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”

Bloomington looks finally to put commercial tenants in ground floors of city parking garages

The ground floor commercial space in the city of Bloomington’s two new public parking garages—on 4th Street and in the Trades District—could finally see some tenants, more than a year after construction was completed.

Terms for lease agreements in both parking garages appear on the agenda for Monday’s regular meeting of Bloomington’s redevelopment commission (RDC).

Slotting into the 4th Street space will be Hoosier Networks. That’s the company formed by Paris-based Meridiam to do business in Indiana, as part of deal with the city of Bloomington to build a fiber-to-the-home network in the city.

Hoosier Networks will also be able to lease some temporary space in College Square, which is the former location of the Bunger & Robertson law firm, which the RDC purchased with an eye towards developing the parcel as part of an expanded convention center.  It’s the spot where Bloomington’s downtown fire station has landed temporarily after the June 2021 flooding damaged the fire station at 4th and Lincoln streets.

Taking the Trades District garage space will be the University of California – Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. That’s after the RDC in mid-April had approved terms of a lease with the software company Exclaimer for the Trades District garage space. The Trades District garage ground floor space for lease is still an empty box—it doesn’t look like it ever got built out for Exclaimer.

Continue reading “Bloomington looks finally to put commercial tenants in ground floors of city parking garages”

Rezone for “truckstop–small” denied by Monroe County, ends 30 years of overnight truck parking

Off SR-37 south of Bloomington and just south of the spot where I-69 and the state highway merge sits Sunmart, a Shell gas station and convenience store that also allows overnight truck parking.

The overnight truck parking now has to end, because a requested rezoning of the nearly 5-acre property was denied on a unanimous vote of the three Monroe County commissioners at their regular Wednesday morning meeting.

The use of the land as a convenience store and daytime truck parking is legal under Monroe County zoning. So those uses can continue.

What seemed to be the key consideration weighed by commissioners was the fact that the use of the land for overnight truck parking had been in violation of zoning code for 30 years. And they were persuaded by a view expressed during public comment that to rezone the property to allow what had been a non-conforming use would amount to “rewarding” the non-conformance.

Commissioner Lee Jone said, “I don’t think it sets a good precedent to remove restrictions that have been violated for 30 years.” Continue reading “Rezone for “truckstop–small” denied by Monroe County, ends 30 years of overnight truck parking”

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”

Duplex east of IU gets conditional use OK from Bloomington BZA, first one after year of new zoning

In more than a year since Bloomington mayor John Hamilton signed revisions to the city’s unified development ordinance (UDO) into law, just one application to construct a duplex as a conditional use has been heard by the city’s board of zoning appeals (BZA).

The BZA’s approval of that application came at Thursday’s meeting on a unanimous vote by the five-member board.

Grant Properties owner Doug McCoy will now be able to demolish a 432-square-foot house on the lot a couple blocks east of the Indiana University campus, and build a one-and-a-half-story duplex there. The address of the property is 110 S. Roosevelt St. Continue reading “Duplex east of IU gets conditional use OK from Bloomington BZA, first one after year of new zoning”

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”

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”