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Bloomington city council denies student housing project, approves Meadowood expansion



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Bloomington citizens attend a Bloomington City Council meeting Dec. 5 in City Hall. The meeting covered a possibility of building two new parking garages for the city. Alex Deryn Buy Photos

City council heard proposals Wednesday evening for two development projects.

Chandler’s Glen

After seven months of updates, Trinitas Development presented a preliminary plan for student housing on about 40 acres of vacant land in northwest Bloomington. 

The council ultimately decided the magnitude of the changes were too much to consider in a short period of time. The plan needed five votes to pass, but the project failed with a split vote 3-3-1. The developers can restart the process if they choose.

The request included a maximum of 825 bedrooms with 112 duplex or triplex structures and 27 single-family structures. It would have 563 parking spaces and would feature a clubhouse, basketball court, playground and pool. All of the units would be rentals. 

City officials from the Planning and Transportation Department urged the council to vote down the proposal because it did not comply with the recently adopted Comprehensive Plan, which directs Bloomington’s land use for the next 20 years. 

“We would be irresponsible to move in a direction that contradicts the Comprehensive Plan,” said Terri Porter, director of the Planning and Transportation Department. 

The plan calls for the site to have primarily single-family residential properties, said Jacqueline Scanlan, development services manager for the Planning and Transportation Department. This classification typically involves one- or two-story traditional houses with parking provided on site. 

Other attempts at student housing projects on the land have also failed. A 2003 proposal to build 246 units of student housing was denied, according to a presentation from Scanlan. Another attempt to build student housing there in 2014 was withdrawn in anticipation of updates to the Comprehensive Plan. 

“We don’t have much vacant land left in the city, so we want to get this right,” Porter said. 

Council members and developers agreed the site was difficult to develop because the construction of State Road 37 in 1972 stripped the land of topsoil and most of its trees. 

“We’re doing our best to bring what has sat for 47 years as a devastated site to something that’s productive for our community,” Travis Vencel of Trinitas Development said. 

City planners and council members expressed concern for the placement of student housing.

The northeast portion of the site is more than half a mile from the closest bus stop, but its location along Bus Route 2 does not go to campus. 

Vencel said the company is working with Bloomington Transit on an additional bus route that would intersect with Route 2. Trinitas is also considering funding a private shuttle to the site. 

Council members noted the significance of positive comments they heard from neighboring residents, especially after emphatic objection from east side residents about another student housing development earlier this fall. 

No members of the public spoke for or against the proposal Wednesday. 

“The fact that neighbors did not object is remarkable,” Volan said. 

Meadowood

City council passed a petition from the owners of Meadowood Retirement Community to expand an assisted living facility at E. Tamarack Trail from 60 to 75 beds.

The proposal originally included an addition of 1.25 acres to build 20 town homes for Meadowood residents along N. Dunn Street, but residents were concerned the town homes would damage the neighborhood’s character.

The town homes would require demolishing two homes on N. Dunn, which many neighbors opposed. 

City council voted to remove the 20 town homes from the proposed expansion, but this does not necessarily protect the two controversial homes from future changes. 

Senior Zoning Planner Eric Greulich said the project accomplishes many goals listed in the city’s Comprehensive Plan by providing housing for an aging population and increasing housing density. 

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