Columbus engages Central Ohio residents in the zoning code update with new exhibit

By: - November 18, 2022 4:40 am

Citizens engage with the Undesign the Redline Exhibit in City Hall. Photo by Chantal Brown, Ohio Capital Journal.

The city of Columbus has announced plans to go back to the drawing board with new updates to the city’s zoning map after 70 years. City partners and officials attribute the long wait to bureaucracy and systemic racism and hope to involve the community in the process.

In a presentation on Nov.10, the City of Columbus unveiled the Undesign the Red Line Exhibit in City Hall. The display showed the history and effects of the 1938 redlining maps and how this inequality continues to impact communities.

According to the Young Women’s Christian Association of the United States of America, the exhibit travels nationally to cities, towns, and communities. It has been localized for Columbus by a committee of local experts and historians, and it will be in the community for the next several months. The exhibit comes ahead of plans for the city to update the zoning codes.

According to a statement provided by Jennifer Fening, deputy director in the city’s department of development, the Columbus zoning codes have not been comprehensively updated since the 1950s. 

Zoning codes are a set of rules that regulate what can and can’t be done on a particular piece of property — they influence where we live, where we work, and how we get around. 

Fening said that not only does the code foster inequity, but the separation of land also requires citizens to have a car to get to most activities. She said it is also difficult to use and causes the city to rely on project-by-project negotiations.

Zoning can be used to help attract new businesses, encourage the construction of new housing, and protect natural resources. 

Fening said interacting with the exhibit is a way for residents to interact with the coming updates and give feedback. 

“I would argue this is probably one of the most important and consequential things we will do for the community, ” Mayor Andrew Ginther said.

Fenning said the goals for the zoning codes were as follows. The city intends for them to support the community’s present and future needs, support environmental and economic sustainability through improved transit, additional housing opportunities, and the creation of job centers. Fening also said they are paying special attention to investment in neighborhoods that have experienced racial and economic segregation.

“It helps us acknowledge a past of federal, state, and city sanction policies and practices that negatively impacted the economic prosperity of black and brown families across this nation,” Ginther said.

Ginther said those past policies and actions included infrastructure, and zoning practices with the intent to disconnect communities and deny them real property. Ginther said that they also have a generational impact on the city today.

“Columbus is no different. Policies and practices such as redlining destroy wealth, building opportunities and black neighborhoods like Mt. Vernon avenue, an area thriving financially with black-owned businesses, housing, and more,” Ginther said. 

Fening said that Columbus is a growing city and that by 2050 they expect about one million new residents in the Central Ohio area. Christie Angel, the president and CEO of YWCA Columbus, hopes to get neighborhoods in Columbus and the surrounding areas open to the idea of different kinds of housing. 

“What I have learned about development is that it takes having all types of developers and inviting them in to build different types of housing and it also takes different processes like the zoning process and what we call the permitting process streamlined  so that they can build more affordable and everything isn’t as costly. 

“Willings have to be willing to let all kinds of housing into their neighborhoods, right? Neighbors can’t just say we only want single family homes or we only want luxury apartments,” Angel said. “You know affordable is relative, right? If I can only afford a $300,000 home and I cannot afford to buy a million-dollar room in New Albany, then that is not affordable for me.”

Angel said that she grew up on a street with neighbors who were doctors, teachers, and butchers. She said that a person’s income and the housing they occupied did not stop them from having a good community.

“We want housing at all the price points and we want to be sure to have communities where people who make all different kinds of salaries do different kinds of work life too,” Angel said.

Over the next three to four years, Columbus will be working with residents and other Columbus stakeholders to determine how an updated zoning code can help the community. Citizens can engage with the Undesign the Redline Exhibit by visiting it at its designated location.

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Chantal Brown
Chantal Brown

Chantal Brown is a senior at Ohio State University and is the Ohio Capital Journal's Fall 2022 intern. She has previously written for Guardians Baseball Insider and Femergy.

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