The German Village Society
Zoning Guidelines
Local, State & National Sources of Assistance
Secretary of the Interior's Standard for Rehabilitation
German Village Commission Application
The GV Chapter of the Columbus Zoning Code
The Home Occupation Section/Cols. Zoning Code
Glossary of Architectural Terms
Bibliography
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Guidelines for Zoning

ZONING GUIDELINES
Are you are planning to add to your building, to build a new structure, or to change the use of your building? If so, you will want to understand not only how to obtain a zoning variance, but also the underlying zoning issue. Because it is a very complex issue, this chapter can only introduce the basic concepts of zoning and variances. The Commission urges you to consult the City Building Regulation Department whenever you contemplate adding, changing, or building.

As you will see in this chapter, the zoning variance process involves many participants. Plan ahead and allow sufficient time for review. For example, a land use variance can take several months because it includes reviews by the Commission and the Building Regulation Department zoning staff, preparation of a council ordinance, and scheduling of a hearing. And then, 30 more days elapse before the ordinance takes effect.

Why We Need Zoning
1. Property owners need zoning as a protection against the unrestricted development that would allow, for example, the construction of an office or commercial building in a residential neighborhood.
2. Property owners need zoning to ensure that unregulated construction does not cause property values to plummet when the character of the neighborhood changes.
3. Property owners need zoning to restrict noise, pollution, commercial traffic, and land use density, thus maintaining their healthy, safe residential neighborhoods.

If the City of Columbus had not introduced zoning ordinances in the 1920s, the whole city might have businesses and industries cheek-by-jowl with residences. By regulating private property rights through zoning, the city saw to it that neighborhoods developed after 1923 have fairly clearcut districts for commercial or residential uses. Therefore, few of these neighborhoods have to deal with the same zoning issues facing German Village today.

Because the Village developed before zoning controls, commercial buildings are scattered throughout the area rather than being concentrated along a single street or in a small compact area. Rarely are there two or more commercial buildings in any single block. Because the commercial uses were originally neighborhood-oriented, the scale is compatible with the predominantly residential neighborhood.

Today the Village's successful revitalization has increased pressure for more intensive commercial development. Its proximity to the county courthouse complex makes the Village an attractive office area for lawyers and other professionals. The neighborhood's character and charm make it an ideal location for restaurants and retail uses. Its property values are quite affordable when compared to downtown property. These factors have led to the conversion of residential buildings to commercial uses. One of the greatest challenges facing the Village today is how to integrate commercial development sensitively in certain areas, while maintaining a viable residential neighborhood.

Your Responsibilities as a Property Owner
All German Village property owners share these responsibilities regarding neighborhood zoning:

You are responsible for complying with the zoning code for your own property. Before purchasing property, do some research to verify zoning. At the same time, you can identify any variances required for proposed additions, new construction, or change of land use. Then follow the zoning variance processes described in this chapter. You are responsible for understanding that decisions about variances can affect your property and have implications for the entire neighborhood. For example, the expansion of a commercial use could result in more noise and traffic congestion that might have an adverse effect on adjacent residential properties. You are responsible for being involved in the zoning process, by reporting any suspected zoning violations. The city government enforces the zoning code. To assist in enforcement, report suspected violations to the Building Regulations Department Zoning Variances.

In addition to regulating land use, the City Zoning Code sets certain standards for the development of property; these involve minimum lot sizes, building setbacks, building height, and parking requirements. A zoning variance gives a property owner permission to do something not usually allowed in a particular zoned district. Owners may request two types of variances: land use variances or standards variances.

A land use variance deals with changes in use, expansion of non-conforming uses, and increased density of residential units allowed in a zoning district. For example, construction of an apartment above a garage increases the density of land use and requires a variance. A standards variance grants permission to vary from established development standards regarding setback, side and rear yard minimum sizes, and maximum coverage of a building lot. Fences over six feet high, for example, are considered structures and require a side yard variance.

To receive a variance, applicants must show true hardship, that is, a condition of the land that makes conforming with the Zoning Code difficult or impossible. The owner's personal financial condition or preferences are not considered in evaluating hardship.

How to Obtain a Land Use Variance Most of German Village is zoned R-2F for residential use; this zoning limits residential development to single and two-family units and allows very few other uses. The Village's only commercial zoning (C-4) is on Livingston Avenue. Therefore, all of the current commercial and office uses in the Village are either non-conforming uses that have acquired variances to the Zoning Code, or preceded the R-2F zoning in 1972. As in any city, some illegal uses have ignored the zoning code.

Land use variances do not re-zone a property; they simply grant permission to use property in a very specific way. This specific license continues in effect as the property passes from one owner to the next, as long as no changes take place. However, if the property is left vacant for two years, or is returned to a conforming residential use, or any change is made in use, the variance becomes invalid. (Changing an insurance office to a dentist's office is an example of such a change in use.) When any of these things happen, once again the property returns to its zoned R-2F use.

Before the Commission reviews your request for a variance, be sure to do your homework. In reviewing your request, the Commission will want to know how the land has been used in the past, whether or not a variance is currently in place, and when it was granted. The German Village Commission's top priority is preserving the residential quality of the Village. Therefore, requests for more non-conforming commercial uses and conversion of residential buildings to office or retail uses are not likely to receive favorable recommendations.

If you think you need a land use variance:
1. Contact the zoning staff in the Columbus Building Regulation Department (BRD) for a preliminary zoning clearance review. They can assist you by identifying the required variances you need.
2. If you require a variance, go to the Building Regulation Department. The zoning staff there will give you an application and fee information.
3. Submit a completed variance application to the BRD. With the application, you must submit a list of the names and addresses of all property owners within 125 feet of the perimeter of your property. Also, attach a list of property owners to your application for German Village Commission review. The Commission Secretary will notify all the property owners on your list of the date of the Commission meeting where your zoning variance request will be discussed.
4. At the Commission meeting, be sure you know exactly which variances you are requesting to avoid delays in review, or tabling of the variance for further information. After reviewing your zoning request, the Commission forwards its recommendation for approval or denial to the zoning staff in the BRD.
5. BRD's zoning staff reviews both the application and the Commission's recommendation. Next, they forward your application, along with the Commission's and their own recommendations to Columbus City Council. BRD notifies all affected property owners in advance of the council meeting.
6. City Council reviews zoning cases every Monday except during August.
7. After you have received a land use variance, secure the necessary use permits required by the change of use.

Direct any questions regarding zoning to the Building Regulation Department, which is described in Appendix A.

How to Obtain a Standards Variance Whether you are planning on building an addition, a garage, or new construction on a vacant lot, you may need a standards variance. The most common variances in the Village affect standards regarding setback, side and rear yard minimum sizes, and maximum coverage of a building lot. See Drawings 22 , 23 and 24 .

Because the city wrote these standards with the suburbs in mind, some of them are not consistent with the character of German Village. For instance, the setback for a new residential building is calculated based on the setback of adjacent property and cannot be less than ten feet. Yet one of the Village's most distinctive features is the way the houses are built adjacent to the sidewalk, or with very small front yards. In this case, the Commission is likely to make a favorable recommendation to the City's Board of Zoning Adjustment which considers most standards variances.

If you think you need a standards variance:
1. Contact the zoning staff in the Columbus Building Regulation Department (BRD) for a preliminary zoning clearance review. They can assist you by identifying the required variances you need.
2. If you require a variance, go to the Building Regulation Department. The zoning staff there will give you an application and fee information.
3. Submit a completed variance application to the BRD. With the application, you must submit a list of the names and addresses of all property owners within 125 feet of the perimeter of your property. Also attach a list of property owners to your application for German Village Commission review. The Commission Secretary will notify all the property owners on your list of the date of the Commission meeting where your zoning variance request will be discussed.
4. At the Commission meeting be sure you know exactly which variances you are requesting to avoid delays in review, or tabling of the variance for further information. After reviewing your zoning request, the Commission forwards its recommendation for approval or denial to the zoning staff in the BRD.
5. BRD's zoning staff reviews both the application and the Commission's recommendation. Next, they forward your application, along with the Commission's and their own recommendations to the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA). BRD notifies all affected property owners in advance of the BZA meeting.
6. The BZA meets once monthly; the deadline for applications is five weeks before the meeting.
7. After you have received a standards variance, secure the necessary permits required for construction. Direct any questions regarding zoning to the Building Regulation Department.

Working in Your Home If you intend to work at home, you need to read the Columbus Home Occupation Code in Appendix E. Home occupation use allows Columbus residents to use a portion of their primary residences - not the yards or separate structures - as places of business without requiring a change of zoning or a zoning variance. Home occupation use is allowed only if it (1) is clearly incidental and secondary to residential occupancy; (2) is compatible with the neighborhood's residential character; and (3) does not have an adverse effect on your neighbors. The City's Home Occupation Code requires the following:

No retail or wholesale uses. No alterations of the building's interior or exterior. Limited exterior identification of the business. A maximum of 20 percent of livable floor area in the home can be devoted to the business. Only the resident (and for certain professions one other person) may be employed. The traffic generated by the business must be limited. See the appendix for additional restrictions. If these conditions are not met, the use does not qualify as a home occupation and you must request a change of use variance.

A Lot Split A lot split does just what it says - it splits one land parcel into two or more distinct lots. Having two houses on a single lot is not unusual in the Village. Lot splits are granted rather routinely if two houses are on a single lot. Otherwise, each newly created lot must have at least 3,000 square feet for each dwelling unit and meet all other zoning code and subdivision requirements. This means, for example, that the owner of a single residence on a large lot may be able to sell a portion of the land for construction of a new house as long as the lot totals at least 6,000 square feet.

The Commission reviews all requests for lot splits and makes recommendations to the City's Building Regulation Department which makes the decisions. When reviewing requests for lot splits, the Commission takes into account the character of the block in which the property is located. You are more likely to get a lot split if that has been the trend historically on the block.

Remember, in all cases zoning is a serious matter, so consult with the City before taking any action.