Indiana Daily Student

Bloomington City Council discusses vacating public alleys Wednesday night

<p>Bloomington City Hall is seen Feb. 14, 2022, on Morton Street. Bloomington City Council discussed vacating public alleys during Wednesday night’s meeting.</p>

Bloomington City Hall is seen Feb. 14, 2022, on Morton Street. Bloomington City Council discussed vacating public alleys during Wednesday night’s meeting.

Bloomington City Council members discussed the 2020 Bloomington census and Peerless Development’s petition for the vacating of public right-of-way for its apartment complex Wednesday night. The council also discussed a similar motion to vacate two segments of alley right-of-way for Phase 1 East (Hopewell) Development. 

In councilmember Steve Volan’s report, he discussed the census counts for Bloomington, saying the 2020 figures are “significantly lower than expected.”

“In fact, it was the first census in the city’s 200-year history, in which Bloomington supposedly shrunk from just over 80,000 to just over 79,000 people,” Volan said. 

He said that a lower count was bad for everyone — Monroe County, Bloomington and IU — because it meant $1,800 to $2,000 less in federal money per person for local services provided by the city.

Volan showed figures of the census miscounting the number of IU students after several moved away at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The data showed that more than two-thirds of students who usually live in Teter Quad were not counted in the census. He spoke of similar results in McNutt, Briscoe and Foster Quad. 

In his final remarks, he suggested that the U.S. Census Bureau should accept residential figures from February 2020 and adjust figures accordingly. 

After the council reports, the Bloomington Human Rights Commission presented the 2022 Human Rights Commission Award to Sandy Keller, the founder and executive director of My Sister’s Closet. 

My Sister’s Closet is a nonprofit providing second-hand clothing and supportive services to women in poverty. 

In her acceptance speech, Keller said she lives in a community that allows her to thrive and do something she feels makes a difference for others. 

“I’m honored to receive this and I work with the best people in the world,” Keller said.

Eric Greulich, a senior zoning planner for the city, introduced the petition with Peerless Development, a real-estate development firm looking to clear a 12-foot alley segment that divides 400 W. 7th St. 

He said Peerless, the petitioner, is looking to redevelop the site with a new, five story, multi-family apartment complex. The alley in question, Greulich said, contains a portion of the smokestack that has been discussed several times in the recent city council meetings. 

He said the planning commission approved the petition with three conditions before receiving a grading permit: bicycle parking accommodations, street lights and trees and verification of the alley vacation. 

In council comments, there were several questions related to timing and the merits of keeping the alley. In response to councilmember Sue Sgambelluri, Beth Cate, the corporation council for the city, said a delay in discussing this request until after recess would cause a significant delay in many things, such as the re-opening of the B-line, a popular trail that connects with the railroad.

Councilmember Dave Rollo asked if affordable housing was discussed when creating the plan for the property. Scott Robinson, the director of planning and transportation for the city, said the law prohibited the planning committee from requiring affordable housing, but the petitioner was working to include sustainability in the designs. 

Towards the end of the meeting, many council members, including councilmember Jim Sims and Ron Smith, said they would rather vacate the alley and not include the incentives such as commissioned public artwork honoring the Johnson Creamery and smokestack. 

Affordability was a large concern among council members.

The city council voted unanimously to postpone the discussion until June 15 in order to give the petitioner more time to discuss matters with the title company.

Andrew Cibor, a city engineer, introduced the Phase 1 East (Hopewell) Development. This is the initial phase of a plan for redeveloping the IU Health Bloomington hospital site. In his presentation, he said that the Redevelopment Commission has options if the council chooses to fail the legislation, however, they lead to less public benefits and overall postponement of the issue. 

Cibor said he recognized council concerns about creating another monolithic structure, but the present proposal would add new alleys intended for vehicular usage only as well as pedestrian connections. 

He said the council members and the commission both valued affordable housing, sustainability and a good design. 

Robinson said a conservative project deadline would be early 2023, and an optimistic estimate, the end of the year. 

There were no public comments following this ordinance, and the council passed the resolution with all nine votes.

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