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Plan Commission Finishes UDO Hearings, Final Recommendation Passes On To City Council

A photo of a duplex in residential Bloomington.

Duplexes could become more prevalent in neighborhoods if the city council upholds these UDO changes. (Ethan Burks, WFIU/WTIU News)

The Bloomington Plan Commission wrapped up its public hearings on proposed zoning changes to the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) Monday night.

The month-long hearing process has resulted in significant additions to the local zoning law. Most notably, legalizing duplexes in many of Bloomington’s core neighborhoods despite heavy community pushback.

READ MORE: Plan Commission Legalizes Duplexes In Bloomington's Core Neighborhoods

Plan commissioner Susan Sandberg proposed an amendment at a previous hearing to postpone the measure.

"In order to do a more precise pinpointing of where the density actually could be placed that would do no harm to the core neighborhoods," said Sandberg. 

Sandberg's proposal to pause came at the recommendation of a newly formed organization, Going Farther Together. This organization is asking the city to delay the zoning changes and collect more information and data before making a final decision that could potentially have a negative impact. 

READ MORE: Plan Commission Will Entertain The Idea Of Pausing Plex Amendment Adoption

"From the moment the Mayor [John Hamilton] chose to reintroduce a proposal that had been decisively rejected by both the majority of the community and the city council, the process was flawed," said Russ Skiba, a member of Going Farther Together. 

In 2019, city council voted down the addition of plexes into these neighborhoods when it was also faced with strong opposition. 

Skiba said citizens should write to their city councilmembers before the measure is considered for approval again. 

"And tell them that Bloomington needs to reject these map amendments and the previous plex amendments, so that Bloomington can have a fair, open and participatory discussion of the serious issues of equity, affordability and availability that it deserves," said Skiba. 

But not everybody in the community is against allowing more housing options in residential areas.

Resident Cathi Crabtree said people need rental housing in convenient parts of town too.

"Residents across all demographics place a high value on living in walkable neighborhoods. Multiplexes are a great opportunity for folks who want to purchase a residence, but don’t want to, or are unable to maintain a single-family home," said Crabtree. 

READ MORE: Plan Commission Moves Ahead With Proposal Making It Easier For Duplexes To Get Approval

So, as amended, the contentious proposed changes include duplexes by-right in zoning districts R1-R3 (core neighborhoods), and then conditional in R4 zones (Urban Residential). Multiplex housing such as triplexes and fourplexes are only allowed in R4 zones as conditional as well. 

Conditional use means each house turning into a plex must get a public hearing in front of the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) whereas by-right does not hold that requirement. 

"People really expected that these areas would be placed on the edges of the existing neighborhoods and in the historic part of town especially. So, what we have done is try to spread these opportunities throughout town," said Jackie Scanlan, the city's planning services manager.

Now that the Plan Commission has passed a positive recommendation on the proposed changes, the issue moves to the city council for final consideration.

It is within the council's right to make future changes, reductions, additions, etc. to any parts of the UDO with amendments of their own. The recommendations passed by the Plan Commission are not legally binding. 

Council is expected to have the legislation on its agenda sometime in the coming weeks, but before its summer recess in mid-June.

Have a question? Ask City Limits:

Our community is changing, from closing businesses to traffic and road construction to affordable housing, and we see the impact of these changes all around us.

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?

Interested in an ongoing conversation how Bloomington is changing? Join our Facebook group!

Want to contact your legislators about an issue that matters to you? Find out how to contact your senators and member of Congress here.

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