Columbus to revise zoning code for the first time in 70 years


COLUMBUS (WCMH) – The City of Columbus may soon undergo a massive overhaul of its zoning code, the first major change to the code in more than 70 years.

“When you talk about something that hasn’t been updated since the Eisenhower administration and consider how much the Columbus and central Ohio area has changed in those 70 years, I think that it is high time that this code was updated, ”said Jon Melchi, executive director of the Building Industry Association of Central Ohio.

“Our city has changed a lot over the past 70 years,” said Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther. “A million people will come to our region over the next 30 years, so the question is whether we are going to embrace this and make sure we have the right kind of growth, dynamic, inclusive, prosperous for all or just growth. never mind.”

The city hired a California consulting firm to assess the code, which found that the current code was not at all up to date, with standards not suited to local conditions and no priority for housing or transportation projects in common.

“We know we don’t have enough housing window based on the number of people moving to central Ohio and so this is going to be a critical part of our long-term affordable housing strategy and neighborhood to. mixed incomes to make sure the people who live here are not displaced and forced to leave their neighborhoods and our new neighbors who move to central Ohio have safe and affordable places to live, ”said Ginther.

The changes to the code will essentially affect anyone living in the city of Columbus, whether through personal building projects or what is being built in the neighborhoods and plots around them.

“The City of Columbus Zoning Code sets out all of the regulations, development standards, rules and policies about how land is developed and used in the City of Columbus, so it really has an impact on everyone. world, ”said Jill Tangeman, partner at the Vorys law firm. to Columbus. “There have been code updates over the years, but I would say these are more fixes than a complete overhaul of policies, processes and procedures. This will be the first time, certainly in my lifetime, that there has been a truly comprehensive review of the City of Columbus zoning code.

Tangeman has assisted in the annexation, zoning and allotment of several large mixed-use developments and residential properties in the area. In other words, it is no stranger to the management of the zoning code. Tangeman agrees with the city’s assessment of the code, particularly the conclusion that the current code involves a complex decision-making process that creates uncertainty for potential builders.

“The processes are lengthy and they lead to uncertainty in the process and as we seek to attract new businesses and more importantly new jobs to the city, this zoning code can be a deterrent,” Tangeman said. “They want to know when they come into town that if they go through the processes, if they adhere to the planning standards and bylaws, they will get their approvals and at the moment the code just doesn’t lend itself to that kind. of certainty. “

In some of the fastest growing subways, approval of construction projects can take a few weeks. Here in Columbus, it can take almost a year.

“Right now, processes in the city of Columbus, on average, take at least six to nine months to get the zoning approvals that would be required for a business to come to the city and for many businesses they don’t or aren’t willing to wait nine months for this process, ”Tangeman said. “The zoning code and the process for granting rights in the city has really deterred a lot of businesses from locating here and I think that’s unfortunate. They are missing out on all that Columbus has to offer and we are missing out on the opportunity to grow. “

In many cases, developers have said the process is delayed during the public hearing process by community groups, delaying projects with costly changes.

“You have to meet with a number of groups a number of times, make several changes to the projects to try to appease those groups, and then only then can you complete the process to the point where you can get an up or down vote. of the various committees that the city has sanctioned, including the neighborhood commissions, the development commission, then the city council, ”said Melchi. “Our members of the development community, whether it’s a non-profit developer or a for-profit developer, meet the same groups 10 to 15 times, and really, some entities don’t. interest in answering yes. “

Melchi hopes neighboring communities will follow Columbus’ lead and consider updating their zoning codes.

He said that as the fastest growing city in the Midwest, other cities across the country will also be watching what Columbus is doing.

“I think this is a great opportunity for us to really improve our community and to see Columbus grow in a thoughtful way and see us in the next decade,” said Tangeman.

Given the scope of the proposed changes to the code, no updates to the code are expected until next year at the earliest.

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