Indiana Daily Student

Council approves Habitat project

At the end of a five hour council meeting, the Bloomington council voted 9-0 in favor of Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County’s planned unit development to build a neighborhood near the Cottage Grove and B-line trail area.

This hearing was the third and final hearing for the project, which is projected to be finished toward the end of 2014. Thirty-five houses will be built in the area for low-income families looking for permanent homes.

The PUD had a 5-3 favorable recommendation from the Planning Commission earlier this month.

The approved reasonable exception called for Habitat to institute a “native planting” plan instead of a landscaping plan for the neighborhood. The native planting plan is intended to put focus on preserving natural vegetation.

Planting would be funded by Habitat within reason to its budget. Donations are expected to be a large part of Habitat’s planting budget.

“Generally speaking, this is an organization that has the ability to get volunteers and donations that others organizations don’t, and is not considered to be a costly endeavor due to availability of plants and seeds,” Planning Director Tom Micuda said. “But I can’t comment on this much specifically.”

One rejected reasonable exception proposed that the houses in the neighborhood be built with cement board siding instead of vinyl, which would have added $1,000 to each house and $35,000 total to Habitat’s project.

The exception was voted down by the council after a lengthy debate that pitted affordability against sustainability and appearance. Three council members supported the exception because cement board would have lasted longer and appeased neighbors that had complaints about the out-of-place appearance of the future neighborhood.

Those who voted no argued that adding costs upfront would cancel out the original intent of the neighborhood, which is to provide affordable housing.

Kerry Thomson, CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County, also noted that in the 25 years Habitat has been building houses in Bloomington with vinyl siding, no house has needed siding replacement.

The other rejected exception regarded adding larger sidewalks attached to the B-line trail to accommodate bikes as well as pedestrians. The addition was eventually withdrawn after it was considered too costly — $800 extra per house — and nearly unfeasible because of the steep gradient in the area.

An independent environmental consultant also answered questions about earlier discussed concerns of arsenic, lead and dangerous chemicals in the area’s soil, stating that none had been found in any of the proposed land upon which houses would be built.

He also did not recommend further environmental sampling as the project stands.

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