The Bloomington City Council voted down a proposed amendment Tuesday to reject the city Plan Commission’s recommendation to allow duplexes in areas of the city previously zoned for single-family homes.
Five of the council’s nine members voted against the amendment. The Plan Commission, which recommended duplexes to the council March 29, voiced its opposition to the amendment in a city council meeting last week.
Duplexes have two living units attached together in one building. Development Services Manager Jacqueline Scanlan said allowing duplexes could decrease rental costs.
“The lowering of rental costs could also have a benefit for this community,” Scanlan said in a meeting last week. “We have high rental costs here in town.”
Those who oppose duplexes mentioned a variety of concerns Tuesday, including that the proposal could decrease their property values or bring more IU students into their neighbourhoods. Some who oppose duplexes said students, whom they believe are noisy, would ruin the quiet atmosphere of those areas.
Hundreds of Bloomington residents gave comment during two city council meetings April 28 and Tuesday, the vast majority of whom were against allowing duplexes in their neighbourhoods. The public comment section lasted more than three hours during Tuesday’s meeting.
“It's just hard for me to understand how we can go forward with allowing the plexes with such overwhelming consternation from our constituents,” said Councilmember Ron Smith, who opposes duplexes in neighborhoods.
The proposal to allow duplexes drew controversy from former city leaders, including former Councilmember Andy Ruff and former Bloomington Mayor Tomi Allison.
“You will save the city a whole lot of headaches if you take the time to get it right,” Allison said in a meeting last week.
Allison encouraged the city to wait to allow duplexes until officials could examine the effects of such a decision. Councilmember Susan Sandberg, who opposes duplexes and co-sponsored the amendment to disallow them, said the fight over zoning isn’t over.
“I want to assure the public that I am listening to you,” Sandberg said. “I am concerned about the health of our neighborhoods, and I will continue to be vigilant with that throughout the remainder of this process.”
On Wednesday, the city council will begin consideration of another amendment that aims to amend the Unified Development Ordinance to allow duplexes in a slightly different way than the Plan Commission originally recommended. The commission recommended duplexes be permitted without having to get the development approved. This is commonly referred to as “duplex by right.”
Instead, the proposed amendment would allow duplexes in most neighbourhoods on a conditional basis, meaning it would require an appeal to a zoning board before a duplex could be built.
Wednesday’s meeting starts at 6:30 p.m., but consideration of the duplex amendment won’t begin until 7:30 p.m. when the council enters a special session.