Zoning update process detailed for Springfield City Commission

Last major changes to codes came more than 20 years ago.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Officials are predicting that finalizing the first major update to Springfield’s zoning code since 2001 will take another eight months.

City Planner Vaidehe Agwan and Planning and Zoning Technician Cheyenne Shuttleworth on May 7 offered City Commission members a report on community and stakeholder feedback received since the effort was announced.

Agwan addressed some questions that have been raised by city residents since the process was announced, clarifying that non-conformity or “grandfathered uses” will continue to be recognized and zoning changes will not take away property rights.

“If it is zoned for single-family use, those uses will be carried over.”

She also noted properties will not be automatically rezoned to something else, but “amending the code to allow for more or less uses depending on the zoning district will be up for discussion.”

The ongoing housing shortage in Springfield prompted some residents to ask why shipping containers and trailers are not permitted to be used as housing under zoning regulations.

“We do not wish to discourage new ideas of development, but we believe developments brought to us should match the zoning district, be compatible to the surroundings and enhance the neighborhood,” Agwan said.

Agwan said goals of the new zoning code include:

— relief to eliminate some required board reviews to allow administrative review and approval

— consolidation of housing districts to allow for duplexes and triplexes on large single-family lots

— Inclusion of yard and area flexibilities to permit smaller-sized homes and new development on old vacant lots, and

— enabling automated sign placement in commercially zoned districts to permit administrative approval

Updating the code language for the first time since 2001 to make it clear and more user friendly will help residents and developers, Agwan said.

Shuttleworth said stakeholders participating included “community members representing different organizations, developers or associations with vested interest in decision making.”

Their comments addressed residential concerns such as the lack of options and need for downtown housing and the need to ease zoning dimensional requirements of older residential lots. The need for downtown parking to support commercial development was also addressed, with a suggestion to include screening to enhance parking expansion.

Participants also recommended fostering smaller neighborhood business district development outside of the downtown with zoning also amended to permit multi-family housing nearby.

Shuttleworth said the recommendations formulated by consultants and the Planning and Zoning staff will be joined with the feedback from stakeholders and public workshops to generate the new zoning code to be adopted.

Mayor Rob Rue said in recent statewide meetings he has attended multiple cities similar in size to Springfield are going through the same process of reviewing and revising zoning codes.

He indicated a citizen had asked during a recent community meeting he attended about the city’s decision to involve consultants in the effort to revise zoning.

“I simply said it would probably cost twice as much if we kept this internal,” Rue said, adding that City Manager Bryan Heck confirmed that estimate. “Our contract is for about $180,000, and it would definitely cost twice that much to get through this in an efficient manner.”

Consulting parties include Zone Co LLC, Urban Fast Forward and CUDA Studios, all based in Cincinnati.

Opportunities for public participation in the process is invited with two city wide workshops planned for Saturday, June 29, and Sunday, June 30. The location and times of those workshops have yet to be announced.

Additional information about Springfield’s zoning code update can be found at https://springfieldohio.gov/city-new-zoning-code/.

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