April 16: Current State, Necessary Conditions, Impact

As announced previously, the Westwood Coalition invites residents to a community meeting on Wednesday, April 16, 2014 at 7:00 p.m. at Westwood Town Hall. We will take a look at the current state of the historic business district and the conditions necessary for vitality and development. With presenters Elizabeth Bartley (School of Planning, University of Cincinnati) and Kathleen Norris (managing principal, Urban Fast Forward), we’ll look at the historic business district’s current and potential community and economic activity, the importance of place, the promise of public-private partnerships, and moving from here to there.

Also, note that in late May, the Coalition will host a community meeting focused exclusively on gathering community comments on the Westwood Square as the feasibility study moves forward. Watch for that announcement shortly!

New code prohibits bad development

Any zoning code (form-based or conventional) has restrictions of Use that must be fair and legal. For example, it is not legal to allow some retail uses while not allowing others. If a community wants to allow high-end retailers in its business district, its code must also allow second-tier retailers. What a form-based code does, that conventional codes usually do not do, is set restrictions based on form, building type and frontage type (such as building placement, front door placement, storefront requirements, etc.). It was these requirements – embedded in Cincinnati’s form-based code – that kept a poorly designed, second-tier, discount store from moving into one of Cincinnati’s neighborhoods recently.

Bad development that has occurred in some of Cincinnati’s neighborhoods in the past is now prohibited under the new form-based code. We have too many neighborhood business districts where the “front” of a building was built as a windowless concrete block wall or where a building was set back from the street by a quarter acre of asphalt parking. These developments have a detrimental impact on the welfare of the neighborhood – not because of the uses within them but because of the form the buildings took.

Jeff Raser, principal, Glaserworks Architecture & Urban Design
on cincinnati.com
Read the full article at http://www.cincinnati.com/story/opinion/contributors/2014/04/04/new-code-prohibits-bad-development/7331569/

April 16 Community Meeting

The Coalition invites you to a community meeting on Wednesday, April 16, 2014 at 7:00 p.m. at Westwood Town Hall Hold the date! We will provide a quick update on developments like the Westwood Square feasibility study and the Mayor’s support for revitalization. Then we’ll launch right into a look at the current state of the historic business district and the conditions necessary for vitality and development. With presenters Elizabeth Bartley (School of Planning, University of Cincinnati) and Kathleen Norris (managing principal, Urban Fast Forward), we’ll look at the historic business district’s current and potential community and economic activity, the importance of place, the promise of public-private partnerships, and moving from here to there.

See you on April 16th.

Council 7-2 Vote for Westwood NBD Form-Based Code

At the Cincinnati City Council meeting today, council members votes 7-2 to favor of the Westwood application of the Cincinnati form-based code. Voting for the recommendation: Council members Seelbach, Simpson, Sittenfeld, Winburn, Young, Murray, and Mann. And voting against: Council members Smitherman and Flynn. The form-based code application in Westwood’s historic neighborhood business district (NBD) will go into effect in thirty days.

Seven Westwood residents spoke in support of the form-based code, citing thorough research, community engagement, protections provided to single family housing, alignment with the strategic plan, and more. Joining in the public comment period was Caleb Faux, of the Planning Commission. He commented that dissent in Westwood is essentially a misunderstanding; the form-based code remedies the concerns about current zoning voiced by some of these concerned citizens.

Although two council members expressed negative impressions of aspects of the form-based code itself, council members were unified in their remarks on overwhelming community support, transformational change in Westwood, and a commitment to partner with the community to bring development and investment to Westwood’s historic business district. Mr. Seelbach commented on room for disagreement in public discourse, but he condemned divisiveness and unproductive behaviors, as did several other council members. Ms. Murray, Mr. Sittenfeld, and Mr. Winburn all remarked on their respect for the community’s exhaustive research and engagement, the value of the Coalition, and council members’deference to the neighborhood. Mr. Mann noted that the form-based code includes use restrictions, remarking that it’s inaccurate to say that the code does not regulate for use. Ms. Murray spoke of her community council experience, commenting that the cooperative nature of the Coalition is noteworthy and should be ongoing. Mr. Young pointed out that, while the form-based code is new to Cincinnati, it works well in other cities.

In discussion before the vote, Mayor Cranley voiced his strong support for the Westwood Coalition and the public process in Westwood around the revitalization efforts. He commented positively on the proposed Westwood Square project and said that he intends to help to make it happen, including a proposed ordinance for financial support for Madcap Puppets as an anchor organization on the Westwood Square. Mayor Cranley noted that it takes money to revitalize, including both private and public funding. He identified perceived shortcomings of use restrictions in the code and concerns about acceptance of the code by the local development community, but the bulk of the Mayor’s comments celebrated the Coalition-led process and the collaboration and vision demonstrated in Westwood. Mr. Cranley urged continued work by the Westwood Coalition and applauded the commitment of WestCURC on the business district. Mr. Winburn pledged his support as chair of the Budget Committee to stand with the community and support the Mayor in identifying economic development support for Westwood’s historic NBD.

Mr. Cranley announced his intention to hold a press conference in Westwood next week to underscore his support for the revitalization of the historic NBD, Mapcap Puppets, and development of a Westwood Square.

Up next: the Westwood Square feasibility study and consideration of specifics of economic development.

Council Vote Delayed on Form-Based Code for Westwood

The recommendation to approve the application of the Cincinnati form-based code to a portion of Westwood around the historic business district was on the agenda for today’s City Council meeting. However, Mayor Cranley chose to table the issue until next week’s meeting, at which time, per Council rules, it must be addressed. You may recall that on Monday, February 10, the Neighborhoods Committee of City Council voted to recommend the Westwood application of the form-based code. Per Council rules, that vote meant that the issue was to be voted on by the full City Council this afternoon but the Mayor, who sets the agenda, decided to delay. The Westwood Coalition will monitor developments and share them here.

The Cincinnati City Council will next meet on Thursday, February 20, 2014 at 2:00 p.m. in Council Chambers, Room 300, City Hall, 801 Plum St, Cincinnati, OH 45202.

Westwood residents are welcome to continue submitting expressions of support for Westwood’s application of the form-based code and for revitalization, generally, to all City Council members via this email address: CityCouncil@cincinnati-oh.gov

Neighborhoods Committee Votes to Recommend Westwood Application of FBC

Following a presentation by city planner, Alex Peppers, and Q&A between Neighborhoods Committee members and Mr. Peppers, sixteen speakers spoke to the matter of the application of the Cincinnati form-based code to the area surrounding Westwood’s historic business district. Twelve people spoke for the proposal and four against. The December unanimous recommendation of the Planning Commission and today’s vote of support from the Neighborhoods Committee is a testament to the extensive research and community engagement around this issue and revitalization, generally. Voting for the recommendation: Mr. Mann and Ms. Simpson. Voting against: Mr. Flynn. Mr. Flynn did remark that his concerns were not with the proposal for Westwood; rather, shortcomings he identified in the form-based code in terms of accessibility language. Mr. Mann urged him to propose, or work with the city solicitor to recommend, improved language regarding accessibility. To be clear, any building would have to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The recommendation goes next to City Council at its meeting on Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 2:00 p.m. There will be a half hour period for citizen input on this and any other matter immediately preceding the council meeting.

The Coalition thanks supporters who took the time to voice support for the recommendation by email, letter, and in person.

Public Hearing: Neighborhoods Committee

From the City Council’s website:
The Neighborhoods Committee has scheduled a Public Hearing for Monday, Feb. 10, 2014 at 2 p.m. in Council Chambers, 801 Plum Street, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202, to discuss AMENDING the official zoning map of the City of Cincinnati to reflect the rezoning of that portion of the Westwood neighborhood of Cincinnati generally within the compact walkable area surrounding the Neighborhood Business District, as identified in Plan Cincinnati, from various conventional zoning districts in Title XIV of the Cincinnati Municipal Code, “Zoning Code of the City of Cincinnati,” to various transect zones set forth in Cincinnati Municipal Code Chapter 1703, “Form-Based Code.”

This amendment is supported enthusiastically by the Westwood Coalition and the organizations and businesses that it represents.

Thanks to all the Westwood residents who are taking the time to attend this public hearing and send messages of support to Council members. The email address to all members of City Council is CityCouncil@cincinnati-oh.gov. We expect that the full City Council will vote on this issue on Wednesday, February 12 at its 2:00 p.m. meeting.