Amendment 1 fails, Bloomington City Council closer to approving plex development in neighborhoods

Bloomington’s core neighborhoods across the city are closer to being opened to plex developers after an amendment to stop “by right” development failed in a 4-5-0 vote Tuesday night.

Councilmembers Susan Sandberg, Ron Smith, Dave Rollo, and Sue Sgambelluri tried to stop the by right development of plexes with an amendment (1) that favored “Village Centers” to try to increase the amount of housing in the city. However, council members Jim Sims, Steve Volan, Isabel Piedmont-Smith, Kate Rosenbarger, and Matt Flaherty voted against the amendment.

The city council meeting, which began at 6:30 pm and lasted until nearly 11 p.m. was adjourned for recess until 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Amendment 2 will be heard Wednesday for the conditional approval of plexes in core neighborhoods pending approval by the board of zoning appeals. The board of zoning passed legislation to make development “by right” meaning any property owner can convert any single-family home into a plex.

Some language from amendment 2:

“This amendment is sponsored by Councilmembers Piedmont-Smith and Sims. It presents a compromise by allowing some carefully reviewed duplexes in residential neighborhoods. The text amends the allowed use table to allow“Dwelling, duplex” as a conditional use in the R1, R2, and R3 zoning districts. It also makes changes to the conditional use permit process to require that conditional use permit petitions for the “Dwelling, duplex” use in the R1, R2, or R3 zones include a pre-submittal neighborhood meeting and are reviewed by the Board of Zoning Appeals.”

However, zoning appeals are subject to state laws, and it’s unclear what could be done to stop plex development proposals that meet building code.

The City of Bloomington supported the plex proposal with the following statement from a memo:

“Bloomington feels housing pressure related to its proximity to and relationship with Indiana University, but also exists as part of a larger regional and national housing market. According to the National Association of Realtors, a tight housing supply is fueling an increase in home prices. The median price of an existing home sold during the month of February 2021 was $313,000. That is the highest February price on record. The number of sales were in decline for the month, but those on the market move quickly and the prices are climbing. There is a national housing supply issue. Regionally, per, the value of a typical home for sale in the 47401 zip code area is $20,000 more than it was at this time last year, at just under $300,000, and predicted to continue to rise by almost 10% over the next year. The opportunity to add plexes as an option across the City can increase our local housing supply, potentially offering some less expensive units in desirable locations.”

The 43-page legislative packet for Wednesday’s meeting is at this link:

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