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The Community Plan is the key policy guide for decision-making about Dublin’s built and natural environments. The Community Plan text and associated maps contain detailed recommendations for future development including the appropriate location and density or intensity of residential and commercial uses; the general location and character of roads; the general location of parks, open space and public buildings; and the general sites for and extent of public water and sanitary sewer utilities. It also contains recommendations to guide development strategies for the unincorporated areas to the northwest of Dublin and for unincorporated ‘islands’ of land surrounded by the city.
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.
Recommendations throughout this Plan are based upon a review of existing conditions and evaluation of future development scenarios for their impacts on infrastructure, roads and the City’s fiscal health. Dublin’s ability to maintain high quality of services and quality of life depends on a careful review of development proposals for conformance with the Community Plan.
The Land Use Plan, Transportation Plan and Special Area Plans together form the foundation of the Community Plan. The Land Use Principles, Future Land Use Map and Land Use Classifications are important components of the Land Use Plan, while the Thoroughfare Plan is the primary policy tool within the Transportation Plan. The Special Area Plans provide a more in-depth depiction of how the Land Use and Transportation Plans may be implemented in key areas of the city that are expected to undergo significant change. These elements of the Plan serve to guide decision-making regarding the appropriateness of development proposals and the infrastructure improvements necessary to support future development.
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 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.
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 or more 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.
As with the Zoning Code, the relationship between the Community Plan and the Capital Improvements Program (CIP) is a critical one that is often misunderstood, with differences in their scope, purpose and application.
The Community Plan identifies general needs for infrastructure and other capital facilities to support the City’s long-term growth. The Plan itself does not allocate funds or identify specific timing for the construction of capital improvements. The Capital Improvements Program is a five-year outlook for anticipated capital projects and is reviewed and updated annually by the City. The CIP outlines the annual budget allocation for infrastructure design, land acquisition, construction and other expenses for specific projects over a five-year period. Projects identified in the CIP are primarily related to improvements in transportation, parks, utilities and municipal facilities.
The Community Plan helps to inform the Capital Improvements Programming process by analyzing long-term capacity needs, establishing long-term goals and identifying general locations for certain types of infrastructure and facilities to be constructed in the future. The Five-Year CIP establishes the City’s blueprint for specific investments in its capital infrastructure. The document is used as a tool to help ensure the City’s long and short-term capital investments are made in the context of careful consideration of the City’s needs as well as the resources available to fund all projects.
As with the Future Land Use Map, one point of uncertainty with property owners is the effect that a Community Plan has on the current use and ownership of land as it relates to potential acquisition for the construction of public facilities. In particular, the Thoroughfare Plan identifies typical right-of-way needs for new roads or for the improvement of existing roadways. The Capital Improvements Program provides the budgetary framework to prioritize roadway engineering for specific improvements, thereby determining necessary right-of-way needs and potential impacts on individual properties. Right-of-way acquisition is then negotiated on a case-by-case basis with property owners. In some cases, public rights-of-way may also be dedicated by property owners as part of a private development proposal, either as a means to construct new public roadways necessary to serve the new development, or in anticipation of future roadway improvements to be constructed by the City through the CIP process. Acquisition or dedication of land for other types of public improvements, such as parks and bikeway connections, takes place through similar processes.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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 used 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.