The Bloomington City Council officially introduced the proposed Unified Development Ordinance at Wednesday night’s special session.
The session was the first of four scheduled meetings that will make up one long hearing on the UDO, which lays out the rules for land use and development in Bloomington.
After the Council set rules and procedures for deliberation, the document’s first two chapters were introduced. The 417-page UDO is divided into seven total chapters.
Chapter 1 covered the legal framework for adopting and administering the regulations. Chapter 2 dealt with the city’s zoning districts.
READ MORE: Bloomington's UDO Sparks Controversy Over Single Family Zoning Changes
The most notable changes to Chapter 2 include:
- The renaming of most zoning districts for internal consistency
- The creation of four new zoning districts:
- R1 Residential Large Lot districts with a minimum lot size of 20,000 square feet. "The R1 district is intended to accommodate single family residential development on relatively large lots plus a limited number of related civic uses while ensuring compatibility with surrounding patterns of development. This district may also serve as a transition between estate development and medium-lot development." (UDO page 25)
- R4 Residential Urban districts to accommodate urban single-family lots of 4,000 square feet to promote affordable housing. "The R4 district is intended to accommodate residential uses on small urban scale lots that offer a diverse mix of housing opportunities consistent with the Comprehensive Plan and other adopted plans. Properties in the R4 district typically have access to many public services that are accessible to pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicles. This district may be used as a transition between small-lot residential development and urban-scale residential, commercial, and institutional development." (31)
- MS Mixed-Use Student Housing districts to accommodate large student housing projects to reduce pressure for large projects downtown. "The MS district is intended to accommodate an adequate supply and mix of housing opportunities for students in areas adjacent or within easy walking distance to campus and along nearby commercial corridors and with easy access to campus-serving public transit and to university-provided parking, such as the area located directly west, southwest, and northwest of Memorial Stadium. The district is intended to have a high percentage of student-oriented housing units, including larger developments that might not be permitted in other districts, but not totally exclusive of other types of residential housing units. This district should not be located in close proximity to the MD district but may also provide MS related commercial and retail-supportive uses." (39)
- PO "The PO district is intended to accommodate and protect City-owned parks and open spaces and to limit structures and land uses to those compatible with the City’s management plans for such properties." (67)
- Reducing the minimum lot size for two residential zoning districts – R2 Residential Medium Lots and R3 Residential Small Lots – to 7,200 and 5,000 square feet, respectively, in order to promote affordable infill housing
- Narrowing the ability to apply for Planned Unit Development zoning and strengthening the criteria for approval
Residents were also given the opportunity to comment on chapters 1 and 2 of the UDO. Much of the public’s comments focused on affordable housing, the financialization of housing and the possible consequences of making the city’s core neighborhoods denser.
“This seems to be a generational issue,” says Bloomington resident Ed Bernstein. “Many of us moved into these areas – my house was a pit – and we spent much of our lives finishing them and getting them better. I don’t think destroying the core neighborhoods is gonna do anything. I think the young people who are supporting this – I appreciate the idealism, but I think they’re not looking at the total picture.”
After public comment, the councilmembers gave their final remarks.
“No one is proposing student housing on the Near West Side or in McDoel Gardens,” says District VI Councilman Stephen Volan. “Yet lots of students are living in those neighborhoods right now. You don’t know them; you don’t hear them. Because they’re not actually partying. Duplexes and triplexes are not the same as giant student housing projects.”
Councilman At-Large Jim Sims assured those in attendance that the Council is trying to make the best compromise possible on an extremely complex topic.
“My thing, and I think my colleagues’ thing, is to try to do the smart thing,” Sims says. “To try to do the thing that is gonna do no harm, or the least amount of harm possible.”
“These are all interconnected,” he went on to say. “We’re talking about housing, climate change, public transportation, employment, mobility. We talk about them sometimes like they’re separate. But they’re really interconnected. And we just have to figure out what’s best for this town.”
The Bloomington City Council will next meet to discuss the Unified Development Ordinance on Oct. 22 at 6 p.m.