Sides settle in historic house demolition lawsuit, Bloomington doesn’t levy $83.5K fine

A settlement agreement approved by the court last week means that the owner of a house at 523 West 7th St. across from Fairview Elementary School will not be fined $83,500 for demolishing it about two years ago without the proper permit.

It was Monroe County circuit court judge Kara Krothe who signed off on the settlement, by ordering the case dismissed, based an a joint motion from the two sides—the owners and the city of Bloomington.

In fall 2019, the house was under consideration by Bloomington’s historic preservation commission (HPC) for designation as historic.

It was on Aug. 8, 2019 when the HPC recommended that the city council consider designating the house as historic. But the commission’s resolution was missing a crucial element: It did not explicitly say that the house was being put under interim protection.

Before it was put on the city council’s agenda for action, towards the end of September 2019, owners David Holdman and Judie Baker had the house demolished. They did not have the required certificate of zoning compliance. Continue reading “Sides settle in historic house demolition lawsuit, Bloomington doesn’t levy $83.5K fine”

Circuit court trial on demolition permit could come before mid-March BZA hearing on $83.5K fine

Now expected to appear on the March 19 agenda of Bloomington’s board of zoning appeals (BZA) meeting is an objection to the city’s decision last fall to impose an $83,500 fine on the owners of a West 7th Street house.

The owners demolished the house without a required certificate of zoning compliance (CZC).

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View of 523 West 7th St. facing south on Jan. 21, 2020. A house stood there until late September 2019.

The house had previously been reviewed by the city’s historic preservation commission for historic designation.

The BZA hearing was originally set for last November, but it has been put off a couple of times due to scheduling conflicts.

In the last week of February, a related lawsuit filed by the owners against city and county officials saw a light flurry of filings in the Monroe County circuit court. The lawsuit seeks a mandate from the court ordering the city’s planning and transportation director, Terri Porter, to issue the required CZC.

The question now is whether a ruling on the court case will come before or after the BZA hearing.

Just how connected are the court case and the BZA hearing? Continue reading “Circuit court trial on demolition permit could come before mid-March BZA hearing on $83.5K fine”

Owners of demolished house fight Bloomington’s $83.5K fine two ways: Court action, appeal to BZA

After the owners of a house on West 7th Street demolished it last year, the city of Bloomington imposed an $83,500 fine—for not first getting a certificate of zoning compliance.

Before the house was demolished, it was reviewed for possible historic designation. According to city officials, it was still under the review process, when it was demolished.

The city imposed the fine in late October, after the house was demolished on Sept. 27.

What has happened since then?

Baker and Holdman immediately appealed to the city’s board of zoning appeals (BZA). A bit later, in mid-December, they filed a mandamus action in Monroe’s circuit court. Continue reading “Owners of demolished house fight Bloomington’s $83.5K fine two ways: Court action, appeal to BZA”

Bloomington fines owner of property $83.5K for demolishing historic house without permit, owner to appeal

According to a press released issued Monday afternoon and subsequent clarification from the city, Bloomington’s department of planning and transportation has levied an $83,500 fine against the owners of a house on 7th Street. They demolished the house in late September without first obtaining a certificate of zoning compliance.

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523 W. 7th Street on Sept. 30, 2019 (Dave Askins/Beacon)

On Aug. 8, the city’s historic preservation commission (HPC) recommended the house to the city council for historic designation. The commission’s resolution did not explicitly say that the house was being put under interim protection.

But the requirement of a certificate of zoning compliance before demolition applies to structures whether or not they’re under consideration for historic designation. It was the owners’ request for such a certificate that led to the demolition delay process, which the HPC was following when it made its recommendation for historic designation.

The amount of the fine, according to the press release, was based on a penalty levied for each day the property was in violation of the city code, but capped at the most recent assessed value of the house and garage by Monroe County’s auditor.

Late Monday afternoon, Bloomington’s corporation counsel, Philippa Guthrie, told The Beacon that the property owners, David Holdman and Judie Baker, had filed an appeal of the city’s decision to fine them.

A notice of the violation was sent to  Holdman and Judie Baker on Oct. 16, according to the press release. The press release says that the property owners have a right to appeal to the city’s board of zoning appeals within five days of the date of the notice.

Guthrie said the appeal is currently set for the BZA’s next meeting, which is Nov. 21. Continue reading “Bloomington fines owner of property $83.5K for demolishing historic house without permit, owner to appeal”

Historic house teardown technicalities could add fuel to upcoming UDO debate

The demolition late last week of the house at 523 W. 7th Street was initially analyzed as a flagrant flouting of Bloomington’s due process  for assigning historic designation to a property. That’s because the city’s historic preservation commission passed a resolution on Aug 8, recommending to the city council that it vote to designate the house as a separate historic district.

Conor Herterich, the city’s historic preservation program manager, told The Beacon on Monday that the demolition violated the property’s interim protection against demolition—a protection provided by the commission’s resolution.

As of late Tuesday afternoon, however, it appears that the commission’s resolution, initially believed by city officials to have given the house interim protection, was not worded so that the intended protection was given. The meeting minutes from the Aug. 8 meeting say: “…the HPC recommends its historic designation under Title 8 of the BMC to the Common Council with the attached map.” There doesn’t appear to have been any explicit mention of “interim protection.”

Based on information from a source with the city, there’s been an preliminary conclusion by city staff that the property owners did not flout any interim protection, because the wording of the resolution didn’t explicitly mention “interim protection.” According to the source, there’s a second technicality that’s apparently in favor of the property owner, David Holdman. The second technical glitch is the city’s possible failure to give Holdman proper notice of the HPC’s finding and recommendation. Continue reading “Historic house teardown technicalities could add fuel to upcoming UDO debate”