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Department of Development
111 N. Front Street, 8th Floor  
Columbus, OH 43215  
(614) 645.7795   
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Media Advisory
News Date: October 18, 2021


[Columbus, OH] – An independent assessment released today identifies inequities and inefficiencies in the City of Columbus’ zoning code, and proposes a comprehensive revision to promote more equitable growth. The assessment, begun in November 2020, finds the current code will not satisfactorily accommodate Columbus’ anticipated growth. It recommends a multi-year community engagement process to modernize the code to encourage affordable housing development, protect job centers, and establish transit-supportive, mixed-use corridors that can help Columbus residents thrive.

“Zoning is a tool we can use to guide growth and development to help ensure that all residents have access to affordable housing, greenspace, and reliable, affordable commutes,” said Mayor Andrew J. Ginther. “At present, our zoning code does not support our community’s shared aspiration to be an equitable, thriving city. We can and must collaborate with every Columbus neighborhood to envision new zoning policies that guide growth around the desires, needs and aspirations of our entire community.”

Zoning regulates and influences development through standards that establish the use of land and the size and scale of development on that land. Ultimately, it regulates where residential or non-residential buildings may be built. The report finds that Columbus’ zoning code, which has not been comprehensively updated since the 1950s, does not foster equity in the built environment. It is also inefficient to navigate and administer, which results in an overreliance on project-by-project negotiations, variances and rezoning for new projects. A reflection of the time it was written, the Code also promotes suburban sprawl over walkable, mixed-use development, which is not aligned with modern residents’ desires or factors companies seek in site selection decisions.  

“Columbus grew by 15% from 2010 to 2020 — that’s 32 people, every day, for a decade,” said Scott Messer, Director, Department of Building and Zoning Services. “This growth can happen to us, or we can intentionally cultivate development and investment in ways that enhance our city’s competiveness and shared prosperity.” 

In order to modernize the code around community needs and desires, the assessment recommends an early focus on increasing development capacity and density along designated transit corridors. This is consistent with the LinkUs initiative sponsored by the City, COTA, MORPC and Franklin County. This alignment also recognizes the role these corridors and corridor planning have on neighborhoods and the potential to accommodate additional housing and job opportunities.

“Like many fast-growing cities, Columbus has developed a series of zoning and land use regulations over time. As layers were added, the code became more cumbersome, and the outcomes became less predictable. Columbus now has the opportunity to untangle this web and leverage modern best practices to intentionally design its zoning code for equitable growth,” said Lisa Wise, whose company developed the assessment based on stakeholder interviews, a community survey, and consideration of national best practices. “More and more cities are proactively addressing their regulatory structure to help improve quality of life, take advantage of new opportunities, and remain economically competitive.”

The zoning code assessment, including the assessment report, stakeholder interview findings, community survey findings and a findings summary, is available at Public meetings will be held virtually on October 20 at 3pm and 6pm with city officials and project leaders from Lisa Wise Consulting, Inc. to review the key findings and recommendations of the assessment.