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Hot Tub Time Machine: Rezoning an 80s Era Office Park

As noted by the Foresight theme handout, "Remaking our communities requires radical thinking!" Creativity is required in how we rethink and rezone our communities - and also in how we engage the community in decision-making. Faced with an outdated 1980's era office park governed by zoning that essentially forbade multifamily housing, the City of Upper Arlington kicked off a public engagement process on September 14, 2022. By December 5, the City Council had unanimously and enthusiastically approved revising the zoning to allow multifamily housing and building heights ranging from 56 feet to 76 feet in an area bordered by $750,000 - $850,000 single-family homes. This was achieved through a proactive engagement effort, including four public meetings; individual meetings with affected businesses, neighborhood leaders and groups, both in-person and virtual formats; an online survey; mailings, e-newsletters and social media. Keys to the effort were facilitated, respectful conversations; easy-to-understand visuals; and the willingness of the city to adjust plans based on community concerns.

The city staff listened respectfully, researched additional information to address questions, then adapted the proposed zoning changes because of the input. Through this trust-building approach, the rezoning was significantly better than the staff's original concepts, largely uncontroversial, and set the stage for more extensive conversations in the community about density and diversity in housing types. Instead of shrinking away from potentially angry neighbors, Upper Arlington made a conscientious decision to dive into this hot topic in partnership with the community. This fearless and creative approach will mean this 80s-era commercial area will get the facelift it needs.


Marie S. Keister
Steve Schoeny
Emma Speight
Chad Gibson

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