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Plan Commission Continues UDO Hearings, Talks Student Housing And Parking

A photo of a parking garage on the ground floor of a student housing complex.f

Parking garages in student housing zones would have to reduce ground floor parking. (Ethan Burks, WFIU/WTIU News)

Public hearings on proposed changes to Bloomington's Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) are back in front of the Plan Commission this week. 

As both the city and public gear up for its discussion on the controversial Plex Amendment Thursday, officials used Monday night to tackle issues surrounding student housing and parking.

READ MORE: What Changes Could Be Coming In Bloomington's Revised UDO?

Modifications to Chapter 3 of city's zoning code would limit multiple student housing complexes from being built on the same lot, as well as reducing the amount of parking in those complexes. 

"We had a number of parties interested in developing in our projected student housing area and something that we’ve seen is the numbers are higher than we would like," said city planning services manager, Jackie Scanlan.

Scanlan said these changes make it so that developers cannot build student housing structures back-to-back on the same lot. She said it also limits ground floor parking to 50% of the total building's square footage.

"We’re in effect cutting the amount of any use of first floor parking. My concern is that’s a big change that could cause some engineering problems," said Plan Commission member, Brad Wisler. "You have to have a certain amount of space just to have a ramp up to the second floor."

Wisler questioned whether the planning department did enough research into the feasibility of some of these changes.

"We’re trying to find that sweet spot where we are allowing development, but are also encouraging people to use incentives," said Scanlan.

Scanlan said there are exceptions to these student housing requirements that would allow for developers to build bigger parking garages. She noted that any developer who is willing to dedicate 15% of their units toward affordable housing is exempt from these rules. 

"The numbers that are there are still doable, but you maybe would have to engage in incentives that you otherwise currently would not engage in," said Scanlan. 

The Plan Commission approved the Chapter 3 changes, but Susan Sandberg said she made note of Wisler's engineering concerns and will bring it up during the city council's final review of the UDO in April. 

"Does this take indoor parking off the table? We want to encourage indoor parking versus outdoor parking wherever we can. This may run counter to that goal," Wisler said. 

The Plan Commission will move forward with these public hearings again on Thursday with the discussion of plexes. Homeowners in several core neighborhoods are fearful that multiplex housing could change the character of Bloomington's neighborhoods, and possibly impact property values. 

A new time format has been instituted in the wake of 2019's UDO hearings on plexes, which lasted for hours, and on some occasions into the next day.

"Public be prepared, if there are hundreds and hundreds of people there is a hard stop with these meetings," said Sandberg.

In an effort to limit the meeting from going too late, no new items will be introduced after 9:30 p.m. and any unresolved topics will be granted a second hearing. 

"We want to kind of keep to being respectful of everyone’s time on Thursday night and still allow everyone the opportunity to speak respectfully," said Sandberg. 

Thursday's meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. 

Have a question? Ask City Limits:

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We want to know: What questions do you have about how the Bloomington of tomorrow will impact your work, your personal life, your community and your future?

Here’s how it works: You submit a question you’d like us to explore about how Bloomington has changed over the past few decades, what you want to see for the city in the future and how ties with IU continue to shape the community.  

So: What do you wonder about how Bloomington is changing and how it impacts your life?

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