Public weighs in on zoning changes

About 200 hundred people attended a meeting Wednesday at Trinity United Methodist Church in downtown Youngstown to discuss a new zoning code as well as weaknesses of the existing one.

The current city zoning law:

Was drafted more than 40 years ago when the local economy and quality standards were different.

Lacks necessary tools to implement the Youngstown 2010 land-use plan.

Contains no tools for creating green corridors or green industrial uses.

Lists land-use methods that are rigid and outdated.

Lacks consistent enforcement options.

Source: Donald Elliott, project manager, Clarion Associates LLC

By Sean Barron


In the last four decades, the city has undergone major economic, population and demographic changes, so a new zoning code that’s more in line with such trends is needed, many city officials and residents say.

That’s a major part of the impetus behind developing the Youngstown Redevelopment Code, which was the topic of Wednesday’s public-input meeting at Trinity United Methodist Church, 30 W. Front St.

About two hundred people attended the 90-minute kickoff session, which is the first of 12 meetings on the subject between now and Aug. 4 in certain city neighborhoods. During the gathering, attendees heard ideas regarding how they can help create and implement the plan, which would replace the city’s zoning law, written in 1969.

The code should be ready for city council to adopt by December, said Bill D’Avignon, Youngstown’s community development agency director.

The redevelopment plan will be a tool to regulate the type, location and appearance of structures and land use. It also is to complement the Youngstown 2010 land-development plan, adopted about six years ago.

The new code should contain clear and simple language, be reasonably flexible, provide simplified and flexible enforcement tools, encourage land sustainability and take into account the city’s future, noted Atty. Donald Elliott, senior consultant and project manager with Clarion Associates LLC, a land-use and consulting firm the city hired to write the new code.

The 42-year-old zoning law divides Youngstown into 15 zoning districts for residential, business, mixed-use and industrial uses, Elliott explained. The new plan is to add two new districts and expand mixed-use areas, he continued.

In addition, Elliott said, the new plan will combine 11 regulations and ordinances already in Youngstown’s municipal code. It will contain information specific to sexually-oriented businesses, group homes, subdivision regulations, keeping wild animals and livestock, flood-damage prevention and other areas, he added.

The city code should look at adding new vacant-land uses such as urban agriculture, which includes community gardens, many of which are in the Idora neighborhood on the city’s South Side, Elliott explained. Also included will be environmental uses, as well as regulations for wind, solar and geothermal energy, he continued.

The session had a question-and-answer portion in which one woman wanted to know what enforcement tools will be used besides citing violators and taking them to court. Elliott suggested a less time-consuming administrative process to issue fines in lieu of court appearances.

“You may need a tougher but more cost-effective means here,” he added.

One man asked what can be done to attract more businesses likely to reinvest in the city and create jobs for various neighborhoods. Another participant wondered if six months will be long enough for a vigorous debate on the new code.

The next meeting is set for 7 to 8:30 p.m. July 11 at the Ukrainian Orthodox Center, 1025 N. Belle Vista Ave., Youngstown.

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