COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Columbus leaders detailed progress Monday on the city’s effort at overhauling its zoning code, a process that will go well into at least 2024, according to Council President Pro Tem Rob Dorans.
The city had already identified 62 “corridors and nodes” that will be included in its first crack at modernizing the zoning code — tackling both housing and commercial rules for use of land. They range from stretches of Broad Street to the bulk of North and South High streets, to Sullivant Avenue in Franklinton and Morse Road in Northland. Many serve as the “main streets” throughout communities in central Ohio.
At an evening public hearing in Northland, Dorans, alongside Council President Shannon Hardin and others, outlined where the city stands as of August. After a summer of engagement, the city will continue to solicit feedback on what significant changes to zoning should look like.
“We will act. We have to,” Hardin said. “Council will vote early next year for some kind of a change, and our ask is that you engage with us along the way.”
How Columbus landed on an overhaul effort
Released in fall 2021, an analysis of the current code — which officials have said hasn’t had a major makeover since the 1950s — revealed a set of city land and property use laws that don’t put Columbus in a position to grow into an “equitable, thriving city,” said Kevin Wheeler, project manager for the city rezoning campaign Zone In, at an earlier public meeting.
City leaders are staring down estimates that the larger region will grow by a million or more residents in less than three decades.
The 2021 assessment concluded the current code is too scattered from one area to another, not necessarily “user-friendly,” and rooted in redlining. Wheeler told attendees Monday that height limits or parking policies that appear in the present zoning code, for one, add barriers to housing and commercial projects.
Priorities and progress
The city is focused on the first phase of overhaul: centered on the selected areas within those 62 nodes and corridors that total about 140 miles of Columbus.
LinkUS — the region’s proposed high capacity rapid transit service — areas and current COTA bus routes were two of several considerations as to what corridors and nodes were selected. A full list of what Columbus roadways and areas are included in the first phase of the Zone In project is available here.
“Among the things we consistently hear about, no matter where we are: people want walkable neighborhoods, they want bikeable neighborhoods,” Wheeler said Monday. “They want better transit. They’re worried about housing, they want more options.”
The city wants to leverage a changed code to fix some of the issues Columbus residents have highlighted, Wheeler said.
Common Grounds, a cafe on heavily trafficked Parsons Avenue in south Columbus, had zero parking when it was working to get off the ground. The city’s zoning code mandated it offer at least 20 places to park.
“They had to spend thousands and thousands of dollars, and were delayed for months to do something everyone wanted them to do,” Wheeler said.
It’s policies like that the city wants to target in this process, he said. Wheeler outlined the city’s latest code-change priorities — which have come to include making it easier to build housing, bolstering main streets, and decreasing reliance on cars, among others.
The rest of 2023 will largely focus on additional analysis by city officials and feedback from the community. When proposals do come, likely in early 2024, they won’t be put into place without public notice or a Council vote.