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”

Delayed: Bloomington plan commission hearing on rezone for possible future site of Monroe County jail

An expected hearing next week on Monroe County government’s request for a rezoning of 87 acres in southwest Bloomington has been put off until October.

The reason for the delay was a failure by Monroe County government to post the required signs at the property, 21 days before the hearing.

The site is the hoped-for location of the new jail that Monroe County is looking to build, in order to meeting constitutional standards.

The rezoning, from mixed-use employment (ME) to mixed-use institutional (MI), was expected to be heard by the Bloomington plan commission next Monday (Sept. 12).

But that hearing has been put off until October 10. In the vocabulary used by the plan commission the hearing has been “continued” until the regular monthly meeting in October.

Bloomington and Monroe County officials have confirmed to The B Square that the hearing was put off a month, because the required signs were not posted at the property at least 21 days before the hearing. Continue reading “Delayed: Bloomington plan commission hearing on rezone for possible future site of Monroe County jail”

Monroe County looking to build new jail in SW Bloomington, $10M real estate deal gets initial OK

If Monroe County builds a new jail, where will it be located? The answer to that question came Wednesday morning.

A $10.02 million purchase agreement for an 87-acre piece of land at the northeast corner of I-69 and West Fullerton Pike was approved on a unanimous vote of the three Monroe County commissioners at their regular Wednesday meeting.

The land sits inside Bloomington in the southwest corner of the city.

The land deal is part of a plan to replace the jail currently located in the justice center building at 7th Street and College Avenue in downtown Bloomington. County officials hope to have the deal done by year’s end.

The impetus to replace the jail includes long-standing challenges identified in two reports from consultants delivered a year ago. Continue reading “Monroe County looking to build new jail in SW Bloomington, $10M real estate deal gets initial OK”

Concern about Bloomington’s police staffing levels in light of potential annexations: By the numbers

According to Bloomington’s fiscal plan in support of its proposed annexation of territory,  the police department would need to add between 24 and 31 sworn officers, at a cost of up to around $2.6 million a year.

The additional officers would be needed in order to provide service to 9,000 more acres of area, and about 14,000 more people, based on Bloomington’s annexation plans.

At Wednesday’s public hearing on the proposed annexations, the president of Bloomington’s police union spoke about his concerns.

Paul Post, who’s president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 88 and a senior police officer for BPD, asked the city council: “Will the city have enough police officers to provide basic police services for the new version of Bloomington?”

It’s an open question, according to Post, because BPD has not been able to maintain the number of officers authorized in the city’s current budget.

BPD has fewer sworn officers than its budgeted number, but is losing officers as fast as the department can replace them, based on Post’s description.

The immediate consequence of the officer shortage, according to Post, is that all three of BPD’s uniformed patrol shifts have had to lower their daily minimum staffing levels. BPD is working at or below minimum staffing, Post said.

That means there are fewer officers who are available to field increased calls for service like “weapons in progress,” according to Post.

The numbers in Bloomington’s online payroll system and calls for service dataset basically square up with Post’s remarks.

Continue reading “Concern about Bloomington’s police staffing levels in light of potential annexations: By the numbers”

Monroe County leaders to form core group to tackle jail issues: “It will be a beast to wrestle.”

The image looking west at the Charlotte Zietlow Justice Center at the corner of College Avenue and 7th Streets is from the Pictometry module of Monroe County’s online property lookup system. The courts are on the lower floors. The jail is housed in the upper floors of the building.

In order to start working through two recent reports from consultants hired to study the local criminal justice system, a core group of Monroe County officials should be formed to start meeting as a public body as often as weekly.

In addition, there’s support for hiring one of the consultants to continue working with Monroe County officials on implementing recommendations.

That was the clear consensus from a joint meeting of the board of commissioners and county councilors on Wednesday night.

The reports from the two consultants—RJS Justice Services and Inclusivity Strategic Consulting—highlighted a number of challenges in Monroe County’s criminal justice system.

To address the problems documented in the reports, County councilor Trent Deckard said, “It is not a thing that we can snap our fingers and do.” Deckard described the magnitude of the criminal justice questions facing the county: “It will be a beast to wrestle. …And here we go.” Continue reading “Monroe County leaders to form core group to tackle jail issues: “It will be a beast to wrestle.””