State land use reform:
still on the shelf

Here are the major findings and recommendations of the Ohio Land Use Review Committee reported to the state legislature in 1977. Except for the provision for agricultural districts, none of the recommendations have been adopted. Most are still good ideas which would help Ohio manage growth in a more rational, coordinated way.

Strengthening the role of municipalities

  • The planning commission of each municipality should prepare a comprehensive municipal development plana detailed description of the desired land use patterns and development policy of the municipality. It would address the type, location, timing, and intensity of development as well as the public improvements needed to support such development. It would be adopted by the legislative body, and thus provide a legal base for land use regulation.
  • Municipal development regulations and capital improvements programs should conform to the adopted development plan.
  • Municipalities should be enabled to combine regulatory measures (e.g., zoning, subdivision regulations, housing and building codes) in a single development code.

Enlarging the role of townships

  • Since land use regulatory measures are non-existent or inadequate in many townships in Ohio, townships should be enabled to create a township planning commission and adopt a comprehensive township development plan, which would then provide the basis for a township zoning code.
  • The township development plan should be consistent with the provisions of an adopted countywide plan.

Achieving regional coordination

  • In each county, there should be a countywide planning commission whose membership represents local governments and reflects the population distribution in the county. Currently, county or regional planning commissions are optional, as is the participation on them by local governments. Thus, their plans may never be implemented.
  • A countywide general plan should be prepared, adopted, and periodically updated by the county planning commission. The plan would provide a framework for coordinating the more detailed plans by local governments and guide the capital expenditures of county government.
  • The county plan would map future development patterns, the location of major transportation facilities, open space and recreation areas, and critical resource areas such as prime agricultural land and scenic river corridors. It also would delineate urban service areas beyond which services such as city water and sewer would not be extended. And the plan would estimate future housing needs in the county.

Improving land use regulation

  • State enabling laws for zoning and subdivision regulation should be revised to permit flexible standards which will allow preservation of unique natural features through creative site and building design. Statutes also should be revised to foster meaningful public participation in the regulatory process.

Coordinating state agencies

  • So that the programs, regulations and projects of state agencies are consistent with the land use plans of local governments, the Governor should be given the authority and responsibility to coordinate state agencies. The General Assembly also should clarify the agencies' roles regarding land use.
  • A state-local government commission should oversee state recognition of countywide plans.

Reducing fiscal disparities

  • The state should reduce fiscal disparities among local taxing districts, perhaps with a tax-base sharing formula like the one in the Twin Cities area. Such sharing would reduce incentives for communities to raid one another for industry.

Preserving agricultural land

  • Individual landowners should be authorized to create agricultural districts voluntarily. These would reduce governmental pressures which discourage a landowner's long-term commitment to farming.
  • The state should adopt a policy which encourages agricultural land use and prevents the state's capital investments from adversely affecting productive agricultural areas.

Regulating large-scale development

  • Major developments may affect future land use patterns, traffic congestion and public investments of whole regions, yet a single community can allow them to be built. Therefore, a single, uniform regulatory process for large developments should be created by the state. The standard application would include an estimate of the multi-jurisdictional effects of the project, including the costs and sources of revenue for any public improvements. Responsibility for evaluating these impacts would rest with the areawide or county planning agency.

Protecting critical resource areas

  • Each of Ohio's counties contains critical resource areassuch as aquifer recharge areas, flood hazard areas, geologic hazard areas, mineral resource areas, significant natural areas, scenic river corridors and wetlandswhich are environmentally significant to the future of the state. A cooperative process is needed between state and local governments to identify these areas, evaluate their unique features and select protection techniques to be implemented by local governments.



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