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Bill aims to increase cheaper housing in Monroe County. Experts say it won't, raise water concerns

A waterfall rushes underneath a fallen tree at Leonard Springs Nature Park in Bloomington.
Rebecca Thiele
IPB News
Monroe County stormwater coordinator Kelsey Thetonia said there are streams on the west side of Bloomington that sink and reappear in places like Leonard Springs Nature Park.

A state House bill, HB 1108, aims to make more land available for housing by allowing development on steeper slopes. But stormwater and planning experts say the bill could lead to more erosion and pollute local waterways.

Monroe County doesn’t allow home builders to build on a slope steeper than 15 percent. Rep. Dave Hall (R-Norman) said that’s too strict — his bill would increase the allowed slope to 25 percent.

“By doing so we aim to free up more land for development, providing an opportunity to lower housing costs and bring the dream of homeownership within reach for a greater number of Hoosiers,” he said.

Kelsey Thetonia opposes the bill. She’s the stormwater coordinator for unincorporated Monroe County. Thetonia said the reason building homes is pricey in the county is because a lot of the land is karst — a kind of porous rock prone to sinkholes that is often not suitable for development.

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She said allowing development on steeper slopes could send sediment pollution into underground streams that resurface in other areas of the county, like Leonard Springs Nature Park.

Thetonia said the bill could also do the opposite of what home builders want — it could increase home prices.

“It’s really tricky to build on these steeper slopes and keep the soil where it’s supposed to be. It’s going to take a lot of work with erosion controls, it’s going to cost more money to do that. And frankly, I feel like the slope restrictions we have currently — it’s a good level of protection,” she said.

Land that drains into a source of drinking water for a city or town — like Lake Monroe — would be exempt under the bill. Monroe County Commissioner Penny Githens, the director of the Monroe County Planning Department, and the president of the Monroe County Plan Commission spoke in opposition.

The bill passed committee and now moves to the full House for consideration.

Rebecca is our energy and environment reporter. Contact her at or follow her on Twitter at @beckythiele.

Rebecca Thiele covers statewide environment and energy issues.