The Bloomington City Council has voted 7-to-2 in favor of designating the 700 block of North Walnut Street as a historic district – effectively shutting down a couple’s plans to move their house to make way for commercial development.
The move came despite a motion from council member Andy Ruff to delay the vote. Ruff was concerned about new information regarding the home’s original owner, Roy Burns, a prominent neighborhood grocery store owner in the early 1900’s.
“I was also resentful that I wasn’t given adequate time to address the new information that got to us today,” Ruff says.
Burns’ history was used as an argument for historic designation but the new information showed the deed to Burns’ home included a clause stating that no person of color would be allowed to purchase or rent the property after he sold it – a move designed to keep the neighborhood segregated.
The council voted against Ruff’s motion to delay the vote with several council members saying the information was insignificant, which is one of the reasons Ruff voted against the historic designation.
“So I was forced to take a position before I felt that I had done enough deliberation and investigation,” he says.
House owner Chris Bomba wanted to move the building to another location in order to re-develop the lot but will now have to rethink his plans. Bomba says he is not sure what he’ll do now.
“Don’t know yet, we’ll have to go back and take another look at things,” he says.
Although the house will remain in its current location, the area around it may still be developed.