Indiana Daily Student

City council places limits on meeting times, introduces zoning amendment

The Bloomington City Hall building is seen Dec. 15, 2019, at 401 N. Morton St. The council passed a new rule Wednesday to limit the duration of city council meetings to five-and-a-half hours or until midnight, whichever comes first.
The Bloomington City Hall building is seen Dec. 15, 2019, at 401 N. Morton St. The council passed a new rule Wednesday to limit the duration of city council meetings to five-and-a-half hours or until midnight, whichever comes first.

The Bloomington City Council passed new legislation to limit the duration of city council meetings to five-and-a-half hours or until midnight, whichever occurs first. 

Councilmember Steve Volan first introduced this amendment, which would require two councilmembers to agree to end the meeting, during a council meeting on Sept. 8. One council member must make a motion to adjourn and another to second it.

Initially, the ordinance suggested the meetings end automatically if only one member of the council wished to adjourn after the time limit was achieved, but after deliberation during a previous council meeting, Volan decided to amend the legislation.

Volan has prioritized this change since a contentious council meeting March 3 that lasted for nine hours. Volan sent out a memo regarding these suggested changes after the council’s four yearly budgetary hearings in August, two of which extended past five-and-a-half hours.

“I think it’s a wise move to make it more likely that we will limit our time in deliberation in council meetings,” councilmember Isabel Piedmont-Smith said. “I do feel strongly that the quality of our decision-making declines as the evening wears on.”

The ordinance passed 7-2, with councilmembers Susan Sandberg and Jim Sims voting no.

Council members also heard a rezoning petition, with Wheeler Mission Ministries asking the council to rezone 1.31 acres at 215 S. Westplex Ave. This would allow the Christian, not-for-profit, social service organization to expand into a building adjacent to their Center for Men.

The rezoning of the area and its three properties would allow the not-for-profit to utilize the recently purchased property to provide additional shelter, temporary housing and other services to individuals experiencing homelessness.

A StateFarm Insurance agent located near Wheeler Mission echoed concerns of other surrounding business owners, saying many homeless individuals bring other homeless ‘guests’ with them, who are usually intoxicated and who bother local businesses. The concerns of local business owners caused some council members to be hesitant to support the zoning.

The ministry will not offer temporary housing or services to individuals who are under the influence. The police cannot arrest them or otherwise remove people from the area unless they are committing a crime as well.

Councilmembers Sandberg, Matt Flaherty, Kate Rosenbarger and Piedmont-Smith expressed support for the proposal. Volan was absent from the do-pass recommendation and the remaining councilmembers abstained.

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