Worthington News

Zoning code tweaks, more control

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

The city is working to update its zoning code to allow more options -- and more control -- regarding the redevelopment of large parcels of land.

The Worthington City Council and Municipal Planning Commission met in a joint session Jan. 14 to learn more about planned-unit development, a zoning district that ties rezoning to development standards.

The PUD option is expected to be useful as the city addresses the possible redevelopment of the United Methodist Children's Home property, the Wilson Bridge Road corridor and the former Harding Hospital site.

PUD also may be used on smaller sites but are especially useful to municipalities and developers of large parcels, according to experts who spoke during the meeting.

Under existing zoning codes, the city can't require a developer to present development plans when applying to rezone a property. Even if plans are presented, the city can't require a developer to follow through.

Also, after rezoning, the land could be sold, and totally different plans could be put into place.

PUD also provides the option of creating subareas for different uses within one zoning category.

Developers would benefit by being able to build mixed-use developments under one zoning category. The city would benefit by having more control over standards like building placement, architecture and landscaping.

"It's a give and take," City Manager Matt Greeson said.

The standards would be negotiated with the developer at the time of the zoning decision, which City Council would continue to make. The commission would follow through on council's original decision.

For example, the 40 acres at UMCH could be rezoned as PUD, allowing a mix of uses, including commercial, office and residential. The city would work out details of where the different subareas would be and what the site would look like. Details like setbacks and traffic flow would be part of the zoning decision.

The city still would be limited in its ability to force a developer to complete approved plans, according to city planning and zoning coordinator Lynda Bitar.

Currently, the city is embroiled in a court case involving the CVS property on the southeast corner of High and North streets.

Plans approved by the city included two two-story buildings that were to be built directly south of the new CVS. Developers did not follow through on the plans, building only the drug store and leaving the parcel to the south vacant.

City Council, which was not pleased that the two buildings were not built, rejected an application to build smaller one-story buildings on the land.

That developer has appealed the denial to Franklin County Common Pleas Court. A decision is pending.

The use of a PUD probably would not have solved that problem, though, according to Bitar.

"None of these zoning tools is perfect," she said.

An ordinance providing for PUD in Worthington will be before council in February, she said.

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