Old Colonial Crest redux: Bloomington OKs mostly same site plan for 671-bedroom student-oriented housing project, but under different zoning

Approved by Bloomington’s plan commission on Monday night was a site plan for a project that would demolish the old Colonial Crest apartment complex, now called The Arch, on the north side of town.

In the place of 206 apartments and 393 bedrooms, spread across 15 separate two-story buildings, the developer plans to construct four residential buildings with a total of 241 apartments and 675 bedrooms, according to a letter from Smith Design Group, which is the consultant for the Aspen TOPCO II Acquisitions project.

That nets roughly 270 more bedrooms on the same site.

It’s basically the same site plan that the plan commission approved in mid-June.

According to Bloomington senior zoning planner Eric Greulich, the big difference between the version approved by the plan commission on Monday, compared to what was approved three months ago, is the lack of any new public roads proposed inside the project site.

Instead, Greulich said, one long driveway will wind through the site, with perpendicular parking off the driveway. A total of 495 parking spaces is included in the site plan. Continue reading “Old Colonial Crest redux: Bloomington OKs mostly same site plan for 671-bedroom student-oriented housing project, but under different zoning”

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”

Old Colonial Crest apartments in north Bloomington to be demolished, replaced with new residential complex by 2024

Off Gourley Pike, west of Miller-Showers Park on a 12.3-acre piece of land, sits the old Colonial Crest apartment complex, now called The Arch, with its 208 apartments and 406 bedrooms, spread across 15 separate two-story buildings.

Based on apartment rental websites, residents there now pay a monthly rent between $680 and $925 for the 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom units.

With the Bloomington plan commission’s major site plan approval granted Monday night, that complex is now set for demolition, to make way for a project by Aspen Heights Partners (AHP) called AHP-Bloomington Apartments.

The new complex will feature just three buildings—two 4-story buildings and one 5-story building—with a total of 235 apartments and 653 bedrooms, and a total of 261 parking spaces.

That’s a net gain of 27 apartments and 247 bedrooms.

The new complex is set to open by fall 2024, according to David Helfrich, who is east division president of the Austin-based Aspen Heights.

Continue reading “Old Colonial Crest apartments in north Bloomington to be demolished, replaced with new residential complex by 2024”

Dirt gets moved for 69-house Habitat for Humanity neighborhood in southwest Bloomington: “Hope” is the thing…

On Monday afternoon, Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County’s board chair Meredith Rogers addressed a gathering of about 50 people for a ceremonial groundbreaking at Osage Place.

It’s a 69-house project just east of RCA Community Park, which is getting built in two phases.

At Monday’s event, held at the western stub of Guy Avenue where the pavement ends, it was evident from the mounds of dirt and the deep gravel, that the first phase of construction is already underway. The infrastructure is being put in place for the extensions of some east-west street stubs.

Rogers framed her remarks by talking about hope. “Creating the hope of a better future for our partner families is what Habitat for Humanity is all about,” Rogers said.

Habitat houses are built with volunteer labor and tax-deductible donations of money and materials. The houses are then sold to low-income families who make between 25 and 80 percent of the area median income (AMI).

Rogers continued, “Habitat provides that feeling of expectation or desire of a decent affordable place to call home.”

For Rogers, Monday’s groundbreaking was not the time to stop, but to continue hoping.

Rogers said, “There is still so much work to be done. The need for affordable housing is greater than ever.” Rogers added, “Habitat needs your help to continue creating the hope of a better future for our partner families.”

She wrapped up with four lines from Emily Dickenson: “Hope” is the thing with feathers – / That perches in the soul – / And sings the tune without the words – / And never stops – at all.

Continue reading “Dirt gets moved for 69-house Habitat for Humanity neighborhood in southwest Bloomington: “Hope” is the thing…”

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”

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”

Highlights of Bloomington plan commission recs: no notification needed for ADUs, up to 5K-square foot restaurants in ME zone

The image is from the Pictometry module of Monroe County’s property lookup system. Shown are the wide parcels on the east side of Dunn Street, which are currently zoned RE. They are recommended to be rezoned to R1, but retain their existing permitted agricultural uses.

In under three hours on Monday night, Bloomington’s plan commission dispatched five recommended ordinances that revise the text of the city’s basic land use document, which is the unified development ordinance (UDO).

That makes eight ordinances so far that the commission has voted to recommend to the city council for final approval, as a part of a major project to revise the UDO and the citywide zoning map.

That sets the stage for the two most controversial parts of the project. On Thursday night, the plan commission will take up proposed changes to the UDO to allow for duplexes, triplexes and quadplexes in some parts of the city where they are not currently allowed. And possibly as soon as next Monday (March 29), the plan commission will consider a revision to the city wide zoning map.

On Monday the plan commission recommended ordinances to the city council that, if adopted, would have several different effects. Here are some highlights.

By-right accessory dwelling units (ADUs) would not require neighbor notification.

A restaurant of up to 5,000 square feet would be possible in a mixed-use employment (ME) zone.

Parking maximums for medical clinics would increase from 3.3 to 5 spaces per 1,000 square feet of floor area.

A shelter for people experiencing homelessness would not require residents to live as a single housekeeping unit.

All of the urban agricultural land uses that are currently allowed in the residential estate (RE) district would be allowed in the new (residential large lot) R1 district.

Continue reading “Highlights of Bloomington plan commission recs: no notification needed for ADUs, up to 5K-square foot restaurants in ME zone”

Bloomington rezoning proposal gets less dense before start to formal hearings on March 8

Bloomington’s planning and transportation department announced late Thursday afternoon that a citywide zone map revision will start formal hearings in front of the city plan commission on March 8.

Blue shaded areas indicate areas that are no longer proposed to be changed to R4 zoning on the citywide zoning map. The areas that are proposed to be rezoned to R4 are indicated in green. Orange indicates areas proposed to be zoned to residential multifamily (RM).

Also a part of the formal hearings will be text amendments to the unified development ordinance (UDO) that alter the allowable uses of land in different zoning districts.

The public engagement process started in the last part of 2020.

Compared to the public engagement drafts—for both the zone map and the text amendments—the planning staff is now proposing less-dense land uses.

The plan commission can amend the proposal during the course  of its deliberations. The city council will have the final say.

The less-dense use is proposed in connection with all four of these residential uses: R1 (Residential Large Lot); and R2 (Residential Medium Lot); R3 (Residential Small Lot); and R4 (Residential Urban).

A map provided on the project web page shows a significantly reduced amount of area proposed for the R4 zoning district. It’s a new district that was created as part of a revision to the unified development ordinance (UDO) that was approved by the city council in late 2019.

The Residential Urban (R4) district has been scaled down in two ways: (1) amount of proposed area in the city; and (2) the allowable land uses in the R4 district. Continue reading “Bloomington rezoning proposal gets less dense before start to formal hearings on March 8”

Draft climate action plan for Bloomington includes recommendations for 17 changes to local law

On Tuesday, Nov. 17, the week before Thanksgiving, a draft of a climate action plan for Bloomington was presented to the city council’s four-member standing committee on climate action and resilience.

The meat of the 158-page draft climate action plan is a table of 266 recommended actions, organized under 61 strategies, which fall under 26 goals for eight general topics.

The eight topics are: transportation and land use, energy and built environment, waste management, water and wastewater, local food and agriculture, health and safety, greenspace and ecosystem health, and climate economy.

The plan is supposed to provide a blueprint for Bloomington to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions from all sources, with a goal of carbon neutrality, and make preparations for climate change.

The draft includes 17 different recommendations for changes to local law, among them some changes to the unified development ordinance (UDO).

The recommended changes to the UDO in the draft climate action plan (CAP) do not include any revisions to the zoning code on residential building forms (i.e., plexes), which are expected to generate considerable controversy when they’re taken up by the plan commission in the second half of January. Continue reading “Draft climate action plan for Bloomington includes recommendations for 17 changes to local law”

Two meetings held on remapping of Bloomington’s zoning districts, more to come

The first two public presentations about a zoning map revision for the city of Bloomington are in the books.

R4 (Residential Urban) and MS (Mixed-Use Student Housing) zoning districts don’t yet appear on Bloomington’s zoning map. They’re proposed to be established in the olive- and wine-colored areas. The image links to the zoning map project page.

More are planned for the week after next. Dates will be posted on the zoning map project web page.

Tuesday night’s presentation by the city’s development services manager, Jackie Scanlan, included an introduction to the online tools that city planners have built for the project.

Also on Tuesday, Scanlan gave an overview of the mapping project, which comes after last year’s update to the text of the city’s unified development ordinance (UDO).

That text update included the creation of some new zoning districts, like R4 (Residential Urban) and MS (Mixed-Use Student Housing), which don’t yet appear anywhere on the zoning map of the city.

A developer has already requested that the Brownstone Terrace, south of the Indiana University football stadium, be rezoned to MS, so that it can be replaced with a larger student-oriented housing development. That request has been recommended for approval by the plan commission and will appear on an upcoming city council agenda.

During Thursday’s presentation, which focussed on the MS zoning district, Scanlan said it’s important to proactively rezone parcels to MS, based on the city’s comprehensive plan, and not just respond in a reactive way to petition requests.

While the placement of proposed MS zoning districts on the map was based on the city’s comprehensive plan, spots on the map for the R4 district were more or less calculated. The calculation was based on those lots in existing R2 and R3 districts that have less than the minimum lot size for R3 districts, and that can be analyzed as a cluster. Continue reading “Two meetings held on remapping of Bloomington’s zoning districts, more to come”