Columbus to test enhanced rezoning notifications

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For years, Columbus residents have complained that they didn’t know a nearby property was about to be rezoned until late in the game.

But a pilot program is beginning this week where signs will be placed on properties in the process of being rezoned in three neighborhoods.

Columbus City Councilman Emmanuel Remy said complaints about zoning notifications — or the lack thereof — were common when he was on the Northland Community Council.

After he was appointed to the City Council in January 2018, nothing had changed. “I kept hearing the same thing over and over again,” Remy said.

The pilot program will last through the rest of the year on the Near East Side, South Side and the Northland areas. Remy said those areas were chosen because of the amount of activity going on.

The signs will list the zoning application number and the phone number and email for the Columbus Department of Building and Zoning Services (614-645-7433 and [email protected]) for people to contact the zoning official overseeing the process.

“With the amount of change going on in our city, we want to make sure the neighborhood knows what’s coming,” said Tony Celebrezze, department spokesman. There is no additional charge to applicants for the signs.

Suburbs such as Worthington and New Albany already have been doing the same thing. Remy said he asked legislative researchers to find a larger city that does this, and discovered that Dallas does.

City officials will discuss the pilot program at the Near East Area Commission meeting on Thursday, said Annie Womack, a commission member and zoning chairwoman.

“I think any form of communication helps,” Womack said. The commission already sends notification letters to owners of properties within 125 feet of the property to be rezoned, she said.

The city sends those same property owners notices before Columbus Development Commission meetings, Celebrezze said.

But that often means that renters and those who own property beyond that may not know. Womack said people complained that they didn’t get notified.

Dave Paul, of the Northland Community Council, said his group requires applicants to notify property owners within 125 feet of the property to be rezoned, before the council takes it up.

Northland leaders brought the idea to the Columbus City Council three or four years ago, but it sat on the back burner, Paul said.

“It’s a revival of an old idea,” Paul said. “No one was really actively pursuing it until Councilmember Remy brought it up.”

Does Paul think the signs will work?

“It seems it’s being more inclusive,” he said. “I guess we’ll find out.” 

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@MarkFerenchik