City Council met for its first regular meeting of June on 6/6/2018. The agenda had a couple topics that generated discussion, primarily Resolution No. R8-2018 Opposing HB 175 by the Ohio General Assembly which relates to Urban Farming – though the primary concern by City Council is that this action would preempt local control of this aspect of zoning code.
Additionally there were first reads of zoning change for Maple Knoll to enable converting a parking lot to housing as well as a first reading of a PUD change for the old Princeton Bowl to convert it to flex office space.
Resolution No. R8-2018 Opposing HB 175 by the Ohio General Assembly
This was a sticky item for me at the meeting. We did not have advance notice of the resolution in the packets that went out the previous Friday and I was unaware of the HB until the meeting. Generally speaking I am very open to residents rights to use their properties to their fullest with controls only as required to ensure they do not significantly infringe on their neighbors. I also believe that “Home Rule” should be maintained where possible (meaning local governments should retain as much authority as possible). In this case the Ohio legislature was looking to update State zoning rules that override local in regards to urban farming (rules on things like chicken and goats). This HB puts the 2 in conflict as it encroaches on Home Rule (though the State already has several zoning restrictions on the books related to animal welfare and land use) and enhances property owners rights related to Urban Farming.
Springdale currently has accommodations for these in the current zoning code – however there are restrictions on minimum lot size that makes these use cases practically unobtainable for nearly all lots in Springdale. I personally believe that Urban Farming techniques have advanced to the point that the current restrictions are too strict – if the homeowner can maintain the livestock and meet the noise, smell, and related nuisance requirements why would we treat a chicken differently than dogs and cats (speaking of dogs and cats did you know in Springdale you are limited to 2 dogs and/or cats per household – total not each; Zoning Code Section F.6.a.i)? Several area communities have started making their own zoning code adjustments realizing this trend… I suspect more to come.
The land restrictions for horses and ponies at least makes some sense in terms of animal welfare as these larger animals need space to roam, but that is simply not true for chickens, rabbits, and bees… (speaking of bees did you know the average roaming range for a honey bee is ~2 miles from its hive? Springdale has a total land area of just under 5 sq. miles. How does a 3 acre lot versus a .5 acre lot make a bit of difference?)
I had another more technical concern with this resolution – it called out the BZA (Board of Zoning Appeals process for zoning – where is a resident needs an exemption from zoning code they can get relief). The resolution implied that this was something that allowed local residents to bypass local zoning code that they would lose if the zoning restriction was at the state level. I believe that greatly overstates the powers of the BZA committee. The applicant must show a number of factors that justify the exemption… I felt the resolution implied the presumption of exemptions was favorable where I have seen the opposite in practice. Related to Urban Farming what justification would even be possible to the lot size requirement? That felt like a false argument to me.
The resolution that basically sent a strongly worded letter to several State officials related to the proposed bill passed 5-1 with me dissenting as I felt the property owners rights would be enhanced more than the incremental home rule implications.