Planners back Bloomington zoning overhaul despite business fears

Growing Grounds owner Dale Naffziger (left) and Mugsy’s Pub owner Phil Boulds (right) spoke out in opposition to a zoning code revamp backed Wednesday by the Bloomington Planning Commission. (Photo by Howard Packowitz/WJBC)


By Howard Packowitz

BLOOMINGTON – A proposed rewrite of Bloomington’s zoning code is being sent to the city council later this month with a unanimous endorsement from the city’s planning commission despite objections from a couple of well-known business owners.

Growing Grounds owner Dale Naffziger and Mugsy’s Pub owner Phil Boulds appeared before the commission Wednesday warning against too much government interference. Naffziger said like city planners, business people want their buildings to look good, but he believes government constrains creativity.

“My head is going to explode,” said Naffziger.

“It never stops.”

Naffziger fears businesses will “drop like flies,” especially after the state government raises the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

“You guys are really beating up on us. Everybody is, and this is just one more,” said Naffziger.

“I want you to think really hard. This is a lot, and you think it’s simple, but it’s not. It’s hard to run a business,” Naffziger added.

The commission also heard from Ward 2 city council candidate Donna Boelen, who’s running against Georgene Chissell in the April 2 municipal election.

Boelen said she too has heard from business owners and local realtors.

“If they want to try to sell a piece of property, and they’re going to have to conform to these codes, they’re afraid that they’re not going to be able to sell them because the developer will not want to do what would be required,” said Boelen.

Commissioner David Stanczak said the new zoning codes are less burdensome than the current codes.

“Efforts were made to bend over backwards to make what’s in this ordinance something that is flexible and usable, and that does not erect barriers that are a pain in the butt to business,” said Stanczak.

The new ordinance creates three separate zoning districts for downtown instead of just one, and for the first time provides rules allowing residents to raise chickens and keep bee hives.

“We have chickens and bees in our codes now, so that’s something new. We’ve lowered parking minimums, better landscaping requirements. The zoning of downtown better reflects, I think, what’s in our comprehensive plan and our downtown strategy,” said Planning Commission Chairman Justin Boyd.

The city council is expected to take final action on the zoning changes at its February 25 meeting.

Howard Packowitz can be reached at


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