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City Council Unanimously Approves Downtown Development Changes

  • Shelton pic

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    Photo: Lindsey Wright

    Jim Shelton spoke on behalf of the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce.

  • Isabel piedmont smith

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    Photo: Lindsey Wright

    Council Member Isabel Piedmont-Smith criticized a Herald Times editorial that says the zoning proposal could lead to a dark approval process for developments.

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    Photo: Lindsey Wright

    All nine city council members voted to approve the zoning changes.

Bloomington City Council Wednesday night voted unanimously to approve controversial development regulations.

Mayor John Hamilton proposed the zoning changes at the beginning of December, that will, among other things, reduce the height and density a developer is automatically allowed to build. It’s a response to rapid growth downtown. The city says the ordinance changes would be temporary until more permanent ones are made following an update of the comprehensive master plan.

“Not taking an action like this, to me, right now, is a greater risk to our community.”

—Andy Ruff, City Council

Several community members have criticized the city for rushing the changes and not seeking enough public input. But Hamilton says now is the time to act and ensure future developments in the downtown area fit community needs.

That’s why many council members voted in favor, including Andy Ruff.

“Not taking an action like this, to me, right now, is a greater risk to our community than any risks that are posed by taking this step,” Ruff says.

The ordinance also adds language to city zoning regulations that require developers to consider affordable housing. The city says there’s a desperate need for affordable units, but leaders with the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce say the regulations will lead to higher housing costs.

Jim Shelton, the government relations manager, spoke on behalf of the chamber.

“This does not give predictability to the process,” Shelton says. “Any additional cost incurred by the developer will be passed to tenants or buyers, and this does nothing to help affordability.”

Several residents and council members take issue with what they say is vague language in the ordinance. But council members say that will be more of a focus when permanent changes are considered.

The interim zoning changes will remain in effect for one year. At that point, city leaders must revisit the ordinance.

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