Zero conditional use requests for duplexes after 6 months under Bloomington’s new zoning, plan commissioner named

Since Bloomington’s most recently updated unified development ordinance (UDO) was signed into law by mayor John Hamilton on July 12 last year, no conditional use applications have been filed to build duplexes in older residential neighborhoods.

That was the report to the Bloomington city council’s Wednesday meeting by development services manager Jackie Scanlan.  The only way new duplexes can be constructed in older neighborhoods is through a conditional use application.

Also on Wednesday, planning and transportation director Scott Robinson alerted the council to some upcoming proposed changes in the UDO—revisions to the incentives that are available to developers. Developers of student housing are using the sustainability incentive, but not the affordability incentive, Robinson reported. The goal of the proposed changes will be to encourage the use of both incentive types, Robinson said. 

Those proposed changes to the UDO’s incentives will eventually be reviewed by Bloomington’s plan commission, before the city council makes a decision. The city plan commission’s next meeting is set for Feb. 7. That will be the commission’s first meeting of the year. The group will have two new faces compared to last year. 

The city council representative to the plan commission will be Ron Smith, not Susan Sandberg, who has served the last few years in that role. The other new face isTim Ballard, who has been appointed to the Bloomington plan commission as the replacement for Beth Cate, who resigned when she took the role of the city’s corporation counsel in early January. 

Ballard is a broker/realtor with Griffin Realty, the firm headed up by Bloomington’s deputy mayor, Don Griffin.   Continue reading “Zero conditional use requests for duplexes after 6 months under Bloomington’s new zoning, plan commissioner named”

Required occupancy affidavits for renters OK’d by Bloomington city council, but city’s HAND department won’t maintain records

On a 5–3 vote on Wednesday night, Bloomington’s city council approved a new local law that requires landlords to sign and maintain an affidavit that lists the occupants of their rental properties.

The basic law applies just to those buildings with four or fewer rental units.

Tenants also have to sign an affidavit affirming the accuracy of the landlord’s affidavit.

But under the ordinance as adopted by the council, the affidavits signed by the landlord and tenant don’t have to be submitted to the city’s housing and neighborhood development (HAND) department.

Instead they have to be maintained by the landlord, and produced for scrutiny during any HAND rental inspection, or in response to a request from the city.

The stewardship of the affidavits was changed from the HAND department to the landlord through a major amendment to the legislation [Am 03], which was adopted by the council on Wednesday night.

Also a part of the amendment was the deletion of the relationship information among tenants that had been required in the version presented to the council at its first reading in May.

Two weeks ago, when councilmembers could have taken final action, they instead decided to postpone consideration of the ordinance until this week.

The ordinance is intended to help the HAND department enforce the city’s zoning code on the definition of a “family.” Family relationships help determine the maximum occupancy for a housing unit, under Bloomington’s unified development ordinance (UDO). Continue reading “Required occupancy affidavits for renters OK’d by Bloomington city council, but city’s HAND department won’t maintain records”

Sovereign immunity means a fence for Bloomington post office

In 1914, a new building for Bloomington high school was constructed where Seminary Park now sits, between Walnut and College, on 2nd Street.

It’s the same year when Robert Frost’s poem “Mending Wall” was published, with its proverbial line from the storyteller’s adjacent landowner: “Good fences make good neighbors.”

In mid-May the US Postal Service started building an eight-foot-tall fence around its branch just south of the park.

With its fence construction, by the standards of the narrator’s neighbor in the “Mending Wall,” the USPS has made itself a “good neighbor” to the public park.

Some local reaction has been more along the lines of the storyteller in the poem: “Before I built a wall I’d ask to know / What I was walling in or walling out, / And to whom I was like to give offense. / Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, That wants it down.”

The image is from the Pictometry module of Monroe County’s online property lookup system.

It looks like the fence probably doesn’t conform with local zoning code. But the principle of “sovereign immunity” means the USPS, even as a lessee of the property, can build the fence the way it wants, according to Bloomington’s legal department.

Continue reading “Sovereign immunity means a fence for Bloomington post office”

Law requiring occupancy affidavits for renters put off at least 2 weeks by Bloomington city council

A decision on a proposed new local law that would require landlords and tenants to sign occupancy affidavits, and file them with the housing and neighborhood development (HAND) department, has been postponed by Bloomington’s city council until June 16.

The unanimous vote to postpone final action came after public commentary from one smaller-scale landlord and a representative of the local apartment association. They called into question the need for the new local law.

As councilmembers were mulling a longer postponement, until July 21, HAND director John Zody told them, “I would encourage the council to fix a date where we would hear this again, if possible, so that we can work off of a timeline.”

Zody told councilmembers the new ordinance is a priority for the administration.

It became a priority, Zody wrote in response to an emailed question from The Square Beacon, when the state legislature enacted legislation that prohibits the city from requiring the issuance of a tenant’s rights and responsibilities document. Bloomington’s rights and responsibilities document included a section similar to the occupancy affidavit. [SEA 148]

According to a “whereas” clause in the ordinance, Bloomington has “a demonstrated problem enforcing over-occupancy in residential rental units.” It’s a claim that drew skepticism during  public commentary.

The ordinance would require landlords to make a “diligent inquiry” into the family relationships, if any, among tenants, and list names of tenants, and the nature of those relationships. Continue reading “Law requiring occupancy affidavits for renters put off at least 2 weeks by Bloomington city council”

Occupancy affidavits for smaller rental properties mulled by Bloomington city council

Excerpt from definition of “family” in Bloomington’s unified development ordinance (UDO).

Owners of Bloomington rental properties with four or fewer units might have to start submitting “a fully executed occupancy affidavit” to the city’s housing and neighborhood development (HAND) department.

Under a new ordinance proposed by the city’s administration, owners and tenants alike would need to sign statements about the number of adult occupants in a rental unit, and their relationship to each other.

The idea is to enforce the definition of a “family” in the city’s unified development ordinance (UDO). Bloomington’s UDO sets a limit of three for the number of unrelated adults who count as a family.

Adults who are related by blood or marriage are not restricted in number in the UDO’s definition of a family.

At its Wednesday meeting, the city council’s housing committee gave the administration’s proposed ordinance a first look. With a few grumbles, the committee voted unanimously to send the ordinance to the full council for possible enactment at the council’s June 2 meeting. Continue reading “Occupancy affidavits for smaller rental properties mulled by Bloomington city council”

Bloomington duplex zoning ordinance enacted on 6–3 vote, revised citywide zoning map OK’d on 8–1 tally

On votes that were taken on five different days, starting on May 4, Bloomington’s city council has approved an ordinance that changes the status of duplexes in the basic law of land use in the city.

The final vote came on Thursday (May 13).

In the course of its deliberations, the council considered five different amendments to the ordinance.

Two of them were successful—the one making duplexes a conditional use, instead of a permitted use (Am 02), and the one that imposed a cap of 15 duplexes per year and a two-year 150-foot buffer around parcels that are granted a conditional use permit (Am 03).

Instead of being disallowed in the central residential districts of the city (R1, R2, and R3), duplexes will now be allowed, but subject to a review by the board of zoning appeals for a conditional use permit.

The final amendment—to add consideration of undue impact of traffic to criteria to be considered for granting a conditional use permit (Am 05)—failed on a 3–6 vote. Only Dave Rollo, Susan Sandberg and Ron Smith supported it.

Sue Sgambelluri, who had joined the trio in supporting the failed effort to disallow duplexes in R1, R2, and R3, did not throw her support to Am 05. She said that the general criteria in the unified development ordinance (UDO) on review of conditional uses were sufficient, without adding conditions that are specific to duplexes.

It was the same split, but flipped, that determined the 6–3 vote on the ordinance as amended. Only Rollo, Sandberg, and Smith voted against it. Continue reading “Bloomington duplex zoning ordinance enacted on 6–3 vote, revised citywide zoning map OK’d on 8–1 tally”

Rejected 4–5 by Bloomington city council: Affordable housing link to more bedrooms in duplexes

On a 4–5 vote taken Wednesday night, Bloomington’s city council rejected an amendment to a proposed zoning ordinance that would have tied a higher number of bedrooms in a duplex unit to affordability requirements.

Voting for Amendment 04 were its sponsors, Dave Rollo and Susan Sandberg, who were joined by Ron Smith and Sue Sgambelluri. Voting against it were Steve Volan, Isabel Piedmont-Smith, Matt Flaherty, Kate Rosenbarger, and Jim Sims.But by the time the council recessed its meeting around 11 p.m., its work on Ordinance 21-23 was still not finished.

The council left off in the middle of public commentary on Amendment 05, which would add potential undue traffic congestion as one of the criteria the board of zoning appeals would need to consider, when granting a conditional use permit for a duplex.

The council is set to resume its session at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday (May 13).

Under Amendment 04 to Ordinance 21-23, which failed on a 4–5 split, a duplex unit could not have more than two bedrooms per unit—for a total of four. Three bedrooms would be allowed—for a total of six—only if affordability requirements are met.

Under the failed Amendment 04, one way to meet the affordability requirements would be to make both sides of the duplex permanently income-restricted for those earning below 120 percent of the HUD area median income (AMI). The other way to meet the affordability requirements would be to make one of the duplex units permanently income-restricted for those earning below 80 percent of the AMI.

Voting for Amendment 04 were its sponsors, Dave Rollo and Susan Sandberg, who were joined by Ron Smith and Sue Sgambelluri. Voting against it were Steve Volan, Isabel Piedmont-Smith, Matt Flaherty, Kate Rosenbarger, and Jim Sims. Continue reading “Rejected 4–5 by Bloomington city council: Affordable housing link to more bedrooms in duplexes”

Duplexes get some “guardrails” from Bloomington city council, more could follow

After voting unanimously the previous night to allow duplexes as a conditional use in Bloomington’s central residential districts, on Thursday Bloomington’s city council  added some additional constraints on duplexes.

The “guardrails” that are included in Amendment 03 to Ordinance 21-23 are meant to allay the concern that single-family houses will be bought up by profit-driven developers and rapidly converted to duplexes.

The council’s work on duplex zoning will continue next week.

One feature of Amendment 03 imposes a cap of 15 duplexes per calendar year. An earlier version of the amendment had put the cap at 10.

Another feature of Amendment 03 is a geographic constraint. It adds a requirement that within a 150-foot buffer of a property where a conditional use permit has been issued for a duplex, no additional duplexes will be allowed for two years.

An earlier version of the amendment prohibited additional duplexes within the buffer in perpetuity, not just two years. That change was something that councilmember Matt Flaherty mentioned on Thursday night as helping to persuade him that he could support the amendment.

The tally when the council voted was 7–2 in favor of Amendment 03, with dissent from Steve Volan and Isabel Piedmont-Smith. Continue reading “Duplexes get some “guardrails” from Bloomington city council, more could follow”

On 9–0 vote Bloomington dials down duplexes from permitted to conditional use

Duplexes will not be a permitted (by-right) use in Bloomington’s central residential districts. But they will still be allowed, as a conditional use.

That’s the outcome of Wednesday’s continuation of a city council special session that started on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, councilmembers voted unanimously to amend Ordinance 21-23. As recommended to them by the city’s plan commission, the new law would have established duplexes as permitted (by-right) use in R1 (Residential Large Lot), R2 (Residential Medium Lot), and R3 (Residential Small Lot) districts.

In the city’s current UDO (unified development ordinance) duplexes are not allowed in those districts.

The 9–0 vote to amend Ordinance 21-23 restored to conditional use the proposed status of duplexes in R1, R2, and R3. That had been the basic recommendation of the city’s planning staff.

The granting of a conditional use permit will require a hearing in front of the board of zoning appeals.

On Tuesday, the council had considered an amendment that would have changed the status of duplexes in the R-districts to disallowed, but it failed on a 4–5 tally.

Among Wednesday’s roughly 40 public commenters and councilmembers alike, the conditional use amendment that was approved on Wednesday was generally considered as a kind of compromise position.

But the negotiations on some additional restrictions to Ordinance 21-23 are not yet done.

Based on council deliberations on Wednesday, three additional amendments will be considered, when the same special meeting continues on Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

As councilmember Susan Sandberg put it, the additional amendments will add some “teeth” to the restrictions on duplexes in the ordinance. Two of them are already drafted, numbered Amendment 03 and Amendment 04. Continue reading “On 9–0 vote Bloomington dials down duplexes from permitted to conditional use”

City council: Duplexes won’t be disallowed in Bloomington’s central residential areas

An ordinance that would change Bloomington’s basic law on land use, so that duplexes would be permitted (aka “by right”) in central residential areas, has survived a proposed amendment that would have disallowed duplexes there.

At a special session of the city council on Tuesday, Amendment 01 to Ordinance 21-23 failed on a 4–5 vote. It got support from its sponsors, Susan Sandberg, Dave Rollo, and Ron Smith, who were joined by Sue Sgambelluri.

Voting against the amendment were Jim Sims, Isabel Piedmont-Smith, Steve Volan, Kate Rosenbarger, and Matt Flaherty.

The current unified development ordinance (UDO) disallows duplexes in R1 (Residential Large Lot), R2 (Residential Medium Lot), and R3 (Residential Small Lot) districts. The failed amendment would have preserved that state of affairs, where existing duplexes can persist as non-conforming uses, but no new duplexes can be built.

Likely to be considered on Wednesday, when the special session is set to continue at 7:30 p.m., is an amendment to Ordinance 21-23, sponsored by Sims and Piedmont-Smith, that would still allow duplexes in R1, R2, and R3, but only as a conditional use. The granting of a conditional use permit requires a hearing in front of the board of zoning appeals. Continue reading “City council: Duplexes won’t be disallowed in Bloomington’s central residential areas”