After an organized outcry from residents in one neighborhood, Bloomington's City Council has decided to again postpone a vote on zoning changes aimed at affordability.
The simmering debate about what kinds of homes should be built and where showed lingering division between Bloomington's east and west sides, and uncertainty from policymakers about how best to make homeownership affordable, especially with construction costs so high.
"This is the single most obvious example of east versus west Bloomington written into law," Council Member Patrick Martin said, with the older, smaller homes of east Bloomington built before the newer, larger homes of west Bloomington. "We've got a generational opportunity to do something about it."
Several Minnesota communities, including Richfield and Hopkins, have recently changed zoning ordinances to encourage smaller homes, smaller lots and more two- and three-family homes. In Bloomington, city planning staff consider such changes a return to the standards of the 1940s and 1950s, when smaller homes proliferated in the suburbs.
The council first considered this set of zoning changes in January and met about traffic concerns from residents of the Norman Ridge neighborhood in west Bloomington, where there are homes on large lots — many already eligible for subdivision — built on a narrow street on a steep hill.
Council members asked for more time to consider the changes. When the proposal came up again this month, a group of Norman Ridge-area residents hired an attorney to create an alternate zoning proposal and again voiced concern.
Though most of the residents who spoke about the changes March 20 were against them, some spoke in favor of anything that would create more affordable houses. The city's Human Rights Commission has also expressed support.
"The ordinance before you tonight would again open the door to this type of housing in Bloomington," Planning Director Glen Markegard told the council Monday. "The ordinance will have an immediate impact on affordable homeownership opportunities if it is passed."
The council voted to consider each zoning amendment on its own at a later meeting, rather than give an up-or-down vote to a package of 12 changes.