Monroe County says no to rezone, would have allowed farm to have short-term rental use

In a rare split vote, Monroe County commissioners have denied a request for the rezoning of some property east of the city of Bloomington.

The owner had requested a rezone, in order to use a farmhouse located on 19-acres as an Airbnb—that is, a short-term rental.

The specific proposal from Jason Voorhies was to change the zoning from Estate Residential 2.5 to Agricultural/Rural Reserve, which would have allowed use of the property as a tourist home/cabin.

The zoning change came with a commitment by Voorhies to apply for a historic preservation overlay. According to the Indiana State Historic Architectural and Archaeological Research Database (SHAARD), the existing farmhouse and associated barn structures are listed as “contributing.” That’s a designation that means the property met the basic requirement of being pre-1970, but that it is not historic enough to stand on its own as “outstanding” or “notable.”

Part of the case Voorhies tried to make to commissioners was that the income from the property’s use as a short-term rental would help him to rehabilitate and maintain the farmhouse and two barns.

Wednesday’s vote by the three commissioners was not unanimous. Lee Jones voted yes while Penny Githens and Julie Thomas voted no. But as the appointee from the board of county commissioners to the plan commissioner, Thomas had voted for the rezone at that group’s June 21 meeting.

The plan commission’s recommendation was in support by just a 5–4 margin. Joining Thomas on that vote were: Jerry Pittsford, Dee Owens, Amy Thompson, and Bernard Guerrettaz. Voting against the recommendation on the plan commission were Trohn Enright-Randolph, Geoff McKim, Jim Stainbrook, and Margaret Clements.

As Thomas put it last week, when commissioners first heard the request, “I did vote yes, on the original petition, but I am nothing if not protean and willing to change my mind based on facts and data presented to me.” Continue reading “Monroe County says no to rezone, would have allowed farm to have short-term rental use”

Can Monroe County commissioners, election board bury beefs before 2022?

Towards the start of their Wednesday meeting this week, the three Monroe County commissioners responded in turn to remarks made by county clerk Nicole Browne at last week’s election board meeting.

Commissioner Penny Githens led off, “To hear ourselves and to hear people in our office called liars and obfuscators is very disrespectful.”

As one the three county election board members, Browne had delivered her remarks last week on the topic of the ongoing acrimony between commissioners and the election board about space allocations for the county election division.

Under state law, the county clerk is a board member, along with one appointment made by each of the Republican and Democratic party chairs. All three county commissioners are Democrats, as is Browne.

Browne wants the county elections division to be able to consolidate all of its currently distributed space under one roof, by having the whole Johnson Hardware building at its disposal, instead of just a part of the first floor. The building, aka Election Central, is located on the southwest corner of Madison and 7th Streets.

Browne’s request has enjoyed solid support during public commentary time at meetings of the county commissioners starting in August.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Githens said, “We’re happy to work with the election board and negotiate options to hear their suggestions, but only if the dialogue is respectful.”

That dialogue could continue this week, at a joint meeting between commissioners and the election board, which has been set for Thursday at 1 p.m.

That’s when commissioners want the election board to take a vote on the alternate space that the commissioners have offered to the election division. Continue reading “Can Monroe County commissioners, election board bury beefs before 2022?”