Part I: Historical background

Overview of Ohio's progressive traditions
in planning and land-use control

Ohio's progressive tradition in planning and land-use control began in 1915 with the enactment of one of the first statutes for municipal planning in the U.S. That statute, which authorized a municipal commission to prepare a master plan for a community, was drafted by Cincinnati attorney and planning law pioneer, Alfred Bettman. Subsequently, the Ohio law influenced the drafting of the Standard City Planning Act, developed by an advisory committee of the U.S. Department of Commerce that was appointed by Secretary (and later President) Herbert Hoover. The municipal planning act was followed by enabling legislation for municipal zoning (1920), and municipal subdivision and regional planning (1923). A landmark decision that originated in Ohio was Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co ., 272 U.S. 365, the 1926 United State Supreme Court case that upheld the constitutionality of zoning. Once the constitutionality of the concept of zoning was affirmed by the Court, zoning spread rapidly through the United States.

In Ohio, county and regional planning commissions received the authority to regulate subdivisionsthe division of land into buildable lotsin unincorporated areas in 1935. However, counties and townships did not obtain the authority to regulate land use itself in unincorporated areas through zoning until 1947 when the enabling legislation was enacted; those zoning enabling statutes underwent redrafting and amendment in 1957.

The early efforts were aimed at clarifying the roles and responsibilities of local government in planning and land-use control. The municipal authority for planning and land-use control is derived from Article XVIII, Section 3 of the Ohio Constitution, the so-called home rule amendment that allows municipalities to exercise all powers of local self-government and enforce police power regulations, as long as they are not in conflict with the general laws of the state.6 Counties and townships draw their authority from the grant of power in the state statutes rather than the Ohio Constitution. The Ohio statutes are largely devices that delegate the state's power and provide uniform procedures for their use, with limited substantive standards for local planning. With a few exceptions (such as preemption of local regulation of licensed hazardous waste facilities and certain electrical generating and transmission facilities, and approval of permanent structures in coastal erosion areas), the state does not directly regulate land use nor provide oversight or coordination of local planning, even though local planning is clearly influenced by state investment decisions, such as those affecting highways, park development, and the construction of higher educational facilities.

In the 1970s, attention turned to economic development, agricultural preservation, and environmental protection. The Ohio General Assembly enacted or amended a number of economic development statutes providing Ohio communities with the ability to offer incentives for businesses to locate, start-up, and/or expand within them. After an amendment was enacted to the Ohio constitution authorizing current agricultural use valuation (see below), implementing legislation was also passed to preserve farmland. It allowed the creation of agricultural districts in which land would be taxed at its value for agriculture rather than its market or speculative value for development. Prompted in part by federal laws, the General Assembly began to enact statutes addressing environmental issues, starting with the creation of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio Power Siting Board, which oversees the location of such facilities as electrical generating plants and major transmission lines. This continued througout the 1980s with the passage of legislation for solid waste planning and coastal zone management along Lake Erie.

Recent measures

The need to reinvest in local infrastructure and to provide for affordable housing were other areas of state concern. Created in 1988 after a 1987 amendment to the Ohio constitution (and reauthorized in 1995) that allowed the state to issue $120 million in bonds each year, the Ohio Public Works Commission and the Ohio Small Governments Capital Improvement Commission together oversee an innovative intergovernmental program that provides monies to pay for public infrastructure capital improvement projects of local governments. In 1990, Ohio voters approved an amendment to the Ohio constitution that authorized housing as a public purpose; the General Assembly responded both with amendments to Chapter 175, which expanded the role of the state in the area of housing finance, and with the passage of Chapter 176, which established a new role for counties, townships, and municipalities in planning for and providing affordable housing through a variety of measures.

Ohio has addressed the question of reform of its planning laws on two occasions, once formally and the other indirectly. In 1975, the General Assembly created the Ohio Land Use Review Committee that was charged with looking at planning and land-use control at the state, regional, county, township, and municipal levels. The committee's report was released in 1977 and proposed a broad array of changes.7 They included greater responsibilities for county and regional planning commissions, procedures for large-scale development review, and enhanced authority for municipal and county planning commissions. The report also suggested that regional tax-base sharing, a mechanism implemented in the Twin Cities area by which local governments share in a portion of the growth of the commercial and industrial real property tax base, should be studied further. As these recommendations were aimed chiefly at local governments, the report did not indicate any dramatic changes in responsibilities for state agencies. While omnibus legislation was introduced to implement the report's recommendations, it was never enacted because of lack of strong political support for the changes suggested by the Committee.

In 1996, Governor George Voinovich created, by executive order, the Ohio Farmland Preservation Task Force. After conducting hearings around the state, the Task Force made its report in 1997.8 Among its recommendations was a proposal to encourage local governments to prepare comprehensive land-use plans. Such plans would, in turn, encourage the preservation of farmland, the efficient use of public infrastructure investments, the use of agriculturally supportive zoning, and the managed expansion of urban and suburban areas, including the identification of urban service areas. The Task Force recommended that the state provide matching grants and technical assistance for the preparation of local comprehensive land-use plans. A bill that incorporated numerous Task Force recommendations (including a proposal for voluntary countywide comprehensive plans), H.B. 645, was introduced in the Ohio House in December 1997; it has not yet been enacted. Neither has S.B. 223, a companion proposal to authorize the purchase of agricultural conservation easements. One Task Force proposal has been implemented through legislation--the creation of an office of farmland preservation in the Department of Agriculture. That office has been charged with carrying out another Task Force recommendation, the development of a strategy to preserve farmland in the state, to be unveiled in September 1998.



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Smart Growth Working Paper
Part I: Historical background
Part II: Overview of trends
Part III: State agencies' policies
Part IV: Land-use planning models
Part V: Smart growth for Ohio
Next steps

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