Zoning

The delineation of districts and the establishment of regulations governing the use, placement, spacing, and size of land and buildings. Zoning provides guidelines for setbacks, height of structures, lot sizes, lot coverage, parking and other requirements. Zoning also regulates the types of land uses permitted on a property.

The purpose of Zoning is to:

  • Protect health, safety and welfare of the public
  • Ensure the orderly, manageable, and predictable growth of the city
  • Assist with the implementation of community planning goals
  • Separate conflicting land uses
  • Regulate land uses to achieve and maximize public benefits

 

General Zoning Information

PLEASE NOTE THAT THE ZONING REVIEW ROOM WILL BE CLOSED FROM 9–10:30 AM ON THE SECOND TUESDAY OF EACH MONTH FOR STAFF TRAINING.

 The Zoning Code regulates the type of activity that may occur within specific geographic areas of the city. By extension, zoning laws determine the placement of structures on a given site. While there are subcategories, land uses can be grouped under 3 general categories: residential, commercial and industrial.

More detailed information on zoning code and districts can be found online at City of Columbus Zoning Code.

Zoning Staff performs zoning clearance reviews and coordinates the rezoning and zoning variance processes.

The Zoning Section consists of the following 3 units:

CODE DEVELOPMENT

Responsible for researching, maintaining and updating the
City of Columbus Zoning Code as well as handling various special projects and research requests.

ZONING CLEARANCE

Responsible for ensuring that all development and redevelopment is in compliance with the zoning code. A certificate of zoning clearance is required prior to the construction or alteration of any building or structureas well as a change, modification or establishment of a use.

PUBLIC HEARING

Coordinates the public processes established by the zoning code that enable property owners and developers to modify or change the zoning of a tract of land. There are 4 types of public hearing processes related to zoning.

Please see the Development Guide for details:
* Rezoning (pgs. 15-17)
*Council Variance (pgs. 18-19)
*Board of Zoning Adjustment (pgs. 20-22)
*Graphics Commission (pgs. 20-22)

 

Zoning Clearance

Zoning clearance determines if an application is in conformance with the provisions of the Zoning Code or as permitted by a variance, special permit or decision from an appeal.

It is required and should be obtained prior to the construction or alteration of any building or structure. The establishment, change or modification in the use of any building, structure or land, as well as the grading, excavating or filling of land. Zoning clearance is often performed in conjunction with the plan review process for building permits and is one of the regulatory agencies that participate in the One Stop Shop plan-review process.

CERTIFICATES OF APPROPRIATENESS/APPROVAL

Some properties lie within historic districts or within overlays or special zoning districts that require approval for improvements or changes to the exterior of a building or property. Most of these processes are coordinated by the Historic Preservation Office or Urban Design Office in the Development Department's Division of Planning or email PlanningInfo@columbus.gov

EXPANSIONS OF DRIVEWAYS & PARKING AREAS
The Zoning Code limits the location of where additional parking can be added. Therefore, Zoning Clearance is required to expand a driveway or parking pad. For additional information, please see Driveway and Parking Pad Guidelines.

CUSTOMER INQUIRIES
Because zoning clearance is required for many projects, staff is available for consultation at the Building and Zoning Services Customer Service Center at 111 N Front Street during its regular hours of business. Alternatively, you can request information and seek consultation by e-mail at zoninginfo@columbus.gov .

 

Zoning Terms & FAQ

The following is a list of frequently used Zoning terms and associated definitions.

Architectural review commission 
When used without clarification means the historic resources commission created by Chapter 3117, C.C., or an architectural review commission created by Chapter 3319 to Chapter 3331, C.C., inclusive, and having jurisdiction over the application. 

Area commission 
Established to afford additional voluntary citizen participation in decision-making in an advisory capacity and to facilitate communication, understanding and cooperation between neighborhood groups, city officials and developers. 

Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) 
Hears and decides appeals from any persons affected by any order, requirement, decision or determination made by the director in the administration or enforcement of the Zoning Code except for those matters subject to the jurisdiction of the graphics commission or the board of commission appeals. The board shall also hear and decide requests for special permits and variances (except for those under the jurisdiction of City Council, the Graphics Commission or the Board of Commission Appeals) and any other matter upon which it is required to pass under the Zoning Code. 

Certificate of Appropriateness (C of A)
Issued by the Architectural Review or Historic Resources Commission to an applicant stating that the proposed construction, alteration or demolition of a structure, architectural feature or listed property pursuant to the application filed is appropriate under the terms of the chapter of the Zoning Code, consistent with the architectural characteristics, guidelines and standards affecting same or due to unusual and compelling circumstances or substantial economic hardship does not require such consistency and that, therefore, a permit can be issued.

Change of Use [zoning] 
Any alteration in the use of a lot for zoning purposes which may entail the need for additional parking or loading facilities. 

Columbus Graphics Commission 
The duties of the graphics commission:

  • Hear and decide all requests, except as provided for in C.C. 3359, for appeals or variances from the application of this Graphics Code
  • Hear and decide all requests, except as provided for in C.C. 3359, for special permits where required by this Graphics Code
  • Hear and decide all requests, except as provided for in C.C. 3359, for approval of a graphics plan and any other action required by this Graphics Code to be heard by the graphics commission
  • Review, except as provided for in C.C. 3359, special graphics control area design criteria and standards proposed for adoption and to make a recommendation to city council
  • Serve as a board of appeals from rulings or procedures of the board of examiners of general and limited sign erectors
  • Review the existing Graphics Code and propose new legislation to be prepared by the department
  • Review all pending legislation pertaining to graphics and make recommendations to city council
  • Recommend changes to the City Codes pertaining to graphics

Condominium 
A building or group of buildings, in which dwelling units, offices or floor area are owned individually, and the structure, common areas and facilities are owned by all the owners on a proportional, undivided basis. 

Council variance 
A variance to allow a use that is not permitted by the underlying zoning district. City Council may also consider variances to yard, height and parking only if in conjunction with a use variance or a rezoning. 

CZO 
Chief Zoning Official 

Development Commission 
And advisory body to the administration and to City Council in matters related to zoning code changes, rezoning applications and various planning initiatives. 

Dwelling 
A structure or portion thereof that is used exclusively for human habitation. 

 

Dwelling unit 
A single, self-contained unit providing independent living facilities for one or more individuals that contains eating, living, sanitary and sleeping areas in addition to a cooking facility, all for exclusive use by the occupants. This definition does not apply to units in dormitories, homeless shelters, hotels, motels or other buildings designed for transients. 

Easement 
Grant of one or more property rights by the property owner for use by the public, a corporation, or another person of entity. 

Flood Plain (also special flood hazard area) 
A river or other watercourse and its adjacent area subject to inundation by the "base flood." A "Special Flood Hazard Area" is also known as a "flood plain" or "100-year flood plain" and is composed of the "floodway" and the "floodway fringe." Special Flood Hazard Areas are designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as either Zone A, AE, AH, AO, A1-30, or A99. 

Frontage 
Side of a lot abutting on a street; the front lot line. 

Graphic 
Any communication designed to be seen from any public place utilizing letters, words, numbers, symbols, pictures, color, illumination, geometric or irregular shapes or planes, in whole or part, including all structural components. The term graphic specifically includes the terms sign, architectural decoration, mural, sculpture, show window display, outline lighting and banner. 

Nonconforming building 
A building which was erected legally but which does not comply with subsequently enacted zoning regulations for the district in which it is located. 

Nonconforming graphic 
A graphic which was erected legally but which does not comply with subsequently enacted provisions of the Graphics Code.

Nonconforming use 
A use which was initiated legally but which does not comply with subsequently enacted regulations of the use district in which it is situated. 

Lot 
A parcel of land occupied or designed to be occupied as a unit by a building, apartment complex, multiple dwelling development or commercial complex and the accessory buildings or uses customarily incident to it, if any, including such open spaces as are required by this Zoning Code and such open spaces as are arranged and designed to be used in connection with such building or buildings. Such lots shall be of record in the appropriate county recorder's office. 

Parcel 
A contiguous lot or tract of land owned and recorded as the property of the same persons or controlled by a single entity. 

Plat 
A map or site plan of all or a portion of a subdivision showing the boundaries and location of individual properties and streets. 

Rezoning 
A change of the zoning classification of particular lots or parcels of land. Rezoning is also known as "amending the zoning map" and can be approved only in ordinance form by City Council after receiving a recommendation at a public hearing of the Development Commission. 

Right-of-Way
A general term denoting land, property or the interest therein, usually in the configuration of a strip, acquired for or devoted to transportation purposes. When used in this context, right of way includes the roadway, shoulders or berm, ditch and slopes extending to the right-of-way limits under the control of the state or local authority. 

Setback 
The minimum distance of a specified physical feature from a property line or street right-of-way. The minimum setbacks in a zoning ordinance may define the building envelope and establish the required yards-front, rear, and side. The zoning ordinance also indicates what may be permitted in which yards: parking, fences, accessory buildings, patios, etc. 

Special Permit 
Required by the Board of Zoning Adjustment for specified uses due to unique characteristics relative to location, design, size, operation, circulation or need for public services and to provide supplemental criteria. 

Variance 
Permission to depart from the literal requirements of a zoning code. 

Zoning 
Delineation of districts and the establishment of regulations governing the use, placement, spacing and size of land and buildings. 

Zoning Clearance 
Determination that an application is in conformity with the provisions of the Zoning Code or as permitted by a variance, special permit or decision from an appeal. A "certificate of zoning clearance" is required and shall be obtained prior to the construction or alteration of any building or structure. The establishment, change or modification in the use of any building, structure or land, or the grading, excavating or filling of land. 

 

Zoning Confirmation Letters

A zoning confirmation letter will only confirm the current zoning of a property and provide reference to the applicable controlling zoning code section or city ordinance. A zoning confirmation letter is not a rebuild letter. The City of Columbus cannot issue rebuild letters as these are a matter of legal interpretation of city code for consideration by private counsel.

To increase efficiency in the intake process, zoning confirmation letters may be submitted online through Citizen Access Portal (https://portal.columbus.gov). To learn how to submit a zoning confirmation letter online, please visit How to Request a Zoning Verification Letter.

As part of the application, you will need to submit a written request that includes the property's parcel identification number(s), street address, and the name, email address and mailing address of the requester.

Multiple parcels may be included in one letter request, but all parcels must be contiguous, and a parcel list must be submitted with the request. Parcels immediately adjacent to each other or separated by a public street or alley shall be considered as contiguous to each other. Noncontiguous parcels will be treated as separate applications.

The minimum fee for this service is $100.00 per letter.  Additional fees may apply. You will be contacted by our office when your application has been accepted and the fee has been invoiced. The fee must be paid before the letter will be completed. 

Zoning confirmation letters may also be submitted via US mail and must be paid in advance:

Requests and prepayments should be mailed to Zoning Letters, Building and Zoning Services, 111 N. Front Street, Columbus, OH 43215.  All checks should be made payable to the Columbus City Treasurer.

Please note that we do not accept emailed requests for zoning confirmation letters.

Requests are completed in the order that they are received.


Additional information
A response to questions of a property's current compliance with existing building and zoning regulations requires submission of a Building Permit Application and current site plan accompanied by sealed drawings by an architect or engineer and the associated fees. If you have questions or need assistance, please call 614-645-8637 to speak with a Zoning team member or you may email ZoningInfo@columbus.gov.

For a property record search for any outstanding code violations, certificate of occupancy, or copies of building permits contact BZSRecords@columbus.gov or (614) 645-6082 for fees and specific requirements.