BLOOMINGTON — The Bloomington Planning Commission's nearly three-year- long comprehensive overhaul of the city's zoning ordinance is finished, but it is letting the City Council address the issue of high-density housing in historic residential neighborhoods.
The commission voted unanimously Wednesday to recommend the council adopt the 250-page revised code that governs the types of businesses and structures allowed in the city. It did, however, ask the council to study the density concerns that especially affect neighborhoods near downtown.
The council could consider the draft ordinance at its Feb. 25 meeting, said Bloomington City Planner Katie Simpson.
The hundreds of suggested changes include subdividing the city's 26-block downtown central business district into three smaller zoning districts to make redevelopment easier and consolidating some commercial districts to eliminate unnecessary duplication.
It also includes changes for beekeeping and would, for the first time, allow raising chickens in residential areas.
A public hearing Dec. 12 was continued until Wednesday after the commission heard testimony and received emails about a 40-year-old R-3B (multiple-family residence district) zoning provision that allows densities of up to 70 dwellings per acre.
Opponents wanted that zoning changed in the revised code to preserve historic neighborhoods, like Dimmitt's Grove, around the edges of downtown.
"The commission had that same concern, and we hope (the council) will take that under advisement and do a study of all the R-3B zoning around downtown to see if that zoning is appropriate or not," said commission Chairman Justin Boyd after the meeting.
Commissioner Tyson Mohr voiced his concern about the revised code giving the Zoning Board of Appeals final say on matters that come before it and eliminating appeals to the City Council.
"It anyone wants to appeal they will need to take the city to court so there would be legal fees associated with that by both the city and the individual," said Mohr after the commission's meeting Wednesday.
Two Bloomington business owners — Dale Naffziger, owner of Growing Grounds Garden Center, and Phil Boulds, owner of Mugsy's Pub — testified Wednesday that they thought the new code was too restrictive.
"Please think about the little guy. The more expenses and the more rules you make, the more we aren't going to be able to do that," said Naffziger. "I just think you're doing too much; it's over broad."
Boyd, other commissioners and city officials disagreed, noting that efforts were made to make the new zoning ordinance more flexible and usable.
"This thing is not more burdensome or specific than the zoning ordinance that we've got," said Commissioner David Stanczak. "I think the results have been brought about by a transparent process, a lot of hearings, a lot of input."
Chicago-based Houseal Lavigne Associates has been helping the commission draft the changes since August 2016. In fact, the council approved adding up to $25,000 to the $125,000 initially agreed for reviewing and rewriting the zoning ordinance to cover the cost of additional meetings and further revisions.