Last week, Bloomington’s planning staff hosted two more public sessions by video conference, about possible changes to the city zoning map as well as the text of the unified development ordinance (UDO).
The UDO was repealed and replaced last year amid an acrimonious community-wide debate. Proposed changes to the zoning map were expected this year, as some newly created zoning districts R4 (residential urban) and MS (mixed-use student) appeared only in the text, but not on the map.
Not necessarily expected was a reconsideration of the text, affecting which residential districts allow for duplexes, triplexes and four-plexes. That was a main point of friction last year.
Residents of older neighborhoods who opposed the idea of plexes as allowable uses where they live, question the re-introduction of the issue, just a year after the city council voted 6–2 against plexes, even on conditional use, in R1, R2 and R3 neighborhoods.
Part of the message from planning staff over the last few weeks of video conferences with the public has focused on the preliminary nature of these late-year information sessions.
“We are not even in the public hearing process yet at all,” said Jackie Scanlan, who’s development services manager for Bloomington’s planning department. She added, “We are just in an information gathering process. We put out ideas. We are taking feedback on those, so that we can craft a draft zoning map and text amendment.”
Put in orchestral terms, starting Wednesday night at 6 p.m., Bloomington’s city council president Dave Rollo will conduct a political choir of sorts. Not everyone will be singing from the same song book.
On the council’s agenda are proposed amendments to a proposed update to the unified development ordinance (UDO), which is the city’s basic land use and development policy document. Presentation to the council of the draft UDO update has already stretched across four separate evenings recently, starting with the first one on Oct. 16. It was followed by meetings on Oct. 22, Oct. 23 and Oct. 30.
The crucial concept that has created community-wide discord is density: How concentrated should living arrangements be in different parts of the city? The four proposed amendments that are first in numerical sequence on the council’s agenda all deal with density.
An amendment co-sponsored by Rollo and councilmember Chris Sturbaum would revise the plan-commission-recommended UDO draft so that the use of property as duplexes and triplexes in core neighborhoods would be prohibited.
A competing amendment from councilmember Steve Volan would remove the “conditional use” requirement for duplexes and triplexes that’s in the UDO draft. That means a required public review process would be eliminated, but the use-specific standards for the plexes would remain. The use-specific standards include a maximum number of total bedrooms: six for duplexes and nine for triplexes.
The use-specific standards for plexes are the subject of two amendments put forward by councilmember Isabel Piedmont-Smith. One of the amendments would reduce the maximum bedrooms to four bedrooms in duplexes and six bedrooms for triplexes.