Concern for historic neighborhoods delays zoning revamp

2018-12-13 | Pantagraph

Dec. 13 -- BLOOMINGTON -- Public fears that structures in historic neighborhoods may be demolished to make way for high-density housing have prompted a delay in overhauling the city's zoning ordinance.

The Bloomington Planning Commission decided Wednesday to table the vote until next year.

The postponement was prompted by testimony at a public hearing Wednesday and in emails sent to the commission about a 40-year-old R-3B (multiple-family residence district) zoning provision that allows densities of up to 70 dwellings per acre. Opponents want that zoning changed to preserve historic neighborhoods.

Those areas "are in the heart of our historic, older neighborhoods and these structures should be preserved," said Carlo Robustelli in an email to the commission.

"Many of the homes are on the National Historic Registry," wrote the McLean County Board member who lives in the historic Dimmitt's Grove neighborhood. "Our zoning map should should be working to protect these valuable historic and cultural assets, not encourage their demolition and redevelopment."

His concern was repeated by six other residents during the hearing, which had been continued from Oct. 24 .

"We realize it's been R-3B for many decades. We would like that changed," said Dimmitt's Grove Neighborhood Association President Brad Williams .

After digesting the public input, city planner Katie Simpson and consultant John Houseal will make recommendations to the commission to consider at its Feb. 13 meeting.

Others said they thought the proposed zoning code revision was more restrictive.

"My assessment, as is Katie's ... is that when we set out to rewrite this, our intention was specifically not to make it more restrictive, but to actually provide greater flexibility in most areas of the code," said Houseal.

"While I wouldn't call it more restrictive, we do have greater standards in place," he added. "There are not very high landscaping standards right now. We tried to raise those as well as some other design and performance standards."

There have been more than nine hearings before the planning commission on the proposed changes.

The proposed revisions that received the most comments by far are those regulating beekeeping and allowing, for the first time, raising chickens in residential areas, said Houseal, whose Chicago -based firm, Houseal, Lavigne Associates , has been helping the commission under a $125,000 contract approved August 2016 .

The comprehensive revision was prompted by the city's 2015 comprehensive plan, which outlined a thriving downtown as one of its goals. The last major revision was completed in 2006.

The hundreds of suggested changes include subdividing the city's 26-block downtown into smaller zoning districts to ease redevelopment and consolidating some commercial districts to eliminate duplication.

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Contact Maria Nagle at (309) 820-3244. Follow her on Twitter: @Pg_Nagle

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