One of the biggest changes coming to the city of Pickerington as a result of comprehensive revisions to its zoning code is the implementation of Planned Unit Districts.

One of the biggest changes coming to the city of Pickerington as a result of comprehensive revisions to its zoning code is the implementation of Planned Unit Districts.

PUDs permit a municipality to adopt use and development restrictions for a particular piece of property.

Proponents say it allows flexibility for both developers and the city in tailoring regulations that fit a specific development request.

July 8, City Development Services Joe Henderson gave a presentation about the changes coming forth to the City Planning and Zoning Commission.

"Our past planned districts were not that good, and always very confusing," Henderson said.

"One of the things we wanted to do was make things more 'user-friendly' in line with other progressive communities," he said.

"Many cities have a very similar PUD process like our new process that is under consideration.

"It is very similar to Dublin, New Albany and Westerville," Henderson said.

Currently, the Pickerington Zoning Code outlines a process for obtaining an overlay district that simply adds more regulations on top of existing zoning categories.

PUDs create their own zoning category so rezoning will be in effect once the particular piece of property completes the PUD approval process.

"In the past everything had to be on a plat, now we have a plan to go with it, itemized in the code," Henderson said.

Under the new rules, a developer comes in and files a preliminary development plan, called a text, outlining all the permitted and conditional uses for a piece of property.

"If (developers) don't identify it in the plan, they have to meet our standards in the code," Henderson said.

"For example, if there are no words in the plan on lighting, the submittal would have to meet our lighting code," he said.

"If the text is silent on a topic, it reverts back to the code," said Mitch Banchefsky, an attorney for the city.

"There's no formal Certificate of Appropriateness, no formal variances, Banchefsky said. "The variances are built into the text."

Perhaps most beneficial, the turn around time for approval for both developers and the city is drastically decreased, city officials said.

"It speeds up the process significantly, it cuts out almost four months," Henderson said.

"If everything makes sense, (the application) goes to the Service Committee, then to City Council for three readings for the approval of a new zoning category," he said.

Finally, a final development plan that shows the specifics of the proposed buildings and their relationships to one another is presented to the Planning and Zoning Commission for review.

Commission member Ted Hackworth asked if the Planning and Zoning Commission would make the final decision at the end of the process.

"You do, but you have to justify it," Henderson said.

"If this board turns down something that is not in the text, you will have to justify why," he said.

If the developer's plan passes muster with the Planning and Zoning Commission, then the developer can move forward with the project.

If not, the developer will have the opportunity to appeal the rejected plan to Pickerington City Council.

"It all comes here (to Planning and Zoning)," Banchefsky told commission members.

"Once you get used to it, you're going to love it and the development community will love it as well," Banchefsky said.

City Council heard the second reading of an ordinance authorizing the new zoning code revisions July 15 after a mandatory public hearing about the legislation.

The zoning revisions are expected to pass after a required third reading Aug 5.