Bloomington is creating new requirements for chain businesses in the downtown area.
The Bloomington City Council passed an ordinance Wednesday that defines “standardized businesses” and would require they be approved using specific criteria if they seek to move into the Courthouse Square or the area near Kirkwood Avenue.
The ordinance was initially proposed back in March, with the aim of preserving the “unique character” of the downtown. But the business community and the chamber of commerce raised concerns that the ordinance was too restrictive.
Those concerns led to an amendment to the ordinance that changed the language from “standardized restaurants” to “standardized businesses” and made the approval process focus more on the design of the facility than on what type of business it is.
But some local business owners are still concerned. Dave Harstad runs a commercial real estate business in the courthouse square overlay, and while his business is grandfathered in and mostly exempt from the ordinance, he’s concerned about potential problems for other businesses.
“I think it’s unnecessary to require someone on the sixth floor of Grand Plaza to get a conditional use permit just because you can hypothetically see in the window,” Harstad said.
Council member Chris Sturbaum acknowledged Harstad’s concerns, and while he agreed that certain aspects of the ordinance still need to be ironed out, he says it’s a positive step for the city.
“I’m on the planning commission too, we’ll work something out through planning and propose it and send it back to the council, but those are very minor fixes,” Sturbaum said. ”This is a huge new overlay that’s going to continue to protect the character of the city.”
The council voted unanimously in favor of the ordinance.