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New Philadelphia seeks public input to update 20-year-old zoning code

New Philadelphia City hall
New Philadelphia City Website
New Philadelphia is seeking public input to update its zoning code.

New Philadelphia has released a survey to collect public input in its first overhaul of zoning laws in more than 20 years.

It’s important to get the public’s input because zoning changes have a major impact on people's lives, said Zoning and Building Code Administrator Joshua Mathias.

“Most people don't — zoning doesn't cross their minds on a daily basis — but it kind of affects everybody on a daily basis. It’s the way the city’s organized,” he said. “Including the public feedback on each step of the way is instrumental on us, the city, getting a code that works, not only for administering it, but for people to live in town with it.”

The city’s old code was in dire need of an update, Mathias said.

“A lot of our codes are really outdated, and there's different land uses and different building uses that we have nowadays that weren't addressed in the old code,” he said. “There's gray areas within our current code, some sections even conflict each other, so it makes code enforcement a little bit difficult.”

These problems led the city to hire Compass Point Planning of Blue Ash, near Cincinnati. City Planner Wendy Moeller will facilitate the process of conducting the survey and drafting code changes.

The public survey includes areas for community input on signage, housing types and building facades, as well as general comments on how to improve the city's zoning.

Mathias explained some of the results they have seen so far.

“This early in the process, more people actually took the survey than I had expected,” he said. “Most of the people wanted things to stay the way they look now. The public seems to think we should take more care into regulating how buildings look.”

The city expects more residents to take the survey as it gets further into the process and the community seeks more personal involvement, Mathias said.

The next step in the process will involve Moeller drafting zoning changes and presenting them to the city's administration for review. The proposal will then involve several public meetings before approval.

The process will continue to involve the public, Mathias said.

“Presenting what they have at each point to the public and then getting feedback that way, it can be altered a little bit before any kind of finalization,” he said. “The public definitely will have several more opportunities to be at meetings or put their input in as it gets more and more completed.”

For now, Mathias encourages the community to get involved with the process and promises their input will be considered moving forward.

“If they’ve got zoning concerns, then make sure they get involved with the public meetings because she [Moeller] takes questions and takes everything she hears and makes note of it and tries to implement it if it works out,” he said. “Now's the time to make some changes.”

Grace Springer is a journalism student at Kent State University. She is the General Assignment Editor for KentWired and covers executive administration for student media.