Is this the modernization or “monetization” of the zoning code?
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The City and its development offices have been working to overhaul the zoning code since 2021, but some local housing advocates say City officials made the changes “blind” in some respects, after they decided not to use area and neighborhood land use plans as guides.

Zone In Columbus” – which was formally voted into existence Monday night by City Council – could radically change Columbus’s major corridors as the region continues to experience population growth with some estimates saying nearly 90 new residents a day are moving here.

But a few critics say “Zone In Columbus” is mostly about building taller apartment buildings with no parking options in these major corridors so to create more density. For example, “Zone In Columbus” states Clintonville and its High Street corridor are being “underutilized”.

Everyone knows that area of High Street is coveted for its uniqueness and charm, and most of Clintonville isn’t calling for 16-story condo high-rises whether they’re Not-in-my-backyard (NIMBYs) or not. Now concerned residents have asked on social media if the zoning code is being “monetized” and not “modernized,” as the City contends, so to appease developers?

“I am adamantly opposed to any of these ugly apartment buildings on what remains of residential High Street in the Whetstone area,” wrote one resident on Facebook. “I notice that the Mayor doesn’t include any of these where he lives.”

Area and neighborhood land use plans, put succinctly, are blueprints of what a neighborhood desires to be. According to the City, there are 51 such plans for Columbus, such as the Scioto Southland Area Plan. Other area plans include the Hilltop Land Use Plan and University District Plan. And when someone files for a building permit or a zoning variance, the area and land use plan needs to be adhered to.

Two years ago, City officials approached an unknown number of area commissions and civic associations telling them their area and neighborhood land use plans were out of date and needed updating so to help those who are working on “Zone In.” The Scioto Southland Plan hadn’t been updated since 2007 and was still recommending that Blockbuster Video stores was a good thing for Far South Side.

Bruce Miller, president of the Scioto Southland Civic Association, recalls how City officials approached him, saying, “While we are creating Zone In, can you update your area plan? And at the end of this process, everything will work as a complete package.”

Some area commissions and civic associations began holding community meetings together as both groups must work with each other to update any area land use plan, as dictated by City protocol.

But then the Department of Neighborhoods told these area commissions and civic associations that the Department of Building and Zoning Services wanted them to stop updating their land use plan at once, recalls Miller, and that the area plans will be updated after “Zone In” is approved by City Council and put in motion. At that time, Miller was also a commissioner with the Far South Columbus Area Commission, but recently resigned after being subjected to too much retaliation from City officials after trying to raise awareness about “Zone In.”

“My instinct is telling me, quite frankly, this has not been well thought out,” says Miller, “they are rushing the process to get through, that they really do not want public input, and they have set a goal that ‘we want to build as much housing as possible’ and that they are listening to the building industry.”

Indeed, public input so far has been sparse. In a press release for Zone In, the City stated “thousands” were engaged. But the City’s own numbers suggest only around 10,000 residents out of 960,000 responded to surveys or attended community events.

 “A horrible data pool to draw from,” says Miller.

Miller in many ways has taken it upon himself to alert hundreds on the South Side to “Zone In”. Especially after a City official told him the Great Southern Shopping Center may someday become the next “Short North.” His Scioto Southland Civic Association has held three meetings about “Zone In” where over 1,100 residents attended.

“No one in my area has said they are against re-zoning, or progress, or redesigning areas that need updates, or reconstruction, or repurposing buildings that are vacant or blighted,” he says. “People aren’t upset about that. What they are upset about is, where are we going to shop? If we eliminate parking or significantly reduce parking, how are we going to get from point A to point B? Where are we going to get our education? And that’s not just for new residents, but for existing residents. And the answer that is usually given [by the City], is that the services will catch up after five to 15 years after we build it.”

Miller continued, “And no one will answer this one simple question: Are we setting up these new residents to fail?”

Some welcome news on the City’s part is they have opened a gallery six days a week at 141 N. Front St. during Zone In Columbus’s public comment period. Tours and appointments are available from April 9 through June 7. The City is also asking for questions by email at  or you can call at 614-645-5343.

The hope is that this public comment period will result in concerned residents being heard and having their questions addressed and acted upon.