New Zoning Code Proposed for Lancaster

Publisher’s Note: The Lancaster City Council public hearing on changes to the Zoning Code has been scheduled for Monday, August 14, 2023 just prior to the regular City Council meeting at 6:30 pm. If you have interest in this topic, we encourage you to attend this meeting.

When I first started as the Grant Writer for the City, I met with department heads asking what they needed if grants funding was available.  Pete Vail, the Zoning Administrator, was clear, “A City Planner.”  I was shocked to hear Lancaster didn’t have a Planner. Grove City, for example, has five.

Thanks to Lancaster residents who approved the local tax increase in 2021, and the foresight of Mayor Scheffler and the City Council, we now have a City Planner, Phyllicia Faeita.  Phyllicia and Pete have been assisted by former Fairfield County Regional Planner Holly Mattei of Crossroads Community Planning and a committee of residents, businesses, and community leaders (myself included) to revise Lancaster’s Zoning Code.

The current Zoning Code resulted from a similar effort in 2001. The City gathered a committee of people who reviewed, debated, and considered Lancaster’s zoning needs only to throw up their hands in frustration and hastily adopt the Zoning Code of Tulsa, Oklahoma. They mostly just changed Tulsa to Lancaster in the documentation.

Twenty-two years later, it’s our turn to write a Zoning Code specifically tailored to Lancaster that will serve our community now and into the future.

What is Zoning?

Let me back up a minute and define these terms.  Zoning determines land use – zones where houses can be built, a specific area for industrial parks, and districts where retail and housing can be mixed in together.  A Zoning Code lays out the rules for each zone – homes need to be set back by a specific measurement for symmetry and aesthetics as much as for safety and infrastructure needs (think sidewalks).

What is Planning?

Planning is the process of guiding what goes where to maximize the quality of life for residents and economic growth for businesses. This also benefits residents.  Lancaster Zoning Administrator Pete Vail helps residents, business owners, and developers determine what they can do with their property within the Zoning Code and provides detail if there is need to present their case before the Board of Zoning Appeals.

City Planner Phyllicia Faeita helps the City – the Mayor, Economic Development team, Community Development team, Engineer – work with residents and developers to develop something new in an area, redevelop and improve an area, or redefine an area from one zone to another.  For example, an area of South Broad Street south of downtown was recently rezoned from Industrial Heavy to Commercial General due to its proximity to residential neighborhoods.

Highlights of the Proposed Revised Zoning Code

User-Friendly

Color-coded zoning map for Lancaster, Ohio.

Color-coded zoning map for Lancaster, Ohio.

“We used several different features to make it easier for residents and developers to find answers on their own and for us as staff to be more efficient,” Phyllicia said.  Use Tables were added to see, in one place, where specific uses are allowed where previously, each zoning district listed the uses permitted within them.

For example, someone who wants to open a restaurant here can look at the Restaurant Use Table and see where restaurants are permitted, rather than having to go through each district (Commercial General, Advanced Manufacturing, Service Industrial, etc.) looking to see if restaurants are allowed in each one.  The proposed Code is also color coded by section – Residential, Mixed Use, and Commercial – for easier use.

Updated, Expanded Definitions

Much has changed in our world since 2001, and the Zoning Code has been revised to keep up.  Short-term rentals, for example, weren’t around before, and technology has expanded the ability to run small businesses from homes.

General Development Regulations Added by Chapter

Adding general development regulations to each chapter allows users to see standards for accessory structures, parking, signs, and others by district.

Increased Residential Development Options

There is a higher demand for housing than there are homes in Lancaster. That demand is only anticipated to grow with the addition of the Intel facility in Licking County. One way to address the need for more housing in Lancaster  is to provide for more housing options.  In Zoning lingo, ADUs are Accessory Dwelling Units. The proposed Code allows for an ADU that is a separate dwelling suite built onto an existing home, not those that are stand-alone dwelling units, for example, a converted garage on the same lot. The proposed Code also allows for Smaller Lot Widths for single family homes, sometimes called “patio homes,” and In-Fill Housing – building new homes on vacant lots in established neighborhoods.

Landscaping, Parking, Architectural Design Elements, Solar Panels, and Signs are all part of the Zoning Code, even Community Gardens which are allowed in every district. Read more about Lancaster’s  Community Gardens.

View the Draft of the proposed revised Zoning Code.

If you review the draft and would like to comment on it, you have several options.  You can:

1) Email your comments to Phyllicia Faeita

2) Draft a physical letter and send it in the mail or drop it off to:

City of Lancaster Planning & Zoning Department
104 E. Main Street, 2nd Floor
Lancaster, OH 43130

3) Attend either or both of these public meetings to make comment:

Lancaster’s Planning Commission will be reviewing the Zoning Draft at their next meeting on Thursday June 8th at 9:30 a.m. at City Hall on the second floor in the 1897 Conference Room.

Lancaster’s City Council will hold a Public Hearing during a City Council Meeting in the 111 S. Broad Street Conference Room (enter in the back, off the alley).  The date for the City Council Public Hearing will be set by the Planning Commission at their meeting on June 8th.

Publisher’s Note: The Lancaster City Council public hearing on changes to the Zoning Code has been scheduled for Monday, August 14, 2023 just prior to the regular City Council meeting at 6:30 pm. If you have interest in this topic, we encourage you to attend this meeting.

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Lynda Berge Disser

By Lynda Berge Disser

Lynda Berge Disser started her community development career in 1991 as director of a non-profit housing organization in an historic neighborhood. She has led training workshops for community-driven housing and commercial development across the country and has written grants that have brought in over $100 million for community development. Lynda currently serves as Director of the City of Lancaster's Community Development Department.