Plexes approved in Bloomington, but with conditions still up for legislation; Political battle continues online in divided city

After hours of comments from the Bloomington community, the city council approved a change to Bloomington zoning that allows “plexes” to be built in all the city’s older core neighborhoods. However, amendment 2, which allows the plexes to be built, means the plexes will be conditional to approval by the board of zoning appeals, which is expected to approve any plex that meets code.

Amendment 2 passed 9-0 after much talk by city council members that it was a compromise to by-right development.

The conditions for construction of plexes are now the subject of more city council meetings and discussion, as members of the community raised questions about issues such as parking.

Council members Susan Sandberg and Dave Rollo introduced amendment 3, which would add conditions to the approval of plexes.

The legislative packet with details about amendment 3 is at the following link:

The synopsis of amendment 3 states, “This Amendment is sponsored by Councilmember Rollo and Councilmember Sandberg. This Amendment places a 150 foot buffer around a duplex dwelling in the R1, R2, and R3 zoning districts. This Amendment also limits the total number of duplexes to not more than 10 each year.”

The issue of plex development in core neighborhoods has been controversial, with a majority of commenters being against the plexes. However, a minority of commenters, and a slim majority of the city council are in favor of the plex developments.

Meanwhile, after the failure of amendment 1, opponents of the plexes have started a petition. Peter Dorfman of Bloomington Dissident Democrats sent out a link Wednesday to a petition in an attempt to get 5,000 signatures to try to stop the rezoning:

Dorfman said the following: “There is a school of thought that there is still a chance of reversing the changes to Bloomington’s zoning, through another petition. The idea is that a petition signed by roughly five times the number of Bloomingtonians as signed the original Stop Bloomington Upzoning Resolution would legally obligate the City Council to stop what they’re doing and acknowledge it — and if the administration verified the signatures, the Council would then need a supermajority to pass the upzoning. The 5-4 vote by which the Committee of the Whole advanced the measure last night (by defeating Amendment 1) would not be sufficient.”

The twitter site BTownNimby posted the following to mock Dorfman:

And Tuesday night, council member Isabel Piedmont-Smith said Tuesday before voting against amendment 1 to stop the plexes, “So when I hear people say, look, everybody that has spoken tonight, are the vast majority, are in favor of amendment one, that doesn’t mean a vast majority of my constituents are in favor of amendment 1.

That means people who are plugged in, who have the time and intellect and energy to figure out that the city is talking about something that may affect them … that, those are the people who have the time and the ability to speak about amendments to our unified development ordinance.”

Piedmont added, “I also think that, you know, we don’t have a direct democracy as somebody said we have a representative democracy. And I was elected to represent and not necessarily to poll on every single issue.”

Dorfman later posted on the Bloomington Dissident Democrats Facebook page Wednesday night, “Listening to the public comments on conditional use of plexes, I don’t see how Bloomington is going to heal any time in the foreseeable future. People are seething.

We need new leadership.”

Thursday’s meeting begins at 6:30 on Zoom:

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