Bloomington Mayor Mark Kruzan is planning another attempt to limit the number of chain restaurants downtown. The mayor says he wants the City Council and the Plan Commission to approve an ordinance that would require an applicant wanting to open a standardized restaurant in two districts of the downtown to seek conditional approval from the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals. The city defines a standardized restaurant as one which is contractually required by a franchisor to offer standardized menus, ingredients, food preparation, uniforms, logos, or exterior design. Mayor Kruzan offers a hypothetical question to listeners, to justify his proposal.
There are eleven conditional use ordinance provisions for development standards that the Zoning Board can use to evaluate applications for such things as historic preservation, bed and breakfast businesses, some restaurants, and adult care and child care facilities, plus other regulations applying to signage, building height, density, and architectural standards. Mayor Kruzan says the homogenization of the character of downtown Bloomington is not in the community’s interests. He responds to anticipated critics of his proposal, and the expected argument that his proposal limits property owners rights and is an unwarranted intervention in the free market.
Mayor Kruzan says that most communities have development regulations that reflect the priorities of their respective community. Furthermore, the proposed regulations would only apply to two districts: courthouse square and restaurant row. The mayor acknowledges that the desire to make the downtown area and its restaurants unique is part of the larger promotion of the city’s art and entertainment offerings, reflected in the city’s recent designation of the downtown BEAD district. However, the proposed ordinance could not be applied to the BEAD, as it is not a legal district. Mayor Kruzan concluded by outlining the expected process and timeline for his proposal to become law.
The mayor says that there could be as many as six public hearings for the public to attend. The Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce announced their opposition to the proposal today, stating that the ordinance would restrict ‘standardized’ restaurants from locating in some portions of the downtown.