Development/Redevelopment and Regional News and Zoning and Retail and Real Estate & Retail

Bloomington puts new rules on chain businesses

June 12, 2014

City officials in Bloomington are creating new rules for chain businesses looking to open in the downtown area.

The City Council voted Wednesday night to require what it calls "standardized businesses" to obtain a special zoning permit that specifies details of the building's look and design.

Supporters say the step is intended to protect the appearance of the downtown area, which has numerous local restaurants, shops and bar whose businesses are driven by their proximity to the Indiana University campus.

The rules will apply to a nine-block area around the courthouse square and a 12-block zone that includes Kirkwood Avenue just west of the IU campus, The Herald-Times reported.

Mayor Mark Kruzan pushed as far back as 2009 to ban new chain stores and restaurants in order to protect the downtown's character, but opposition grew quickly and those proposals never won approval.

The Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce supported the new ordinance after fighting earlier versions this spring that could've blocked new chain businesses if officials believed there was an over concentration of them.

"We're excited about the spirit behind this," said Jeb Conrad, the chamber's CEO and president.

The ordinance defines a standardized business as having uniform services, merchandise, menus, logos, signs or exterior design. Design criteria would include whether the building complements the surrounding area with its architecture, scale and interior decor, and that any building of historical significance be preserved as much as possible.

Councilman Chris Sturbaum said changes made Wednesday were meant to exempt businesses not visible from the street from the ordinance, such as those on the second level of a building or shops without windows because they're located inside a building.

"I think this is the right direction," Sturbaum said. "We're all in this together. We all want this community to thrive."

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