City council voted down a 590-bedroom far east side housing development early Thursday morning that was geared toward students.
The project would have increased housing density at Century Village to build 232 units and 440 parking spaces, according to the presentation.
Council member Isabel Piedmont-Smith said her mind was made up when she was handed a stack of about 250 letters of support at the start of the meeting. The development company, Fountain Residential Partners, collected these signatures during a weekend tabling in the College Mall food court.
About half of the letters were signed with addresses from Willkie Quad and other student residences, council member Dave Rollo observed. Trevor Tollett, co-founder of Fountain Residential Partners, said the company were not targeting students in soliciting the letters.
“This is bullshit,” Piedmont-Smith said. “I’m sorry, this is not real public comment.”
Residents formed a line out the door during the nearly hour-long public comment period to speak against the project. The primary issues involved traffic hazards, the appropriateness of the location for student housing and the apparent questionable need for student housing.
Residents feared student housing could cause reported accidents on Third Street to worsen. They did not think student housing should reside at an entrance to the city about three miles from the center of campus. They claimed occupancy rates and enrollment at IU did not portray a need for more student housing.
A couple residents said the deals made between the developer and the city smelled like bribery.
Just one resident spoke in support of the project. Representing radio station B97, which is located in Century Village, he said additional housing on the east side could be good for businesses.
Tollett said the company been working to improve this project since March.
“The reason it has evolved is because we listened to the opposition,” Tollett said.
To address traffic concerns, council members approved a “pork chop” at the northern entrance. The pork chop would create right-in, right-out access at State Road 46 and would discourage left turns onto Third Street.
City council also approved an entrance from State Road 446 combined with an entrance to the north side of Knightridge Apartments. The shared entrance would reduce paved surface areas and allow more greenspace.
Alex Crowley, director of economic and sustainable development, said the project was a good thing for Bloomington even if it wasn’t perfect. It aligned with the city’s comprehensive plan and addressed the high demand for housing, Crowley said.
Fountain Residential Partners promised to contribute $500,000 to the city’s housing development fund, and the landowner committed to donating five acres of land near Fullerton Pike in exchange for the zoning exceptions.
The developers also offered Bloomingfoods $500,000 Tuesday, with the promise of donating money not accepted by the local nonprofit toward Bloomington Transit for an additional bus on the 6-Route.
The council did not approve this condition.
Council member Allison Chopra said only two of her constituents told her they thought the proposal was a good idea. She did not think the location three miles from the Indiana Memorial Union was appropriate for students.
“I don’t think that student housing belongs so far from campus,” Chopra said.
If student housing is needed, Rollo said, it should be provided by the University.
Around 1:30 a.m., with an audience of about 30 people left from what started as an overflow crowd, the council voted down the petition 0-8-1.