Township Zoning in Ohio

Overview

In Ohio over four million people live in unincorporated townships, the majority of which have enacted zoning ordinances.  Reasons include controlling what are, in the eyes of the community, inappropriate uses, dealing with growth pressures, and promoting economic development.

Governing Law

The authority for townships to enact zoning codes is found in Ohio Revised Code Sec. 519.02, which authorizes the regulation of the:

•    location, height, bulk, number of stories, and size of buildings and other structures;
•    percentages of lot areas that may be occupied, set back building lines, sizes of yards, courts, and other open spaces, the density of population, the uses of buildings and other structures;
•    uses of land for trade, industry, residence, recreation, or other purposes; and
•    landscaping and architectural standards.
Zoning boards are authorized to “divide all or any part of the unincorporated territory of the township into districts or zones of such number, shape, and area as the board determines.”
To assist zoning boards and provide advice to local township officials who may lack land-use expertise, county and regional planning commissions are authorized by O.R.C. Sec. 713.22 and 713.23.  They are charged (with the county engineer) with preparing studies, maps and recommendations touching on such things as:
•    Regional objectives, opportunities, and needs and priorities;
•    Economic and social conditions;
•    Pattern and intensity of land use and open space;
•    The general land, water, and air transportation systems, and utility and communication systems;
•    Locations and extent of public and private works, facilities, and services;
•    Locations and extent of areas for conservation and development of natural resources and the control of the environment;
•    Long-range programming and financing of capital projects and facilities;
•    Contracting with and providing planning assistance to other units of local government;
•    Coordinating the planning with neighboring planning areas; cooperating with the state and federal governments in coordinating planning activities and programs in the region;
•    Reviewing, evaluating, and making comments and recommendations on the planning, programming, location, financing, and scheduling of public facility projects; and
•    Carrying out all of the functions and duties of a director of economic development.

County Oversight

A board of county commissioners may formally adopt and record a plan and thereafter “no public building, roadway, bridge, viaduct, or other public improvement or utility, publicly or privately owned, whose construction or location would constitute a departure from the plan, shall be constructed or authorized by the board except by unanimous vote”.
If a township proposes to adopt zoning, the county or regional planning commission is to be given a copy of the plan for comment and approval that it is consonant with over-all county planning.  Thereafter, the plan must first be approved by the township trustees and then must be adopted by majority vote of the township voters.