Bloomington BZA denies resident’s appeal of citation for backyard parking, storage violations

Parked in Joe Davis’s backyard at 530 S. Washington Street are three vehicles and a trailer that have various materials stacked on them. Stacked outside in other places in the backyard, and on Davis’s front porch, are more materials.

The city of Bloomington contends that the conditions at 530 South Washington violate two parts of city zoning code—one about parking on unimproved surfaces and another about outside storage.

The city sent Davis warnings in August of 2021 and October of 2022, which had compliance deadlines that the city considers unmet. So in mid-August of this year, the city’s planning and transportation department issued a notice of violation with fines totaling $7,650.

Davis appealed the notice of violation.  But on Thursday night, Bloomington’s board of zoning appeals (BZA) upheld the notice.

Within the city’s process, that ends the options for Davis to appeal. But in the Monroe County circuit court, he could appeal the notice and the amount of the fine.

Related to the same conditions on his property, Davis is scheduled to appear next Tuesday in front of the board of public works, to appeal a notice of violation for a different part of city code, which deals with health and sanitation. The city’s housing and neighborhood development (HAND) department is also asking the board to approve a continuous abatement order. Continue reading “Bloomington BZA denies resident’s appeal of citation for backyard parking, storage violations”

Judge reverses Bloomington BZA on variance for downtown condos, orders re-hearing at next meeting

Monroe County circuit court judge Emily Salzmann has reversed last year’s decision by Bloomington’s board of zoning (BZA) to deny a variance for a proposed development on what is now a surface parking lot west of the CVS building on Kirkwood Avenue.

Developer Randy Lloyd’s Cutters Kirkwood 123 had proposed a four-story building with 15 owner-occupied condos on the site, which would have included just 19 percent of the ground floor as commercial space.

That’s why the BZA was asked to grant a variance from a requirement in Bloomington’s downtown overlay—that at least 50 percent of the ground floor square footage be designed for non-residential and non-parking uses.

The BZA denied the request of a variance at its Oct. 20, 2022 meeting.  On Nov. 18, 2022, Lloyd filed a legal action for a judicial review of the BZA’s decision.

The order from Salzmann, which was issued on Tuesday, reverses the BZA’s denial. Tuesday’s order is based on a determination that the city’s legal department and planning staff gave BZA members incorrect advice about the factors that BZA members could consider, in their decision about whether to grant a variance.

So Tuesday’s order returns the question to the BZA “to be heard at their next meeting and decided on at that meeting.”

It’s not clear if “next meeting” means the Thursday, Nov. 16 meeting that is on the BZA’s calendar. Before publication, The B Square was not able to reach Bloomington planning department staff on the question of whether the Cutters variance would be heard and decided on Thursday. Continue reading “Judge reverses Bloomington BZA on variance for downtown condos, orders re-hearing at next meeting”

Bloomington OKs zoning requirement for Beacon’s new shelter, supportive housing facility on 3rd Street

Sometime in late 2024 or possibly into 2025, Beacon, Inc. plans to start construction of a new facility across from Rose Hill Cemetery on 3rd Street.

The 45,000-square-foot two-story building, which will include a day shelter, a 50-bed overnight shelter, 20 one-bedroom apartments, and 5 work-to-live units for on-site staff, will be made legally possible by a conditional use approval for “supportive housing” that was granted by Bloomington’s board of zoning appeals (BZA) at its Thursday night meeting.

The vote by BZA members on the conditional use petition was 4–0.

Beacon, which serves Bloomington’s houseless population, now operates a day shelter, the Shalom Center, which is on Walnut Street, south of Seminary Park. Beacon also operates an overnight shelter called Friends Place, at 919 S. Rogers Street, which is south of Dodds Street.

The concept for the new project is to co-locate Beacon’s existing day shelter and overnight shelter, which will be located on the first floor of the new two-story building. The first floor is planned to include a commercial kitchen, bathrooms, showers, laundry, and a mailroom.

The new program of supportive housing units will occupy the second floor of the new building. The second floor will include 20 one-bedroom apartments for supportive housing and another five apartments for staff, who will be able to live there as part of their compensation for working at the facility.

The land purchase and a big part of the construction will be covered with a $7 million grant that Beacon received through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Continue reading “Bloomington OKs zoning requirement for Beacon’s new shelter, supportive housing facility on 3rd Street”

20 supportive housing units, day/overnight shelters proposed by Beacon on West 3rd Street

Beacon, Inc. is looking to use a $7 million grant it received through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to build a new facility with 20 supportive housing apartments, across 3rd Street from Rose Hill Cemetery.

But in order to pursue that project—which is also planned to include a day shelter, an overnight shelter, and five staff apartments—Beacon will need approval from Bloomington’s board of zoning appeals (BZA). That  approval is subject to the conditional use criteria that are laid out in the city’s  unified development ordinance (UDO).

Beacon’s proposal is the second item on the BZA’s Thursday agenda. The BZA meeting, which will be held in city council chambers at city hall, starts at 5:30 p.m. Continue reading “20 supportive housing units, day/overnight shelters proposed by Beacon on West 3rd Street”

Parking max relaxed by Bloomington: Sporting goods store to replace vacant former Marsh supermarket

By late September next year (2024), an Academy Sports + Outdoor store could be open for business on the east side of Bloomington, north of 3rd Street off Kingston Drive.

The outdoor sporting goods store would operate out of the building that has sat vacant since 2017, when it was home to a Marsh supermarket.

That’s according to Bryan Chandler, president at Eclipse Real Estate, who represented Academy Sports at a special Tuesday night hearing, which was held by Bloomington’s board of zoning appeals (BZA).

What cleared the way for the national big box sporting goods retailer, to put a store at the former Marsh store site, is a variance that was granted by the BZA at the end of Tuesday’s hearing.

Under the terms of the variance, Academy Sports can have 252 parking spaces on the site.

The city’s zoning code would ordinarily place a cap of 169 parking spaces for the 51,268-square-foot building.

The ordinary cap comes from a parking maximum expressed in the city’s unified development ordinance (UDO)—for the use called “retail sales, large”—as 3.3 spaces per 1,000 square feet.

There are already 267 parking spaces on the site, which were available to the Marsh store customers.

The variance says that Academy Sports can keep all but 15 of the 267 spaces, for a total of 252. But there are three conditions attached to the variance. Academy Sports has to install 15 landscape islands in the parking lot. And 26 of the parking spaces have to be provided for ride-share vehicles, not for customers or staff of Academy Sports. Finally, 57 of the parking spaces have to be surfaced with permeable pavers.

On Tuesday night, it took about 90 minutes of deliberations and sorting through the terms and conditions, for the BZA to approve a variance from the city’s maximum number of parking spaces. That came after the board had spent a couple of hours on the topic the week before, at its regular meeting last Thursday (Sept. 21).

The board members voted last week to continue the hearing to this week’s special meeting, at a point when they already seemed inclined to approve some kind of variance. But they wanted to nail down the details of the conditions—and they were running short on time at last week’s meeting.

The need for any variance at all, as well as the planning staff’s recommendation against granting it, was a big source of frustration for the ownership group for the building, which consisted of: Jeff Gould with Crane of Indiana; and David and Eric Kamen, with Bryan Rental.

Even though their previous building tenant, Marsh Supermarkets, had used the building for a similar purpose, because the building had sat vacant for more than 12 months,  any use of the building was considered a new use. The new use made it subject to compliance with the UDO’s newer parking requirements. Those requirements include a maximum of 3.3 parking spaces per 1,000 square feet of building space.

Over the two nights of the hearing, a point that was drawn out was the fact that if the building owners had been trying to lease the building to Academy Sports within 12 months of it becoming vacant, the new parking maximums would not have applied.

Gould and the Kamens were also crunched for time, a constraint they were put under by their current lessee, which is the Kroger Company. The owners had until Oct. 2 to get a deal done, to lease the property to Academy Sports, instead of Kroger.

Kroger had bought the long-term lease at the Marsh bankruptcy auction, Gould told the BZA on Tuesday night. But Kroger did not buy the lease with an eye towards opening a grocery store there. Instead, Gould said, Kroger just wanted to have control of the property as a “defensive mechanism,” to keep competitors out.

Last week, when the BZA was mulling a continuation of the hearing to its scheduled Oct. 19 meeting, the owners protested that it would be too late, given the Oct. 2 deadline that Kroger had set. They characterized the chance to sign a lease with Academy Sports as a unique opportunity.

Bloomington senior planner Eric Greulich countered that the occasion of a new use, which triggers compliance with stricter parking regulations, is also a unique opportunity—for the city and its residents to get the benefits of reduced parking on the site.

At the BZA hearing last week, Greulich talked about the harm that excess asphalt can cause—like excess stormwater runoff and urban heat island impacts. Lots of asphalt doesn’t promote pedestrian accessibility to a building, he said. “Just the presence of asphalt and cars sitting there, goes against many of the goals within our comprehensive plan,” Greulich said.

In the end, BZA members were helped towards a decision to grant the variance by uniformly positive commentary from surrounding businesses and residential neighbors.

They also saw it as a chance to stand up to Kroger. BZA member Tim Ballard put it like this: “Kroger is a monopolistic company, coming in here and really trying to strongarm local business owners and local property owners.”

Ballard continued, “I believe we should fully support and try to support any petitioner, whether big or small, who comes to us this way.”

The vote to grant the variance was unanimous among the four BZA members present on Tuesday—Jo Throckmorton, Tim Ballard, Nikki Farrell, and Barre Klapper. Flavia Burrell was absent.