Indiana Daily Student

Bloomington commission narrowly recommends duplexes by right, city council to vote next

<p>A duplex appears at 420 E. Sixth St. The Bloomington Plan Commission voted 5-4 Monday to allow duplexes to be developed in certain neighborhoods.</p>

A duplex appears at 420 E. Sixth St. The Bloomington Plan Commission voted 5-4 Monday to allow duplexes to be developed in certain neighborhoods.

The Bloomington Plan Commission recommended allowing duplexes to be developed in certain neighbourhoods previously only zoned for single family homes after a tight 5-4 vote Monday. 

The Bloomington City Council would need to approve this recommendation for it to take effect. 

The commission is in the process of amending the city’s Unified Development Ordinance. The UDO determines what can and cannot be built in different areas of the city. 

One of the more high-profile discussions regarding the UDO is whether to allow duplexes in city neighbourhoods where single family housing has historically been the norm. Duplexes are two living units attached together in one building. Currently, duplexes are not allowed to be built in those neighbourhoods. 

The BPC’s staff recommended allowing duplexes only after it was approved by a zoning board. 

BPC Commissioner Jillian Kinzie went beyond the staff’s recommendation and proposed making duplexes a permitted use, meaning they could be built without needing the approval of a zoning board. This is commonly referred to as allowing duplexes “by right.” These duplexes still need to conform to use-specific conditions. 

BPC Commissioner Chris Cockerham, who supported the proposal, said this amendment could help Bloomington increase the number of available housing units in the city.

“We need to find ways in Bloomington to add to our housing stock,” Cockerham said.

Indiana’s median rental cost is $840 per month, while Bloomington’s is $917 per month, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The city has put an emphasis on affordable housing in response to those rental costs, Mayor John Hamilton said in the State of the City address earlier this year. Supporters of duplexes said this would help create more affordable housing. 

“It’s not the answer to affordable housing,” Kinzie said, emphasizing “the.” “It’s one solution to get us closer to that. It would be one step in the right direction.”

Opponents of the amendment said duplexes would uproot single family neighbourhoods and decrease the number of homes available for purchase, as duplexes are more likely to become rental properties. Dozens of Bloomington residents gave public comment in both Monday’s meeting and a separate meeting last week. 

Before the vote on Kinzie’s proposal, Susan Sandberg, the city council’s representative on the commission, proposed an amendment that would pause discussions on the duplex issue entirely. It failed by a large margin, with only Sandberg supporting her own proposal. 

The League of Women Voters of Bloomington-Monroe County announced their support for Sandberg’s proposal March 22. 

“We strongly urge the City to consider pausing the current UDO revision process and adopt a time-limited approach along lines similar to what are laid out in this proposal,” President Ann F. Birch, said in a letter to the commission

Kinzie’s passed amendment will eventually be considered by the Bloomington City Council. Two of the council’s members, Sandberg included, have made on-record statements opposing the amendment. Councilmember Dave Rollo, who is not a part of the commission, spoke against the amendment as a member of the public in Monday’s meeting.

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