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Monroe County Plan Commission Holds Off Adopting New Rules for Rural Areas


The Monroe County Plan Commission held off on adopting new rules for rural areas at a meeting November 18th. As with previous meetings, the Commission heard complaints about the regulations from the public, mostly from local realtors. The issue was complicated by recent problems with the County’s website. Several speakers said they have not been able to access documents related to the ordinance. Commission member Ron Foster suggested what he called a roundtable discussion with concerned citizens.

Foster said, “We’ve had a lot of realtors and builders here. It seemed like there was still a lot of miscommunication between what they perceived and what is actually going on. They talked about a roundtable- and that we have another month’s. Can we get a round table either with some of us and staff, to sit down with them to work out the miscommunications? I think it’s embarrassing that people have been trying to get on the website for three weeks and they can’t even download their documents.”

The regulations would set limits on how rural property owners could subdivide their land. The goal, according to Commission members, is to prevent sprawling development. The rules would not apply to any of the municipalities in Monroe County or to the two-mile fringe around Bloomington. Greg Young, a farmer in Benton Township, asked the Commission not to impinge on his property rights.

Young said, “Let’s not let government get so big so that guys like me can’t do our quality of life. If you start tying my hands, one day I’m not going to sell it, I’m going to give it to my grandkids. They want to build a home on it, how many building lots in Monroe County don’t have a 15% slope or aren’t in a flood plane? Come on, people. Not many. Out of my 160 acres, I’ll get ten lots if I’m lucky. I have five grandchildren, and we’re not done yet. You never know, I might need more than ten. I respect all of your hard work, believe me, you’re looking out for Greg, but old Greg can get by without you, everybody.”

The Commission did not set a date for the roundtable discussion.

Permits for yard sales


The Ellettsville Plan Commission agreed it is time to revisit the possibility of requiring permits for yard sales during their meeting on November 6th. The commission has addressed this issue in the past when concerns regarding health code came up regarding a resident who operates a weekly yard sale and keeps items in his yard during the week. Planning department administrator Denise Line said she looked for guidance from Indiana Code but nothing specified a limit to how long a yard sale can last.
The commission put the issue on their agenda for their next meeting, December 4th, though they said they’d come to a standstill with the issue in the past.
The commission also gave the go ahead for a development on a property that had formally been designated a sinkhole.
The property was surveyed again in 2005 and 2014 and both times classified as inactive. Commission member Dan Swafford asked if the commission could be held liable if the sinkhole causes property damage in the future.
The sinkhole easement adjustment was unanimously approved.

New stop lights on West Bloomfield Road


The city of Bloomington is planning to install a new stop light on West Bloomfield Road. Matt Smethurst, an engineering field specialist for the city, told the Board of Public Works about the project at a meeting November 18th. He says the new stop light will improve access to the recreation center, and the construction will allow for some utility relocation.
The Board approved a $3,000 contract with James Stanger Excavating to remove the sidewalk and the tree.

Proposed ordinance for Bloomington’s growing street-food sector


The city council heard from street vendors and restaurateurs during their meeting last night about a proposed ordinance that would address the growing street-food sector of Bloomington. Jason Carnes assistant director of economic sustainable development described some of the changes in an early presentation of this ordinance to the board of public works meeting over the summer. He says that the ordinance will be split to food trucks, push carts, and solicitors. The separation is intended to help streamline the process.

Councilmember Steve Volan said that last nights meeting was cordial, and everyone agreed that the ordinance needs an update, but that details still need to be worked out to balance the varying interests of food vendors. He related the experience to his past experience with the local food market.

A vocal vote on the ordinance showed the council in favor of the proposal 4 to one – two members were absent.

Quick Reads – November 20, 2014

- A portion of the city’s B-Line trail will be closed Monday, November 24 to all pedestrian and bicycle traffic for the entire day. According to Dave Williams, Operations and Development Director of the City of Bloomington Parks and Recreation Department, this closing of the B-Line between 4th Street and Kirkwood Avenue will allow for replacement of paver stones on the trail. Repairs are weather dependent, but weather forecasts are favorable and the work should be completed by Monday evening.

- Republican Kelly Mitchell was sworn in as Indiana State Treasurer yesterday. Earlier this month she was elected to a four-year term which starts in January, but she has been appointed by Governor Pence to start the position early because the previously elected treasurer, Richard Mourdock, resigned last August. Until yesterday, Daniel Huge has was serving as interim Treasurer. Mitchell’s previous experience includes six years working in the Treasurer’s Office as director of the investment fund TrustINdiana. According to a press release from the State Office, Mitchell said, “From protecting and investing our tax dollars, to raising financial literacy, to helping Hoosier families save for postsecondary education, we have a lot of work to do in the Treasurer’s office. I can’t wait to get started.”

- Indiana will soon have a new Deputy Secretary of State. Davey Neal has resigned as of December 11. But he won’t be straying too far from the Statehouse. He is taking a job at Clark Quinn, an Indianapolis law firm that lobbies the state government on behalf of businesses. He will be President of Clark Quinn Public Affairs and an attorney with the firm. Secretary of State Connie Lawson will appoint Brandon Clifton to replace Neal as Deputy Secretary of State and chief of staff, according to a press release from her office. Clifton has previously served as Deputy General Counsel at the Indiana Department of Administration and he also spent time working with the Indiana Department of Education as a staff attorney and policy advisor. Clifton will start his new position on December 1st.

- The Indiana State Police will conduct a Sobriety Check Point operation somewhere in Monroe County this Friday night, November 21st. In a press release, State Police announced that drivers should be able to produce their driver’s license and vehicle registrations if stopped, and should plan ahead if they intend to consume alcoholic beverages. Such plans might include using a designated driver, calling a taxi, offering non-alcoholic beverages at events, or refusing to let friends drive while impaired. Troopers also ask for the public’s cooperation in reporting erratic driving with a description of the vehicle, its location and direction of travel. The Sobriety Check Point operation is designed to apprehend impaired drivers, deter others from drinking and driving, and make Indiana roadways safer for everyone.

Indiana University School of Medicine Finds Inconsistencies In Patient and Doctor Communication


Indiana University School of Medicine researchers released a study earlier this week discussing inconsistencies in patient and doctor communication. The study compared physician counseling sessions in cases of babies born prematurely at only 22 to 25 weeks. Analyzing the difference in counsel between obstetricians and neonatologists, the researchers found numerical inconsistencies and conflicting terminology, according to a recent IU press release. The report states that better and more standardized communication is needed between pregnant patients and counseling physicians. The report also relates to the greater issue of infant mortality in Indiana. Study author Dr. Tucker Edmonds said the research does not suggest that infant mortality rates are increased by poor communication, but better communication could improve overall quality of care for pregnant women.

Dr. Edmonds also has an interest in overall public health and improving the many factors, including education and communication, that could lead to lowered infant mortality rates.
National health rankings from 2011 place Indiana as the 45th for the worst infant mortality rate in the country. Infant mortality rates refer to the number of infant deaths per thousand.

In response to the State’s relatively high infant mortality rates, the Indiana State Department of Health launched an annual Labor of Love summit. Last week the department hosted its second Labor of Love summit at the Indiana Convention Center, bringing together health professionals, providers and community members for a discussion on combating infant mortality. Infant mortality rates serve as an indicator of health status. The Indiana State Department of health lists birth defects, post-birth injuries and maternal complications as top reasons for infant mortality. Indiana also has the 20th highest national rate of unintended and teen pregnancies, according to a 2011 report from the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Debate Continues Over Monroe County’s Proposed Zoning Laws


Local realtors and landowners are still not satisfied with proposed changes to Monroe County’s zoning laws. Members of the public commented on the changes at a November 6th meeting of the County Plan Commission. The Commission is considering revisions to its rules for rural areas. The changes have sparked months of debate. Commission President John Irvine said the County has been responsive to concerns.

The new zoning rules set limits on how property owners can subdivide their land. County Planning Director Larry Wilson said residents have expressed the most concern about some of those limits.

The Bloomington Board of Realtors sent a representative to oppose the changes. Tracey Lutz (LUTEZ) said the rules would mean fewer new lots for development and a reduction in local property values.

Lutz’s comments challenged assertions by County officials that the proposed changes would actually reduce sprawl. Irvine referred to a new rule that would allow large-scale landowners to sell small portions of their properties, but only if they agree not to subdivide their land again for 25 years.

Monroe County Council member Marty Hawk, who is also a local realtor, warned the Commission might be miscalculating. Hawk said limiting development could hurt the County’s finances. She said that’s because of Indiana’s circuit breaker law, which is beginning to affect Monroe County.

Irvine responded by saying the circuit breaker law was QUOTE interrelated UNQUOTE to the other financial considerations, but he didn’t say how the Commission proposed dealing with the issue. Although realtors were unhappy with the newest version of the zoning rules, other rural businesses have stopped protesting. That’s because the Commission removed the rules that would affect those businesses. Jim Shelton from the Greater Bloomington Area Chamber of Commerce thanked the Commission.

The Commission did not vote on the rules at the November 6th meeting.

Bloomington Named A Gold Level Bicycle Friendly Community

The league of American Bicylists has named Bloomington a Gold Level Bicycle Friendly Community. The League is a non-profit bicycling advocacy organization. Its awards are are partially funded by the Trek Bicycle company. Every year the League gives out awards to communities that promote and support the use of bicycles by residents. Winners are ranked from the top with platinum awards, then gold, silver and bronze. Last year Bloomington received a silver award. This year, four communities were given the highest recognition. Bloomington was among 21 getting the gold medal. It was the only place in Indiana to do so. In 2003, Bloomington was the first community in Indiana to be recognized as a Bicycle Friendly Community and continues to have the highest rating of any community in the state. This year’s award was in recognition of its efforts to improve conditions for bicycling through investment in bicycling promotion, education programs, infrastructure and pro-bicycling policies.

Affordable Care Act Volunteers Will Hold Upcoming Events to Enroll Monroe County Residents

In a recent press release, Affordable Care Act (or ACA) volunteers of Monroe County announced a variety of upcoming events to help residents enroll or re-enroll in health coverage. The “CoverMonroe Project” will hold three different types of events to increase service to residents: Education and Enrollment Fairs that educate citizens about available options; Health Plan Forums to help support selecting the insurance plan that best meets family needs, and specific “Coverage Navigator” appointments for one-on-one help. Numerous events, some requiring an appointment, will be held between December 3rd and January 25th at the Monroe County Public Library (303 E. Kirkwood Avenue in Bloomington), or at the library’s Ellettsville Branch at 600 West Temperance Street in Ellettsville. Open enrollment extends until February 15th, 2015. After that time, those failing to sign up for health insurance will face tax penalties that have doubled from last year.
The CoverMonroe Project is the key program of the ACA Volunteers of Monroe County Inc, a non-profit company dedicated to educating the community on the features of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. The volunteer program is licensed by the Federal Government to provide direct advice and assistance in health coverage, working with ASPIN Health Navigators of Indianapolis, the City of Bloomington, IU Health Individual Solutions, Monroe County Public Library and the United Way of Monroe County in this effort.

Bloomington Scores Above Average As LGBT Supportive Community

Bloomington holds an above-average ranking in “LGBT Friendliness,” according to an Indiana Daily Student report on a recent evaluation by the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index (or MEI). With a score of 67 out of 100, Bloomington was among five Indiana cities evaluated in research that covered a total of 84 million people. The MEI measures how cities support their LGBT communities, even if their state and federal governments do not. Points were awarded in categories that included nondiscrimination laws, relationship recognition, employment benefits and municipal services. While Bloomington scored very highly in most categories, it scored lower in the municipality-as-employer category. That category examines nondiscrimination in city employment, transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits, city contraction nondiscrimination and equal benefits ordinances. Data compiled by the Human Rights MEI were sent to municipality leaderships in July to allow them to review their scores, and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses.

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