of allowing some members of a public body to participate remotely, based on experience with such meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic.  But the legislature restricted remote participation in several ways.

One example of a restriction on hybrid meetings, which was observed by Bloomington plan commissioners on Monday night, is the requirement that votes have to be taken by a roll call.

Another requirement is that at least half the members of the governing body must be physically present.

That’s a requirement that does not seem to have been met. Continue reading “Did Bloomington plan commission meeting follow state law on electronic meetings?”

Plat near former hospital OK’d by Bloomington plan commission, city council must approve alley vacation

Getting unanimous approval from Bloomington’s plan commission on Monday night was a new plat for most of the area bounded by 1st and 2nd streets on the north and south, and Morton and Rogers streets on the east and west.

A plat is a map that shows how the land is divided into lots.

The block is next to the former IU Health hospital site that is being transferred to the city of Bloomington in a $6.5-million real estate deal. It will be redeveloped as a part of that project, which is known as Phase 1 East in the project master plan.  Last week, the city of Bloomington announced that the future development planned there will be called the Hopewell neighborhood.

As part of the plat, Madison Street will be extended south from its current intersection with 2nd Street to 1st Street, and a new “greenway street” called West University Street will be built between Rogers and Morton Streets.

The next step for this particular block will be for the city council to approve the vacation of two alleyways. The alleys won’t be needed in those locations, given the construction of two new streets. (The alleys that need city council approval to be vacated are shown with yellow arrows in the image included with this article.)

The plat request was put forward by the Bloomington redevelopment commission, which is organ of the city that is paying for the real estate transaction as well as the site preparation and design.

The plat approval was not controversial for plan commissioners, two of whom were attending their first meeting as plan commissioners: Tim Ballard and city councilmember Ron Smith. Continue reading “Plat near former hospital OK’d by Bloomington plan commission, city council must approve alley vacation”

Bloomington OKs 6-story building with sustainable features to net 72 housing units near stadium

At its Monday meeting, Bloomington’s plan commission unanimously approved a site plan by University Properties IX for a six-story building with 105 apartments at 19th and Dunn streets, across from the Indiana University Memorial Stadium.

Given the 33 dwelling units currently on the multiple-parcel site—spread across single-family, fourplex, and multifamily structures—the development proposal from University Properties IX would net 72 additional units.

During public commentary on Monday, it emerged that a property owner just to the north of the project has an easement for parking spaces on the site to be developed, and will likely file suit to ask for an injunction to block the project.

But that property dispute is not within the bailiwick of the plan commission. As city attorney Mike Rouker put it, “It’s not for this body to try to adjudicate that dispute, or for me or any member of city staff to try to adjudicate that dispute.”
Continue reading “Bloomington OKs 6-story building with sustainable features to net 72 housing units near stadium”

Court rules for GOP chair, against Bloomington mayor on disputed plan commission seat

Andrew Guenther is the rightful appointee to Bloomington’s plan commission, according to a lower court ruling issued on Thursday morning.

The image links to the an OCRed version of the complete ruling from judge Erik Allen.

The ruling was made by Greene County special judge Erik Allen, who was appointed to hear the case after Monroe County circuit court judges recused themselves.

Judge Allen was elected as a Republican. The case is inherently partisan in character.

In the lawsuit, Monroe County Republican chair William Ellis sought to assert a right under state law provided to a party chair, to appoint Guenther to a spot on the Bloomington plan commission.

Bloomington mayor John Hamilton’s position was that he retained the right to make the appointment, even after leaving the seat vacant for more than 90 days.

In any event, it was  undisputed that non-affiliation with the Democratic Party was essential—in order to conform with the partisan balancing requirement for the five mayoral-appointed seats on the nine-member plan commission.

Hamilton’s eventual pick to fill the vacancy—which was created when he chose not to re-appoint Nick Kappas at the start of 2020—was real estate broker Chris Cockerham.

Cockerham has been serving in the seat contested by Guenther since May 2020.

One of the points of judge Allen’s ruling was that Cockerham’s appointment was not valid, because Cockerham was at the time of his appointment a Democrat as defined by state law. The most recent primary in which he had participated was a primary of the Democratic Party. Continue reading “Court rules for GOP chair, against Bloomington mayor on disputed plan commission seat”

Old Colonial Crest redux: Bloomington OKs mostly same site plan for 671-bedroom student-oriented housing project, but under different zoning

Approved by Bloomington’s plan commission on Monday night was a site plan for a project that would demolish the old Colonial Crest apartment complex, now called The Arch, on the north side of town.

In the place of 206 apartments and 393 bedrooms, spread across 15 separate two-story buildings, the developer plans to construct four residential buildings with a total of 241 apartments and 675 bedrooms, according to a letter from Smith Design Group, which is the consultant for the Aspen TOPCO II Acquisitions project.

That nets roughly 270 more bedrooms on the same site.

It’s basically the same site plan that the plan commission approved in mid-June.

According to Bloomington senior zoning planner Eric Greulich, the big difference between the version approved by the plan commission on Monday, compared to what was approved three months ago, is the lack of any new public roads proposed inside the project site.

Instead, Greulich said, one long driveway will wind through the site, with perpendicular parking off the driveway. A total of 495 parking spaces is included in the site plan. Continue reading “Old Colonial Crest redux: Bloomington OKs mostly same site plan for 671-bedroom student-oriented housing project, but under different zoning”

236-bedroom project on east side gets green light from Bloomington plan commission

Getting unanimous approval from Bloomington’s plan commission on Monday night was a development on the east side of town that will construct 176 new apartments with 236 total bedrooms in five buildings.

Called The Overlook on 3rd, the planned development also includes a self-storage building and a clubhouse, and 265 parking spaces.

The site is a vacant parcel on the south side of 3rd Street,  just west of the WHCC radio tower. The new development will leave in place existing buildings in the immediate vicinity.

The plan commission’s Monday night discussion centered on the new driveway cut onto 3rd Street. The new cut will replace an existing driveway opening that is offset from Morningside Drive to the north. The new driveway entrance, from the south, is planned to align with Morningside Drive.

The question of the driveway entrance nearly caused the petition to be delayed. But a motion to continue consideration of the petition until the plan commission’s October meeting failed on a 3–6 vote. Continue reading “236-bedroom project on east side gets green light from Bloomington plan commission”