When government solves a problem it created

Last week’s Bloomington City Council agenda was an example of how a little forethought can prevent a problem and the need for more action.

Eleven years ago, the city of Bloomington Board of Zoning Appeals approved a setback variance for Bloomington Paint and Wallpaper, and the store was built almost on the street. (See here here here for more.) At the city council meeting last week, councilors considered whether to add a “no turn on red” sign at Grimes and Walnut, where the store sits. The store all but eliminates visibility of northbound traffic for westbound drivers.

So city government created a problem – in this case allowing a dangerous line-of-sight obstruction – and now belatedly addressing the problem over a decade later. The Bloomington Paint and Wallpaper store should never have been allowed to sit directly next to the street. Had the building been set back a farther, there would be no obstruction and therefore no need for the “no turn on red” sign. This would have improved traffic flow and safety.

It is what it is. The building and parking lot cannot be ripped out and re-built in a more sensible configuration, but it never should have been built that way to begin with.

I am normally one to oppose government restrictions on land use and development in the name of private property rights, but there should be reasonable limitations on property rights in the name of public safety and protecting the property of neighbors. This was one of those times. The placement of the BPAW building created an unnecessary traffic hazard that should have been avoided in 2003. It should have been obvious to the BZA that this would create a line-of-sight problem. Better decisions need to be made in the future.

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