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Cleveland Heights moves to green zoning

Marc Lefkowitz  |  03/05/12 @ 9:00pm  |  Posted in Transform

In an effort to align its city policies with its national reputation as a green city, Cleveland Heights will soon update its zoning code in order to promote sustainability. After hiring a firm to audit its zoning and host public discussions, city council is preparing to vote in 2012 on a range of ordinances-from raising chickens in residential areas to shrinking water pollution from and size of parking lots.

Many of the moves leverage what is inherently 'green' in a streetcar suburb with good bones-with its historic homes, mixed-use commercial districts, consistently high Walk Scores (thanks to short blocks and lots of intersections), and one of the region's largest bike commuting populations (due in part to its proximity to University Circle).

Community gardens, greenhouses, vegetable/edible gardens and raising poultry in residential neighborhoods are good places to initiate sustainability practices. They have the benefit of being revenue neutral for the city, but also help defray the burden of maintaining the ever growing inventory of foreclosure derived vacant land. And since we have allowed the act of raising our own food to be disconnected from were we live, ordinances that promote local food production are also helpful to residents who are struggling with poverty.

Cleveland led the way a few years ago, passing an ordinance to allow chickens and bees in backyards and even game and livestock on vacant property. Cleveland started a conversation about the security of producing food close to home-and yes, it included concerns over health and safety (which Cleveland accounted for in, some argue, very stringent rules. A side note: Cleveland Planning Director, Bob Brown, noted a year after the ordinance passed that nuisance calls on dogs far outweigh those of chickens).

With its new mixed-use zoning designation and new maximums for parking lots, Cleveland Heights looks to set the stage for more infill development-an act to strengthen its traditional, pedestrian friendly districts. New developments can preserve green space instead of parking; by not requiring a minimum number of parking spots tied to retail square footage formula, the city can alter land-use patterns and break the mold on the worst aspects of big development-the one size fits all solution of paving over lots of open space for a too-large parking lot to fit only the busiest day of shopping in the year.

The city is to be commended for encouraging more biking, especially for those short trips which can be avoided by "requiring conveniently placed, well-designed bike parking for new uses and long-term. Covered bike parking with locker and shower facilities will be required for offices, university buildings and hospitals exceeding 25,000 square feet."

Bike parking has been consistently cited as the biggest impediment to increased trips made by bike, so the security of knowing there will always be a place to lock up is a good first start (the city would make an even stronger case by developing a bike parking design guideline so that its clear which bike racks are of high quality, and to spell out placement, lighting, security and shelter options).

Click here to see the complete list of sustainable zoning updates.

The Planning Commission will hold public hearings on the proposed sustainability zoning at 7 p.m. on March 14 and April 11 in Council Chambers at City Hall, 40 Severance Circle. City Council will host a public hearing at 7 p.m. March 26 at the Community Center, 1 Monticello Blvd. The Planning Commission will forward a recommendation to City Council, which is expected to approve the amendments at a regular meeting April 16.

Also of note, in anticipation of the new chickens ordinance, OSU Extension will offer a "Getting Ready to Raise Chickens" workshop this Wednesday, March 7 at 6 p.m. at Catholic Charities Office & Garden, 7800 Detroit Avenue, Cleveland.

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