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City council overrides Mayor’s LEAP pipeline resolution veto

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The Bloomington City Council overrode Mayor Kerry Thomson’s veto of a resolution opposing the LEAP water pipeline project during their regular meeting Wednesday. Seven council members voted to support the resolution, while councilmember Kate Rosenbarger abstained. Councilmember Matt Flaherty was not present at the meeting.  

The council also decided to extend their consideration of a petition to rezone land for the Summit District to a third hearing, which will take place May 1.  

Council overrides mayoral veto 

The resolution considered during Wednesday’s meeting opposed the LEAP water pipeline, a state-sponsored pipeline that could divert up to 100 million gallons of water daily from the Wabash River into Boone County. The council narrowly passed the resolution in March with five councilmembers voting in support and four members Isak Asare, Sydney Zulich, Flaherty and Rosenbarger abstaining.   

Thomson failed to sign the resolution within 10 days of it coming to her desk, meaning it was considered vetoed. Thomson told the council during their meeting March 27 that she intended not to sign any resolutions addressing issues outside of city business.  

She reiterated this sentiment in an email to the council sent April 15.  

“While I respect the council’s right to legislate on any topic it chooses, as Mayor, I will not sign any resolution or ordinance that distracts from the mission at hand: creating a better Bloomington for us and future generations of residents,” Thomson said in the email.  

Thomson’s intent to veto would also extend to a recently passed resolution calling for a ceasefire and aid in the Israel-Hamas war. Before Thomson’s first State of the City address on April 9, more than 20 demonstrators lined the sidewalks outside the event’s location, urging Thomson to sign the resolution. These demonstrators expressed their disappointment and anger with her intent to veto.  

The council had postponed a vote on the resolution March 6 after Thomson and local economic leaders cautioned passing the resolution would harm the city’s relationship with the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, the public-private organization managing the pipeline project.  

The IEDC signed a $10 million contract with the state in May 2023 to create a 35-mile water pipeline from Lebanon, Indiana to Boone County. The pipeline would support a 9,000-acre manufacturing district. 

Councilmember Andy Ruff, who co-authored the resolution with councilmember Dave Rollo, reminded the rest of the council that the resolution was not opposing the IEDC as a group. Rather, it expresses the council’s concerns with the specific project.  

“Resolutions like this in Bloomington are the strongest tool we have to make a collective statement about an important issue,” Ruff said.  

This pipeline has faced pushback from residents across Indiana. Tippecanoe County residents formed a group called “Stop the Water Steal” to oppose the pipeline. Consumer advocacy group Citizens Action Coalition has also criticized the IEDC for lacking transparency with the public when developing plans for the LEAP project.  

Rollo said the pipeline is an issue that affects Bloomington, as residents across Indiana pay taxes that may go toward the project. Rollo also said that if the council passes the resolution, they will have the support of other governing bodies if Bloomington’s water source is ever threatened. Governing bodies for Attica, Lafayette, West Lafayette and Monticello, Indiana, along with Miami, Benton and Tippecanoe counties have passed legislation opposing the LEAP pipeline project.  

“It’s likely just a matter of time before we are affected ourselves, most likely by having our own water tapped Lake Monroe,” Rollo said. “This project sets the precedent for that.”  

Council extends Summit District rezone petition to third hearing 

At the beginning of the presentation and debate for the Summit District rezone, councilmember Hopi Stosberg said the council planned to have a third hearing for the petition. The council had its first petition hearing during their meeting April 10, and Wednesday was their second hearing.  

The council voted to limit presentations from Jacqueline Scanlan, the city manager for the petition, and the petitioners, Sudbury Development Partners LLC, to 90 minutes. They also limited time devoted to councilmember questions and comments, along with the public comment portion. 

Sudbury Development Partners LLC hopes to rezone 139 acres off Weimer Road in Southwest Bloomington to support a mixed commercial and residential development called the Summit District.

According to a city council memo, the developers want to build around 4,250 residential units within the Summit District. If approved, the development would be one of the largest projects ever constructed in city limits. Sudbury Development Partners LLC also estimates the development would be completed by 2034. 

The Bloomington Plan Commission forwarded the rezone petition during their meeting March 19. At this meeting, representatives from Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County, United Way of South Central Indiana, Heading Home of South Central Indiana and the Bloomington Chamber of Commerce voiced their support for the rezone and the Summit District. Many of these representatives argued the Summit District would fill a need for more housing in Bloomington. 

Angela Parker, a petitioner representative, emphasized how the Summit District would address this need. In her report to the council, she referenced a 2024 Regional Opportunity Initiatives Housing study that found Monroe County will need an additional 4,447 residential units by 2030 to accommodate population growth.  

“The bottom line is Bloomington needs housing,” Parker said. “The inventory is low, making it more expensive and it shuts out the opportunity for people to own homes and to have affordable places to live.” 

However, the project has also garnered criticism and pushback from residents who live on Weimer Road and the nearby neighborhood of Arbor Ridge. Residents believe Weimer Road and surrounding infrastructure cannot support the large-scale development. Nearby residents shared their concerns about the project from worries about traffic backups to environmental impacts to flooding during public comment Wednesday.  

“If you approve this, you have changed the zoning and you have changed the character of the city of Bloomington,” Arbor Ridge resident John Scott said during public comment. “Not for the better, for the worse.”  

The council will hear the petition for a third time during its next meeting May 1. If the council does not vote on the petition by June 26, or 90 days after the Plan Commission forwarded the petition, the rezone is automatically approved. 

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified where the founders of the group “Stop the Water Steal” are based.

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