Two South Side area commissioners resigned recently from that position after getting pushback from City officials for raising awareness about “Zone In Columbus,” a project that could lead to big changes at the Great Southern Shopping Center and other parts of Columbus, as well.

Earlier this week at Columbus City Council’s Monday public meeting, the zoning chair for the Greater Hilltop Area Commission, Rachel Wenning, told Councilmembers that so far, the zoning code overhaul is being “intentionally rushed” so to “avoid public input.”

After her testimony, Councilmember Nick Bankston scolded her, suggesting she was being conspiratorial.

Zone In Columbus will modernize the city’s zoning code for the first time in seventy years, because according to Council and the mayor’s office, it’s currently stuck in the 1950s. Hundreds-of-thousands are predicted to move here by 2050, say City officials, and thousands of parcels in major corridors need to be rezoned to keep up with growth by doubling the number of new units built each year.

While it is true that development and investment in Columbus is booming, there are residents who want to be fully in the know on what Zone In Columbus is actually trying to accomplish.

South Side activist Bruce Miller, also president of the Scioto Southland Civic Association, became deeply concerned about it after having a conversation with Tony Celebrezze, Deputy Director for the Department of Building and Zoning Services in Columbus.

“He told me that they want to – and this is a verbatim quote – they want to make the Far South corridor the next Short North or the next off-campus, as far as the way they look,” said Miller.

Miller promptly began rallying the South Side, scheduling meetings, and hundreds of home and business owners were alarmed. A majority had no clue major rezoning changes were coming their way.

“I was absolutely shocked about how few residents were aware of the City rezoning. The City has said they have put surveys out in the field and there has been fantastic responses to these surveys, but I can tell you at our meeting we had approximately 300 people in the room and approximately 85 percent of the people said they had no idea,” he said.

Miller also sits on the Far South Columbus Area Commission, or he used to. The commission is City-affiliated and strictly an advisory body for the community when it comes to City-approved development. His mother Connie also sat on the commission. But together they resigned earlier this month.

“Both myself and Connie Miller, my mom, resigned in early March. The pressure campaign increased. It was from Ginther’s office, Bankston’s office and to a small degree, Doran’s office. Doran’s office was two calls,” he says. “The calls came from aides, never the Councilperson themselves, never from a city phone.”

What were they being told?

“Get with the program, stop asking questions about Zone In, stop spreading rumors, stop pushing a false narrative, stop holding community meetings without City approval of everything you do. Otherwise, you will be made to look foolish. Embarrassed publicly.”

Miller says he was asked to be a “team player” and to “get on board with Zone In Columbus” and to “lean into it.” Councilmember Bankston used the same language when he chastised Rachel Wenning.

Zone In Columbus also wants to encourage “thoughtful investment in neighborhoods that have experienced racial and economic segregation and help undo the harm caused by past urban development policies.”

An altruistic mission for sure, but can a City government with a record of kowtowing to high-end developers and all their needs be trusted to overhaul an entire community’s zoning code?

When the Free Press hears this: “Growth by doubling the number of new units built each year,” it suggests the City is pushing for more and more density.

Many throughout the community are clamoring for more density, but are we sure we want $1,400-a-month 500 sq ft. apartments that are stacked high through our major corridors?

Certainly developers – who have told us most of their projects are either feast or famine – want such a reality. 

The City is opening 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.