IN: Plan Ideas Discussed for 2-Mile Area Around Bloomington

May 30--Jobs. Bike paths. Farming. Public transportation.

Though those don't seem to have much in common, all are things residents and local officials would like to be taken under consideration as the Monroe County Urbanizing Area plans develop.

The county's planning department, along with Indianapolis-based consultants MKSK, is in the beginning stages of plan development for the 2-mile radius that surrounds the city of Bloomington.

Right now, it's a diverse area that includes industry, commercial, residential areas, rural areas and karst areas. Maps of the zoning and usage areas look like Jackson Pollack paintings.

"I represent a very small portion on the east side," said resident Catherine Hoyle, who lives in the urbanizing area. "It has some very odd zoning."

Hoyle said the most important priority for her would be more active transit opportunities and areas for small-scale family and urban farming. Trails and bike paths are among the more popular priorities with many people scrawling their ideas on the large pieces of paper adorning the walls.

"The ability to bike in and out of the city safely, that would be huge," she said. "That is the main form of transportation for so many people in this community, myself included, and by designing a space for that, it makes it safer."

The west side of the county will see the first trail project begin this year, and Susan Ostby agreed it would be nice to have a more extensive alternative transportation route in the area. It could lead to a bigger sense of community, something that needs to be preserved on the west side of town.

"I'm concerned about I-69 further dividing our community," Ostby said. "I would like to keep the Bloomington character, in its own westside way."

Others seemed to agree, with about half a dozen green stickers placed beside mixed-use areas on one poster. Even more little green stickers sat alongside pictures of open spaces and quarries, showing the desire to preserve or add more of these areas in the urbanizing zone.

Duncan Campbell, president of the Monroe County Historic Preservation Board of Review, said that one of his priorities for the area is preservation, not only of historic structures but of limestone.

"This is one of the richest limestone areas in the world, this area from Bloomington to Bedford," said Campbell, who also sits on the steering committee for the urbanizing area plan. "If we build on top of all of it, we're just dooming our economy and our future economy."

This kind of preservation seems almost at odds with what seemed to be the highest priority for many: jobs and employment growth.

To fill that need, clean industry might be the best way to go, said Ellettsville Fire Chief Mike Cornman. The Ellettsville Fire Department services some of the urbanizing area between Ellettsville and Bloomington, and clean industry would be good at both providing jobs (and tax dollars to local governments) and keeping public safety and quality of life high in the area.

But it's got to be the right mix for the area, Cornman said. Finding that right mix will now sit on the shoulders of MKSK, the consultant the planning department hired last December.

The group will take the information from Thursday's open house and use it to create a rough draft, or drafts, of the plan by August, said Matt Leasure, associate with MKSK. The rough drafts will be presented in the same open house style, allowing for even more public comment.

Copyright 2014 - Herald-Times, Bloomington, Ind.

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