The Bloomington City Council met Wednesday to discuss zoning changes on E. Hillside Drive, establishing a parking commission and to hear public comment.
The meeting began with a preliminary approval of minutes from the Oct. 19th council meeting and general announcements from various council members. A few council members encouraged the public to vote as soon as possible. Council member Steve Volan, who had set a Cubs hat next to his name plaque, made a more playful announcement.
“As much as I wish this meeting could be expedited, I want you to know I’m rooting for the Cubs the whole time,” Volan said.
After an update on various ongoing sustainability projects by Sustainability Coordinator Jacqui Bauer, the meeting opened for public comment.
Mary Howard-Hamilton was the first to speak. Howard-Hamilton is president of the Bloomington Alumnae Chapter of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority. She said that part of what the sorority chapter does is promote various kinds of awareness.
“We are concerned with the lack of minoritized populations on our city council,” Howard-Hamilton said. “We are hoping there will be a noticeable difference in the representation of underrepresented individuals in 2018.”
She said the chapter encourages a civil community, and recent instances of Confederate flag display at Bloomington High School North were alarming.
“We’re a bit concerned about the lack of cultural understanding from children as early as pre-K into high school,” Howard-Hamilton said. “The Confederate flag is a symbol of strife. People should be educated about that.”
She suggested the council consider issuing official proclamations to bring awareness to the topic.
The council then moved to discuss amending the zoning maps for 600-630 E. Hillside Drive from residential single family zoning and residential high-density multi-family zoning to planned unit development.
Planned unit development is a type of development and regulatory process that involves varied land uses such as commercial centers, recreation and housing within a single area or subdivision.
Volan said he met with the petitioner, Dwellings LLC, to discuss whether or not the rezoning petition had any viability. He said the conversation left certain things unanswered, such as what parking on Henderson would look like with petition approval.
“This isn’t my district, so I don’t feel like I have a stake in this,” Volan said. “But the question really is, ‘Can the petitioner and the neighborhood come to an agreement on anything?’ The answer seemed to be a cautious yes.”
The council voted to postpone amending the zoning maps until Nov. 16 to give Dwellings LLC and the neighborhood a longer period of time to discuss potential development changes.
The council also voted to postpone, then voted to approve, an agreement between Monroe County, the city of Ellettsville and the city of Bloomington regarding funding for the animal shelter in 2017. Due to initial unclear numbers and budgetary needs, council member Isabel Piedmont-Smith proposed the council wait to vote.
“If we don’t have the numbers to be informed voters, we should not be voting on this tonight,” Piedmont-Smith said. “I think about local government where you hear about fraud and simple mistakes, and it happens in these things where no one is watching. We need to do our due diligence.”
The council’s vote to approve was unanimous.
The council then turned to the issue of parking as Volan introduced legislation to establish a new, nine-member parking commission.
“Parking has no obvious department or point person,” Volan said. “The traffic commission can’t take on (the proposed duties) because it would double their work.”
The commission he proposed would include four local residents, one council member, two merchants, one representative from a nonprofit and one staffer from the Planning and Transportation Department. Volan said members would be appointed by the mayor and city council, depending on each role.
He proposed members would prioritize keeping city character intact, mediating traffic flow and sustaining economic vibrancy. They would also review meter, garage and lot usage data, as well as parking tickets and appeals data and other statistics and issue an annual report using their findings. Volan said the commission’s legislative power would be initially limited to making recommendations.
After mostly positive reviews and an acknowledgement of probable, incoming changes to the commission, the council voted 7-0 to approve the commission with one member abstaining from the vote.