We received word Friday, Aug. 3, from the Historic Preservation Office that item #7, 259 E. Livingston, was removed from the agenda for the August GVC monthly meeting. The item will be added to the agenda for the September meeting, Wednesday September 5, 2018.  It is scheduled for Wednesday because of Labor Day.

Please hold August 25th 10:00 on your calendars for an organizing meeting. We anticipate some changes in the application and will prepare the organizing meeting agenda accordingly.

In her correspondence to us on this issue, city Assistant Historic Preservation Officer Connie Torbeck: “We want to make sure that all comments resulting from City Staff Review (e.g., Zoning, Public Service, Public Utilities) have been clearly addressed prior to presenting to the Commission.”


GVS Board Letter on 259 Livingston

GVS Board Letter on 31 Livingston

Public engagement is a critical component of the application review process, particularly variance requests. This post will review the variance process, then offer suggestions for impactful public engagement in the process for those wishing to participate.

German Village has two large-scale developments undergoing a conceptual review with the German Village Historic District Commission. One of those developments, 259 East Livingston Avenue, will be on the agenda this coming Tuesday, August 7th at the Commission meeting. The applicant is requesting a variance recommendation. The variances may be viewed HERE. The hardship request is HERE. If these are updated, they’ll become part of our packet of Commission agenda and applications posted to our website on Friday.

What is the variance process?

Applications for Certificates of Appropriateness are evaluated by the German Village Commission, whose task is to determine if the various components of the application conform to the German Village Design Guidelines. On occasion, the project being reviewed will require a variance, sometimes several.  In the case of large-scale development, such as those currently undergoing the conceptual review process, several variances are being requested.

Once an applicant determines what variances their project is going to ask for, they file an application with the City of Columbus Building and Zoning Department.  That department then determines which entity, City Council or Bureau of Zoning Adjustment, will have the authority to make the determination of approval or denial on the application.

If an applicant seeks a variance requesting a change of use, Columbus City Council is the determining authority. If an applicant seeks a variance to a required standard within a use, the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) is the determining authority on that application. Some applications request both a change of use variance and a variance on a standard required within a use. A change of use request carries the entire application, and it will be considered in its entirety by the City Council.

Prior to consideration by either BZA or City Council, a variance request for a project located within a historic district must appear on the agenda of that Commission at its monthly public meeting. The Commission does not approve or deny variance requests associated with a particular application. They do, however, vote to recommend or not recommend a variance request.  Alterations to structures are evaluated by utilizing the Guidelines, variance requests are also evaluated within the parameters of the Guidelines, when applicable.  The Commission will also take into account all of the following facts and conditions when considering whether to recommend, or not, variances:

  1. Whether the property in question will yield a reasonable return or whether there can be any beneficial use of the property without a variance.
  2. Whether the variance is substantial.
  3. Whether the essential character of the neighborhood would be substantially altered or whether adjoining properties would suffer a substantial detriment as a result of the variance.
  4. Whether the variance would adversely affect the delivery of governmental service (e.g., water, sewer, refuse service).
  5. Whether the property owner purchased the property with knowledge of the zoning restriction.
  6. Whether the property owner’s predicament feasibly can be obviated through some method other than the variance.
  7. Whether the spirit and intent behind the zoning requirement would be observed and substantial justice done by granting the variance.

These seven facts and conditions are collectively known as the ”Duncan Standard,” which were created as the result of past litigation. They are embedded within the Board of Zoning Adjustment Application under the heading Statement in Support of Variance(s) (Columbus Code 3307.09), which the applicant must submit responses to in writing.

The results of the vote to recommend for approval held by the  Commission is then reported to the Department of Building and Zoning Services and attached to the application as it proceeds through the review process. An application for a variance within a historic district CANNOT proceed in the application process without a vote to recommend or not recommend by the Commission.

When and how can the public get involved in the process?

All variance applications are publicly posted on the City of Columbus Citizen Access Portal located HERE. A login is NOT required to search the database. By entering the address or case number, you may see exactly where the application is in the process. You may also access any reviews conducted to date.

There are two opportunities for public comment on all variance requests for projects within the district:

  • At the German Village Commission Meeting in which the variance request appears as an agenda item requesting a vote to recommend.
    1. It is important for those planning to speak to understand that they will be encouraged to not repeat comments made previously, that they will be limited to three minutes and that the Commission Chair determines the order of speakers.
  • At the public hearing held by either the City Council or Board of Zoning Adjustment, depending on the variance requested (see above).
    1. It is important for those planning to speak to City Council to understand that only 6 speakers are allowed for any application: 3 in favor and 3 against. Each speaker will be limited to three minutes.

To be most impactful, it is prudent for those commenting in the public meetings, to do so within the seven facts and conditions listed within the ‘Duncan Standard’ above. These standards are the very same ones answered by the applicant in support of their application and considered by the City Council, the Board of Zoning Adjustment and the German Village Commission when reviewing the variance(s) being requested.

Beyond speaking at public hearings, interested residents are encouraged to contact individual city council members to express their desire to deny or support a variance request; When an application requests a parking variance, the Commission can request a parking study as well as a traffic study in order to more fully understand the impact of the requested variance. Concerned residents may express their desire for such to the Commission.  Petitions to be submitted to the City Council prior to the public hearing providing the council with a measurable indication from the public in support of denial or approval of an application are also encouraged. The German Village Society will create a petition and circulate it – with your help – when it is time.

For the convenience of our residents, the variance application for 247-281 E. Livingston Avenue (Listed at 259 E. Livingston on the variance request) is case number CV18-044. The applicant is:

Donald T. Plank

411 East Town Street, Flr 2,

Columbus, Ohio 43215

DTP@Planklaw.com  614-947-8600


Application CV18-044 has received its staff review and the resulting report has been issued by City of Columbus staff Planner II,  Michael Maret.  You may read the report, issued July 30, 2018  HERE

-Nancy Kotting

Historic Preservation Advocate, the German Village Society