Steps toward smarter growth in Ohio What are some immediate steps a new governor and the General Assembly could take to put this agenda into effect, to build consensus on the direction to take, before developing legislation? Clearly, the approaches in this paper call for gubernatorial and legislative leadership, not passivity. Here are several implementing actions:
A state conference on development, redevelopment, and resource conservation sponsored by the governor and General Assembly. Such a conference could serve as a means of discussing in more detail the trends identified in this paper and the experience of other states in formulating policies to encourage more compact growth, redirect development patterns to existing urban areas, protect farmland and environmentally sensitive areas, expand public transit, and encourage economic development. One potential outcome would be to generate new ideas for legislation or develop support for ideas that have previously languished. The conference would also provide a springboard for both the state's chief executive and legislature to initiate the Smart Growth agenda.
A state agency working group, appointed by the governor, to assess the specific impacts of state programs and statutes on development patterns of the state, including their long-term costs to citizens. Such a working group could identify the particular state investments that would be covered by the incentive-based program described above as well as state-administered programs that affect development patterns. The kind of policy evaluation research carried out by the Cleveland State University Urban Center in gauging the effects of the urban enterprise zone is the general method that is needed, but on a much broader basis. The results of this research would inform the preparation of implementing legislation for the Smart Growth Agenda. The working group could also identify state administrative rules and policies that could be modified without action of the state legislature to achieve Smart Growth objectives. For example, several reviewers of this working paper felt clearer and more substantive policies were needed to direct local boards of health in regulating septic tanks in developing areas. This would entail a reassessment of Ohio Department of Health rules governing the installation of household sewage disposal systems.106
Provision of technical assistance to counties, municipalities, and townships that voluntarily wish to undertake Smart Growth programs. This could be in the form of a periodic newsletter, information on the state's web site, and manuals, with model ordinances, resolutions and suggested procedures, that local governments could use. This is a function that the Ohio Department of Development has carried out in the past107 and is also a responsibility of the office of farmland preservation in the Department of Agriculture. Some of this technical assistance could be undertaken in cooperation with regional and county planning commissions, which are well-suited for this purpose.
Reconsideration by the General Assembly of the 1977 report of the Ohio Land Use Review Committee. Several reviewers of the initial draft of this working paper were puzzled as to why the General Assembly never acted on the still-relevant recommendations of this group, while others pointed to the lack of a coalition of support for them. Still, the state continues to revisit, albeit indirectly, the issues raised by this far-sighted report through the proposals by the Ohio Farmland Preservation Task Force and OEPA's Comparative Risk Project, for example. While thorny and complex, they are issues that simply will not disappear. State legislatures in surrounding states of Kentucky, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia have, over the past several years, continued to re-examine and debate the adequacy of their planning enabling legislation.108 Not only does Ohio need to assess whether its local governments have sufficient tools to undertake planning for the first decade of the 21st century, but also whether the existing system of land-use control at all levels is predictable, efficient, and fair to builders, developers, neighborhood groups, and environmental organizations, as well as the ordinary citizen who needs a zoning permit for a home addition.109 A new initiative to evaluate the state's planning laws, also headquartered at Cleveland State University's Urban Center through Ohio's cooperative urban university program, may be one resource for the General Assembly in this area.
Preparation of draft legislation to carry out the proposals in this working paper. The legislation should be drafted in the form of an annotated study bill, with the involvement of both the office of the governor and the General Assembly. As this working paper has attempted to do, the study bill could identify options and the supporting commentary could discuss the pros and cons of each option.
Smart Growth Working Paper