The Community Plan is a guide for City Council and the Planning and Zoning Commission as they assess the location, character, and extent of proposed public and private development in Dublin. The Plan’s policies and recommendations will be implemented over time through rezonings and subdivisions of land and the location and construction of public improvements. The Plan is designed as a short-, medium- and long-range guide for decision-making. As a guiding document, the Community Plan should be adjusted and reassessed at least every five years.
Prior to the 1997 Community Plan, the City had previously followed the recommendations of the 1988 Community Plan, the 1993 Southwest Area Plan, the Bright Road Area Plan, the 1994 Mt. Auburn Economic Development Strategy report and various technical engineering studies. Since its formal adoption and subsequent amendments and updates, the Dublin Community Plan has served as the City’s key source for policy information.
The Ohio Revised Code (Section 713.02) states that it is the Planning and Zoning Commission’s duty to make plans and maps of any portion of the City, and the lands outside it, which relate to the planning of the City. Specifically, the plans or maps show the Planning and Zoning Commission’s recommendations for:
…the general location, character, and extent of streets, alleys, ways, viaducts, bridges, waterways, waterfronts, subways, boulevards, parkways, parks, playgrounds, aviation fields, and other public grounds, ways and open spaces; the general location of public buildings and other public property; the general location and extent of public utilities and terminals, whether publicly or privately owned or operated, for water, light, sanitation, transportation, communication, power and other purposes; and the removal, relocation, widening, narrowing, vacating, abandonment, change of use or extension of such public ways, grounds, open spaces, buildings, property, utilities, or terminals.
Adoption of the Community Plan provides many distinct advantages:
Consistency in decision-making
Land use decisions have the greatest effect when they are made on a consistent basis over time. The Community Plan allows decision makers the opportunity to keep a steady point of reference for land use actions. A Community Plan that is sometimes ignored and sometimes rigorously applied will eventually lose effectiveness, and inconsistent development patterns will emerge.
Strong legal support
Zoning related actions by a community are generally viewed favorably by courts at all levels, as long as those actions are not made in an “arbitrary or capricious” fashion. Using the Plan to support those decisions can help ensure that actions are properly taken.
Wise use of resources
The City’s resources need to be protected and used efficiently. These include natural resources, financial resources, infrastructure (roads, utilities, etc.) and buildings. A carefully drafted Community Plan can guide the wise use of these resources. This includes support for obtaining, prioritizing and using financial resources such as grant funds. The Community Plan, supported with a capital improvements program, can be used to implement City projects such as parkland acquisition, recreation facilities planning, utility extensions and road improvements.
Linking Planning and Zoning
The relationship between the Community Plan and the Zoning Code is a critical one that is commonly misunderstood. To appreciate this connection it is necessary to recognize the differences between both documents and how each should be applied.
The Community Plan is a statement of policy; The Zoning Code is a law.
The Community Plan is a policy document which states general principles and notes specific issues upon which development in the City will be based. The Plan itself has no direct, legal authority; its adoption does not regulate or change the use of land. Only a modification to the Zoning Code can change uses to which the land may be developed or alter the regulations affecting that land.
The Community Plan reflects the future use of land. The Zoning Code affects the use of land today.
This means that the primary difference between the Community Plan and Zoning Code is a matter of timing. The Community Plan includes a Future Land Use Map that shows the intended use of land at the end of the planning period, which could be as much as 30 years into the future; the Zoning Code regulates a Zoning District Map that shows land as it is permitted to be used today. The Future Land Use Map is not intended to be immediately translated into zoning. Rather, the concepts and policies associated with the Community Plan are intended to be implemented over time. One of the ways to implement the Plan is to revise zoning districts and development regulations within the Zoning Code, as well as considering the future rezoning of properties as opportunities arise.
One point of uncertainty with property owners is the effect that a Community Plan has on the current use of land. Since adoption of the Community Plan does not create an immediate change in zoning, existing uses are not affected. In fact, even when zoning is changed, legally established uses are permitted to continue (subject to restrictions noted in the Zoning Code) even though they may not comply with zoning.
A Time for Change
Deciding when to implement the Community Plan through changes in zoning is one of the most difficult decisions faced by any community. Once the Community Plan is adopted, the first tendency is to change zoning to directly reflect the Plan’s intent. This response does not take into account the fact that the Community Plan represents a long-range view of the City. The Future Land Use Map and the Zoning Map are not intended to be identical.
In some cases consideration of zoning changes will be appropriate, particularly where the Community Plan indicates the intent to modify land use intensities now permitted by the Zoning Code. For example, if the Community Plan indicates the desire to reduce commercial development along a highway, timely zoning changes may be necessary to prevent development that conflicts with the Plan.
In most instances, implementation of the Community Plan will be less immediate and obvious. Over time, incremental change can occur as private development requests are made throughout the City. The Plan should be utilized to guide development decisions, particularly the appropriateness of proposed land use changes or the requirements that must be met to obtain a development approval. Extension of utilities and roadway improvements are just two examples of elements that may be necessary prior to consideration of a change in zoning. The Plan serves as a measuring stick by which small, individual decisions move the City toward its future goals.