Conservation district math: Dec. 4 to mark conversion of Near West Side to historic district

Next Sunday (Dec. 4), Bloomington’s Near West Side conservation district will become a historic district.

That’s based on a city council decision that was made three years earlier. On a unanimous vote in December 2019, the council voted to establish the Near West Side as a conservation district.

It’s the area roughly bounded on the north by the railroad right-of-way alongside Butler Park, on the south by Kirkwood Avenue, and on the west by North Adams—shown in green in the maps that are included with this article.

At just under 100 acres, by land area, it will be the biggest historic district in Bloomington.

The difference between a conservation district and a historic district is more than just the label.

In a historic district, any exterior alterations are subject to review by the city’s historic preservation commission (HPC). In a conservation district, it’s just moving or demolishing buildings, or constructing new buildings that are subject to HPC review.

No additional city council approval was needed to make the conversion next week. In historic preservation terms, the conversion is called an “elevation” of the conservation district to a historic district.

Under state statute and local law, the conversion to a historic district is automatic, unless enough property owners object in writing.

Among property owners who responded to a recent city poll, nearly three-quarters objected.

Responding to a question from The B Square, Bloomington’s historic preservation program manager Gloria Colom Braña indicated that 120 returned a ballot voting against the elevation, with 41 voting in favor.

But that’s not how a majority is determined for purposes of objecting to a conservation district elevation. Continue reading “Conservation district math: Dec. 4 to mark conversion of Near West Side to historic district”