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An Initiative A Day 3.3: Expand and coordinate existing land bank efforts to acquire, assemble, manage, and dispose of vacant properties throughout the region.

January 31, 2014 in Vibrant NEO 2040, Vision

On February 25, the NEOSCC Board will be voting on the the Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Action Products.  With just under 40 days to the vote and 41 initiatives in the vision, we thought it would be good to create a countdown to the vote.  Everyday over the next 5 weeks,  we will be sharing an “Initiative A Day” with you so you can gent a better understanding of the vision and framework!  If you would like to read all of the Initiatives, you can download them here Vibrant NEO_Recs&Init_010114.

Show your support for Vibrant NEO 2040 by adding your name to our Champions of Vibrant NEO 2040 list here!

These recommendations, initiatives, and products, are not one-size-fits all and some aspects of the initiatives won’t be applicable everywhere in the 12-county region.  The Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Products are intended inspire and guide decision-making at the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), Council of Government, and local levels to ensure that land use, transportation, and environmental considerations are simultaneously addressed by their processes. Ultimately, the implementation of Vibrant NEO 2040 is up to Northeast Ohio’s communities and residents. But regardless of the applicability of each initiative to any particular part of the region, the goal for each community within the Vision is the same: stability, prosperity, and a high quality of life for all of its residents.

Recommendation 3: Pursue the remediation, assembly, marketing, and redevelopment of abandoned properties at both the local and regional levels

Homeownership Zone: This neighborhood wide initiative has facilitated the assembly of single-family and multi-family lots that were vacant, abandoned, blighted or too small, in partnership between the local development corporation and the city land bank. The creation of a comprehensive neighborhood master plan re-envisioned the residential fabric by consolidating, re-subdividing and in-filling lots with new single-family homes and townhomes. Today the neighborhood is continuing to emerge as a diverse, mixed-income, compact residential community with access to transit, commercial amenities, institutions and green space.

 

Initiative 3.3: Expand and coordinate existing land bank efforts to acquire, assemble, manage, and dispose of vacant properties throughout the region.

WHAT THIS MEANS. Land banks are mechanisms for acquiring and holding chronically vacant land or buildings to prepare for resale to a private entity. The public identity of land banks has historically been as information clearinghouses, expanding in some cases to maintenance and marketing of properties under its stewardship. In recent years, land banks have offered expanded programming and support, in some cases taking on the role of developer and lender. Northeast Ohio is home to several land banks, including the Cuyahoga Land Bank (CLB), which is a practice leader among regional land banks. The distinguishing elements of the CLB’s approach to land banking include:

+        Strategic land assembly – rather than acquiring parcels in a scattershot manner, CLB intentionally seeks contiguous parcels to internalize some of the costs that developers or conservationists would face in acquiring and remediating parcels one at a time;

+        Deconstruction – CLB partners with experienced builders and recyclers to sell and reuse material salvaged from properties it demolishes;

+        Property rehabilitation – in addition to rehabilitating property through its own development arm, the land bank operates a “deed-in-escrow” program and low-interest loans targeted to small-scale home rehabilitators or homeowners without an extensive background in rehabilitation; and

+        Conservation and urban agriculture – CLB plays an active role in Cleveland’s robust urban gardening and agriculture movement, advising and making available parcels that are suitable for food cultivation.

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT. The first county land bank, the Genesee County Land Bank in Flint, Michigan, was formed in response to the County Assessor’s awareness of the tremendous fiscal liability that chronically vacant land places on local governments’ balance sheet. In that case and others, land banks play an important function in the management of urban land when the market fails to deliver development outcomes, or when municipalities themselves do not have the capacity to manage or dispose of vacant properties. This intermediary role is valuable in preparing parcels for successive uses and absorbing some of the pre-development expenses that often deter developers. In Northeast Ohio’s legacy cities, removing unsound and unusable structures, measuring and possibly remediating contamination, and assisting with land assembly are all critical factors in encouraging redevelopment of vacant properties.

GETTING IT DONE. As land banks are typically creatures of county and municipal legislative action, these local governmental units must lead the way in evaluating and establishing land banks for their jurisdictions. Land banks should then be encouraged and empowered to coordinate across jurisdictional borders – particularly for areas identified as strategic investment areas and regional job centers – and to collaborate with regional economic development organizations such as Team NEO and the Fund for Our Economic Future to foster a more collaborative, regional approach to managing and repositioning vacant urban land.

TOOL: Thriving Communities Institute is lending its hand to transform vacant and unproductive properties into new opportunities to attract economic growth, to bring green space to our cities, and to support safe, beautiful neighborhoods. In working with community leaders in our region, they have learned that urban revitalization is a process, one with many steps supported by great partnerships. Thriving Communities is helping secure our cities’ vacant, unhealthy properties by establishing and supporting county land banks throughout our region.

County land banks, technically called county land reutilization corporations, provide our counties with much-needed ability to quickly acquire foreclosed and vacant property. These land banks can safely hold a distressed property, clean its title, and prepare it for a better day. The goal is to secure vacant properties – which would otherwise attract crime, lower neighboring home values, and incur public services costs – so that they can be put to better use in the future. http://www.thrivingcommunitiesinstitute.org/#

 

Lead

Nonprofit Organizations; Land Banks; Municipalities, Counties

Target Community

Strategic investment areas, asset risk areas

Implementation Complexity

Moderate

An Initiative A Day 3.2: Remove Barriers for Adaptive Reuse of Abandoned Properties

January 30, 2014 in Vibrant NEO 2040, Vision

On February 25, the NEOSCC Board will be voting on the the Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Action Products.  With just under 40 days to the vote and 41 initiatives in the vision, we thought it would be good to create a countdown to the vote.  Everyday over the next 5 weeks,  we will be sharing an “Initiative A Day” with you so you can gent a better understanding of the vision and framework!  If you would like to read all of the Initiatives, you can download them here Vibrant NEO_Recs&Init_010114.

Show your support for Vibrant NEO 2040 by adding your name to our Champions of Vibrant NEO 2040 list here!

These recommendations, initiatives, and products, are not one-size-fits all and some aspects of the initiatives won’t be applicable everywhere in the 12-county region.  The Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Products are intended inspire and guide decision-making at the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), Council of Government, and local levels to ensure that land use, transportation, and environmental considerations are simultaneously addressed by their processes. Ultimately, the implementation of Vibrant NEO 2040 is up to Northeast Ohio’s communities and residents. But regardless of the applicability of each initiative to any particular part of the region, the goal for each community within the Vision is the same: stability, prosperity, and a high quality of life for all of its residents.

Recommendation 3: Pursue the remediation, assembly, marketing, and redevelopment of abandoned properties at both the local and regional levels

Initiative 3.2: Expedite permitting and remove barriers for adaptive reuse of abandoned buildings and empty lots.

WHAT THIS MEANS. The recycling of urban land and buildings is the principal development challenge facing built-out communities. Barriers to redevelopment arise through such issues as toxic contamination, property age and code conformance, and opposition from other landowners. Communities in Ohio and elsewhere have found various strategies for reducing or removing these barriers, including internalizing certain pre-development costs like site remediation (or working with an allied entity to do so), and taking an active role in mediating between developers, landowners, and the community. One of the most effective and immediate actions that municipalities can take is exploring ways to consolidate and expedite the permitting and development review process. Los Angeles took such steps to facilitate redevelopment in the historic central business district in 2005. The dramatic success of the program led to its expansion citywide (footnote: LA citywide adaptive reuse available here: http://ladbs.org/LADBSWeb/LADBS_Forms/PlanCheck/Ord175588_zaapproval.pdf; LA adaptive reuse process overview document: http://ladbs.org/LADBSWeb/LADBS_Forms/Permits/Permitting_Guidelines.pdf).

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT. The challenge becomes a problem when natural churn in a property market decays into long-term, structural vacancy. Invariably, municipalities are saddled with the responsibility for maintaining chronically vacant property. This saps municipalities of needed revenue, results in substandard care for a property, and dims the prospects of a productive successive use.

Over the last two decades, local governments around the country have created land banks, which are entities established to acquire and hold chronically vacant property for eventual sale to a private entity for redevelopment. While land banks are valuable policy and organization tools, they are not the full answer to addressing the challenge of widespread structural vacancy.. Policies reducing the uncertainties associated with bureaucracy and the development review process should follow, as these factors are frequently cited by developers as reasons – direct or indirect – for withdrawing from or forgoing projects in established cities or towns.

GETTING IT DONE. Local governments, particularly in the region’s legacy cities and first ring suburbs, must take responsibility for implementation of this initiative. Leadership could come from members of planning commissions or zoning boards, or administrative staff from a planning or development department. The effort could start with the following relatively easy explorations:

+ Expedited re-platting review and approval for vacant commercial and industrial properties – When building in a greenfield context, a developer can plat a property to suit his or her needs, a condition that is very difficult to replicate in an established urban context. To compensate, municipalities should consider designating areas with a high volume of vacant or abandoned commercial or industrial property for which replat applications will be fast-tracked through approval process. This can be accomplished by creating special overlay districts and adding commercial/industrial planned unit development zoning classes to municipal zoning codes; and

+ Consolidated permitting process – Municipalities interested in promoting adaptive reuse should consider forming dedicated working groups or task forces comprised of the principal divisions of government responsible for issuing permits. These working groups review adaptive reuse projects in their totality, reducing or eliminating the back-and-forth that typifies standard permitting process and enabling the developer to address multiple code issues in an efficient, coordinated fashion.

TOOL: The Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation developed a Vacant Land Reuse Resource Guide that contains detailed instructions for choosing a site, acquiring vacant property, preparing a site, assessing soil conditions, accessing water, and obtaining plants, fencing, and permits. The guide also outlines a number of vacant land reuse strategies, offers ideas, inspirations, and resources, and includes a project idea workbook. http://www.yndc.org/

BEST PRACTICE: A nine-month Green Jobs Training Program for at-risk youth adds deconstruction curriculum in Youngstown: Students learn the basics of building deconstruction and building material salvage. Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation partners with the Youngstown Metropolitan Housing Authority, Reuse Consulting, Landscapers, Mahoning County One Stop, Western Reserve Building Trade Council, churches and others. http://www.yndc.org/news-media/green-jobs-training-program-continues-deconstruction-training

PILOT: Collinwood Rising: This is a community plan for establishing a strategy for transforming vacant parcels and houses into community-based assets. Funding was awarded by an ArtPlace America grant. http://www.artplaceamerica.org/articles/collinwood-rising-7/

 

Lead

Municipalities

Target Community

Strategic investment areas, asset risk areas

Implementation Complexity

Low

 

An Initiative A Day 3.1: Identifying and tracking vacant and contaminated industrial land

January 29, 2014 in Vibrant NEO 2040, Vision

On February 25, the NEOSCC Board will be voting on the the Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Action Products.  With just under 40 days to the vote and 41 initiatives in the vision, we thought it would be good to create a countdown to the vote.  Everyday over the next 5 weeks,  we will be sharing an “Initiative A Day” with you so you can gent a better understanding of the vision and framework!  If you would like to read all of the Initiatives, you can download them here Vibrant NEO_Recs&Init_010114.

Show your support for Vibrant NEO 2040 by adding your name to our Champions of Vibrant NEO 2040 list here!

These recommendations, initiatives, and products, are not one-size-fits all and some aspects of the initiatives won’t be applicable everywhere in the 12-county region.  The Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Products are intended inspire and guide decision-making at the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), Council of Government, and local levels to ensure that land use, transportation, and environmental considerations are simultaneously addressed by their processes. Ultimately, the implementation of Vibrant NEO 2040 is up to Northeast Ohio’s communities and residents. But regardless of the applicability of each initiative to any particular part of the region, the goal for each community within the Vision is the same: stability, prosperity, and a high quality of life for all of its residents.

Recommendation 3: Pursue the remediation, assembly, marketing, and redevelopment of abandoned properties at both the local and regional levels

Northeast Ohio’s regional economy has long been defined by industry, and thus was especially susceptible to the economic restructuring of American manufacturing. Vacant and contaminated industrial land dot Northeast Ohio’s legacy cities. The question of these lands’ remediation and reuse is intimately related to how the region will strengthen its core cities and towns, a central objective of the Vibrant NEO 2040 vision. Similarly pressing is the volume of vacant commercial and residential land, or “greyfields,” a byproduct of the region’s economic transition and a direct consequence of outward migration.

Fortunately, the region has several sources of inspiration on which to draw, both from within and from peer regions. Some areas have enjoyed success in reinvigorating their manufacturing base with a 21st century, d high-tech edge. Others have focused on rehabilitating salvageable buildings as residential and commercial space. A smaller, but still significant number have opted to reposition abandoned and polluted industrial land as a landscape of ecological tourism.

Northeast Ohio must develop a multi-stakeholder, regional approach to dealing with vacant and abandoned properties to position its communities for success in the future. It can incorporate many of the strategies developed and refined already in various pockets of the region and throughout the country, but it will require cooperation and trust, good and constantly maintained information, and investment. The region should consider the following initiatives related to reusing vacant former industrial land:

Initiative 3.1: Develop and maintain a regional vacant industrial and commercial properties database and criteria for determining the most appropriate successive use, whether for redevelopment, green infrastructure, food production, parks, or natural areas.

WHAT THIS MEANS. Northeast Ohio possesses significant data assets related to vacant and contaminated land. These data are generated and maintained by a wide range of organizations, some using geographic information systems (GIS) and some not. County auditors and municipal departments maintain records of ownership, use, and value and tax history. Land banks and economic development entities track demolitions and occasionally contamination, sometimes assigning qualitative attributes to parcels that can be useful to understanding on-the-ground conditions. County engineers and municipal public works departments might maintain information on easements and presence and conditions of publicly-maintained infrastructure. These sources of information are highly useful to all parties involved in the development process, but remain siloed. The regional parcel-based land use and land value database compiled by NEOSCC could be a useful starting point, but to remain a useful tool for policy and development recruitment, the database needs constant updating by contributing partners.

The City of Indianapolis, Indiana implemented a successful site locator service based on information management systems it developed within City government and in partnership with local foundations, community development corporations, and business development entities. The site locator tracks retail, office, and industrial sites that are vacant or on the market, along with purely vacant land zoned for any of those uses. Search parameters include size of property (in square feet and acres), location within particular community development areas, and whether the property is available for lease or sale (citation: Indy SiteFinder, City of Indianapolis, http://imaps.indygov.org/ed/ed.asp?bhiw=1920&bhih=1108).

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT. Good and standardized information is critical for planners, public officials, developers, and employers alike. It is essential with complex, multi-stakeholder problems such as the reuse of vacant urban land. The process of constructing a vacant land database would provide impetus for data stakeholders to communicate, share, and begin to standardize collection methodologies and classification schemes. By establishing a common platform of knowledge on which dialogue and consensus-building can take place between stakeholders, a vacant land database would contribute enormously to the region’s economic prosperity by sending a valuable signal to the market regarding the region’s capacity to collaborate with private-sector stakeholders.

GETTING IT DONE. A regional vacant and industrial properties database should integrate data from municipalities and counties, land banks and possibly land conservancies, parks authorities, and state agencies. Data could rest on a common web-based platform with other data products and be used to inform decision-making on everything from vacant land reuse, land bank property sales, and urban agriculture, and include a public-face version used to aid in marketing sites and districts to developers and prospective large employers. Given the jurisdictional complexity of this initiative, an economic development partnership such as the Fund for Our Economic Future or Team NEO should lead the effort, coordinating with NEOSCC and consortium members, particularly COGs, to convene the appropriate stakeholders. Data and information support could come from universities in the region.

POLICY: Develop and promote innovative clean up strategies: Developing and promoting innovative cleanup strategies that restore contaminated sites to productive use, promote environmental stewardship, and reduce associated costs while minimizing ancillary environmental impacts from these cleanups. Consider cleanups in the context of the larger environment and consistently and pro-actively apply more sustainable methods to remediate the site while still protecting public health and the environment and striving to achieve the established cleanup goals.

Lead

Chambers of Commerce/Economic Development Organizations; Universities; Nonprofit Organizations; Councils of Governments

Target Community

Strategic investment areas, asset risk areas

Implementation Complexity

Low

An Initiative A Day 2.3: Implement a Tiered Approach to Local Parking Requirements

January 28, 2014 in Vibrant NEO 2040, Vision

On February 25, the NEOSCC Board will be voting on the the Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Action Products.  With just under 40 days to the vote and 41 initiatives in the vision, we thought it would be good to create a countdown to the vote.  Everyday over the next 5 weeks,  we will be sharing an “Initiative A Day” with you so you can gent a better understanding of the vision and framework!  If you would like to read all of the Initiatives, you can download them here Vibrant NEO_Recs&Init_010114.

Show your support for Vibrant NEO 2040 by adding your name to our Champions of Vibrant NEO 2040 list here!

These recommendations, initiatives, and products, are not one-size-fits all and some aspects of the initiatives won’t be applicable everywhere in the 12-county region.  The Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Products are intended inspire and guide decision-making at the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), Council of Government, and local levels to ensure that land use, transportation, and environmental considerations are simultaneously addressed by their processes. Ultimately, the implementation of Vibrant NEO 2040 is up to Northeast Ohio’s communities and residents. But regardless of the applicability of each initiative to any particular part of the region, the goal for each community within the Vision is the same: stability, prosperity, and a high quality of life for all of its residents.

Recommendation 2: Develop a robust network of regional job centers connected by multimodal transportation corridors within and between counties

Initiative 2.3: Implement a tiered approach to local parking requirements.

WHAT THIS MEANS. Parking is a fundamental need in modern urban areas, but when oversupplied, it can easily overwhelm the special qualities of a place and even have adverse economic impacts. The provision and management of parking play an enormous role in the look and feel of streets, travel choice, and congestion levels. Parking spaces are a valuable commodity; like any commodity, they are subject to the laws of supply and demand. Typically, however, parking has been supplied without much thought to actual travel demand — or demand for any form of parking other than free parking — resulting in swathes of real estate being reduced to asphalt that sits largely empty for much of the day.

Conceptual Diagram: Cycle of automobile dependency (from Todd Litman, 2009)

Typical parking requirements in the United States today are a result of a virtuous circle of good intentions gone wrong. At its center area series of zoning code practices that have had unintended negative impacts on city centers. Conventional zoning codes, emerging in the early 20th century, quickly evolved beyond an idea with unquestionable merit — keeping noxious land uses away from residences — to so strictly isolate residential, industrial, and commercial land uses that it made motorized travel a near-necessity for most trips. Parking requirements were then added to address the spike in driving that these new standards created and ensure that parking demand for retail businesses, places of employment and other major destinations did not ‘spill over’ into residential neighborhoods and exhaust much-needed on-street parking supply. The minimum parking requirements in many zoning codes are based on the maximum demand observed on any day, so that the actual parking supply provided is never filled and most days provides much more than is needed.

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT. Parking management strategies that focus on reducing the minimum required parking introduce a greater range of choice in communities—both to development markets that may be able to realize lower costs by providing less parking in places where it is not in heavy demand, and also to businesses and residents interested in finding the lower-cost space and housing that could result.

Reducing or eliminating minimum parking requirements selectively would also allow development to better respond to true market demand and, in places where less parking is actually needed than what zoning-based parking minimums specify, to provide that amount and thus reduce development costs.

GETTING IT DONE. As a form of land use regulation, parking policies are a powerful regulatory tool that local jurisdictions hold in influencing development. Northeast Ohio municipalities should consider adopting a tiered approach to parking regulation that is more responsive to the complete picture of mobility options and their accessibility. This would suggest:

  • Implementing parking maximums in walkable districts with high-frequency transit running throughout the day, i.e. districts that have 10-minute or better frequencies of bus and/or rail service;
  • Removing all reference to maximums or minimums in walkable districts with significant transit service;
  • Relaxing parking minimums in areas with some transit service; and
  • Retaining existing parking minimum requirements in areas without transit service, or modestly adjusting parking minimum requirements based on observed demand.

TOOL: The City of Cleveland passed a zoning overlay district created to preserve the pedestrian-oriented character of their unique shopping districts, accomplished through regulatory tools addressing building placement, use, reduced parking requirements, etc. (see Chapter 343.33). http://planning.city.cleveland.oh.us/cpc.html

http://www.amlegal.com/library/oh/cleveland.shtml  (Cleveland Ohio, Code of Ordinances; see Chapter 343.23)

Lead

Municipalities, Townships; Metropolitan Planning Organizations

Target Community

Strategic investment areas, asset risk areas, cost risk areas

Implementation Complexity

Moderate

An Initiative A Day 2.2: : Use transit oriented development (TOD) to create stronger, more accessible, regional job centers.

January 27, 2014 in Vibrant NEO 2040, Vision

On February 25, the NEOSCC Board will be voting on the the Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Action Products.  With just under 40 days to the vote and 41 initiatives in the vision, we thought it would be good to create a countdown to the vote.  Everyday over the next 5 weeks,  we will be sharing an “Initiative A Day” with you so you can gent a better understanding of the vision and framework!  If you would like to read all of the Initiatives, you can download them here Vibrant NEO_Recs&Init_010114.

Show your support for Vibrant NEO 2040 by adding your name to our Champions of Vibrant NEO 2040 list here!

These recommendations, initiatives, and products, are not one-size-fits all and some aspects of the initiatives won’t be applicable everywhere in the 12-county region.  The Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Products are intended inspire and guide decision-making at the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), Council of Government, and local levels to ensure that land use, transportation, and environmental considerations are simultaneously addressed by their processes. Ultimately, the implementation of Vibrant NEO 2040 is up to Northeast Ohio’s communities and residents. But regardless of the applicability of each initiative to any particular part of the region, the goal for each community within the Vision is the same: stability, prosperity, and a high quality of life for all of its residents.

Recommendation 2: Develop a robust network of regional job centers connected by multimodal transportation corridors within and between counties

Initiative 2.2: Use transit oriented development (TOD) to create stronger, more accessible, regional job centers.

 

WHAT THIS MEANS. Coordinating land use and transportation sets the stage for residents and employers to be well-served by public investment in high capacity transit. This initiative involves focusing local land use policies throughout the Northeast Ohio region to respond to regional high-capacity transit service. This not only looks to shape urban form in a way that promotes walking and transit access, but also to encourage and foster population and employment densities that are necessary for transit service to be feasible.

Urban regions beginning to invest in transit understand that the major commitment of public and private funds to build and operate transit systems requires securing a successful public service that offers community benefit and a foundation for economic growth. Charlotte, North Carolina is a leading example of a region that has oriented its growth policies to infrastructure corridors served by high-capacity transit, with a series of ‘wedges’ consisting of lower-density housing and parks and preservation lands making up the spaces in between and continuing to offer housing choices to the region. Working hand-in-hand with this growth framework is a series of station area plans that reshaped local land use policy and development regulations to promote the critical densities of population and employment needed to support this high-capacity transit service.

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT. Land use policy is not always immediately understood in planning for transit, but coordinating it in transportation planning efforts is crucial in ensuring transit’s effectiveness. Transit needs to have adequate ridership for service to be successful, but it also needs for land uses to be balanced and configured in a way that takes full advantage of the service’s capacity and allows riders to reach transit vehicles. This initiative is focused on land use because it is essential to ensuring that public investment in transit infrastructure and service yields benefits to Northeast Ohio.

When coordinated well, this kind of land use and development planning offers community benefit in creating desirable places that offer choices in transportation, but it also benefits transit service providers in adding ridership, building a long-term demand for transit service, and extending the utility of transit service by allowing reverse-peak use of transit service and potentially offering more ‘even’ ridership activity throughout the day.

GETTING IT DONE. Recommendation 5 calls for regional action and coordination on transit development, but local government policy will ultimately lead the implementation of this initiative. This is often expressed in broader terms in long-range and comprehensive development plans, but it needs to be codified in zoning ordinances so that restrictions to individual development choice is removed and property owners may build transit oriented development as of right. To support transit, especially around high-capacity stations, there needs to be a minimum level of population or employment density and a favorable mix of land uses that can be easily accommodated without requiring a car. Generally speaking, this focuses on residential, employment, and, to a lesser degree, retail and commercial land uses. The specific type of use matters, though, in that transit is more effective in serving land uses that lead to a high concentration of households and jobs. Land uses that offer employment at lower intensities, such as warehousing and distribution, and similar services are not as likely to support transit and should not be the focus of transit-supportive area plans.

TOOL: Connecting Jobs and Workforce Development to Transit. http://origin.library.constantcontact.com/download/get/file/1101453267843-205/20130924_Jobs_Transit_Issue_Brief.pdf

Lead      Municipalities; Metropolitan Planning Organizations

Target Community          Strategic investment areas

Implementation Complexity       Moderate

Initiative A Day 2.1: Strengthen regional job centers—and the corridors that connect them

January 26, 2014 in Vibrant NEO 2040, Vision

On February 25, the NEOSCC Board will be voting on the the Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Action Products.  With just under 40 days to the vote and 41 initiatives in the vision, we thought it would be good to create a countdown to the vote.  Everyday over the next 5 weeks,  we will be sharing an “Initiative A Day” with you so you can gent a better understanding of the vision and framework!  If you would like to read all of the Initiatives, you can download them here Vibrant NEO_Recs&Init_010114.  

Show your support for Vibrant NEO 2040 by adding your name to our Champions of Vibrant NEO 2040 list here

These recommendations, initiatives, and products, are not one-size-fits all and some aspects of the initiatives won’t be applicable everywhere in the 12-county region.  The Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Products are intended inspire and guide decision-making at the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), Council of Government, and local levels to ensure that land use, transportation, and environmental considerations are simultaneously addressed by their processes. Ultimately, the implementation of Vibrant NEO 2040 is up to Northeast Ohio’s communities and residents. But regardless of the applicability of each initiative to any particular part of the region, the goal for each community within the Vision is the same: stability, prosperity, and a high quality of life for all of its residents.

 

Recommendation 2: Develop a robust network of regional job centers connected by multimodal transportation corridors within and between counties

Initiative 2.1: Strengthen regional job centers—and the corridors that connect them—by diversifying and intensifyingland uses and investing in strategic local economic development within them.

WHAT THIS MEANS. Jobs are key to securing Northeast Ohio’s future health and prosperity, and quality places are key to securing jobs. With the generational preferences about what constitutes a “quality place” shifting toward values such as walkability, accessibility, and mixing of uses, communities and employers alike are scrambling to create contexts where people can and want to work. Northeast Ohio must recognize this and act decisively if it is to remain competitive with other regions.

One component in strengthening regional job centers and corridors is to address and remove provisions in land use plans and zoning codes that discourage dense, mixed-use projects, or make them difficult to deliver. This can involve a host of strategies discussed elsewhere in these recommendations, from creating mixed-use or planned unit development overlays to reducing or eliminating parking minimums. By developing more flexible and streamlined zoning and administrative review processes, municipalities make an important contribution to reducing the high transaction costs facing developers and employers and ease their ability to deliver the kind of dense, diversified places where people increasingly want to work and live.

Some Northeast Ohio communities will want to be even more deliberate, targeting development in the regional centers identified in the Vibrant NEO 2040 vision map. Municipalities can encourage such development by making targeted investment in the physical infrastructure, social services, and marketing of the place—or by identifying and cultivating local stakeholders. Cleveland’s HealthLine bus rapid transit (BRT) investment is the strongest local example of such as deliberate development strategy.

The City of Cleveland’s decade’s long partnership with the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) and four stakeholder-led local development corporations and improvement districts —University Circle, MidTown Cleveland, the Campus District, and the Downtown Cleveland Alliance—along the 5-mile Euclid Corridor between Downtown Cleveland and University Circle, the city’s major cultural district. The city and GCRTA collaborated to undertake a complete upgrade of the transit service on this heavily travelled corridor, replacing curb-running local bus service with articulated busses running in an exclusive center median right-of-way. The development corporations partnered with the city and each other to coordinate significant reinvestment in the properties along the corridor. These public-private partnerships have resulted in a transit oriented corridor with an impressive cluster of educational, medical and cultural institutions, private businesses, and business incubators focused on health care and health innovation, a major growth field in the 21st century.

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT. An economically strong Northeast Ohio requires jobs located on sites that are both accessible to the region’s population and well-served by the region’s freight networks. Concentrating employment so complementary businesses can be near each other helps to create relationships and linkages that drive value creation. Concentrating businesses also allows transit to serve multiple employers and their employees with efficient routes. Providing for freight connections to these concentrated areas also reduces shipping time and cost, increasing the economic viability throughout the centers.

The Cleveland Opportunity Corridor is an example of a center- and corridor-based redevelopment strategy currently under development through a partnership of the City of Cleveland and the State of Ohio. The Opportunity Corridor envisions constructing a boulevard to connect the rapidly expanding University Circle neighborhood into the region’s roadway network. (citation: Ohio Department of Transportation, Cleveland Opportunity Corridor, http://www.dot.state.oh.us/projects/clevelandurbancoreprojects/opportunitycorridor/Pages/default.aspx).

While the project proposal envisions both substantial adaptive reuse of existing properties and the intensification of existing land uses, (highlighted in 3.4), the major public investment proposed is limited to the development of a new highway. A infrastructure planning strategy that incorporates the full range of transportation modes will be the appropriate approach for most urban employment corridors and centers.

GETTING IT DONE. The region already has a strong framework of centers and connective corridors, but action will need to happen on several levels in order to capitalize on the potential of the framework. Local governments will need to lead the way on getting land use right, reviewing and revising zoning codes and plans as necessary, and engaging local stakeholders to target investments in the job centers and corridors of the future. Transportation investments will occur through the Ohio Department of Transportation and local transit agencies, which should be coordinated with local government’s efforts via MPOs and COGs. In addition to coordinating public sector stakeholders, MPOs and COGs should play a key role in collecting and disseminating best practices.

POLICY: Nurture the Region’s Industry Clusters: Organizing the region strategically around clusters of regional specialization can help target investment decisions and reduce duplication of effort. These efforts should focus on how to make the region’s successful clusters grow and prosper and enable the region to be proactive in terms of funding and other opportunities.

PILOT PROJECT: The Austen BioInnovation Institute in Akron – an exceptional collaboration of Akron Children’s Hospital, Akron General Health System, Northeast Ohio Medical University, Summa Health System, The University of Akron and The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation – is focused on patient-centered innovation and commercialization at the intersection of biomaterials and medicine. The strategic alignment of institutional, state, federal and philanthropic support, accompanied with Akron’s rich legacy in industrial and materials science, is working to pioneer the next generation of life-enhancing and life-saving innovation that will transform Akron and the surrounding region into a model for biomedical discovery and enterprise. http://www.abiakron.org/

Lead

Municipalities, Townships, Counties; Metropolitan Planning Organizations, Councils of Governments

Target Community

Strategic investment areas, asset risk areas, cost risk areas

Implementation Complexity

Moderate

An Initiative A Day 1.6: Understanding Land Value within Local and Regional Market

January 25, 2014 in Vibrant NEO 2040, Vision

On February 25, the NEOSCC Board will be voting on the the Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Action Products.  With just under 40 days to the vote and 41 initiatives in the vision, we thought it would be good to create a countdown to the vote.  Everyday over the next 5 weeks,  we will be sharing an “Initiative A Day” with you so you can gent a better understanding of the vision and framework!  If you would like to read all of the Initiatives, you can download them here Vibrant NEO_Recs&Init_010114.  

Show your support for Vibrant NEO 2040 by adding your name to our Champions of Vibrant NEO 2040 list here

These recommendations, initiatives, and products, are not one-size-fits all and some aspects of the initiatives won’t be applicable everywhere in the 12-county region.  The Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Products are intended inspire and guide decision-making at the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), Council of Government, and local levels to ensure that land use, transportation, and environmental considerations are simultaneously addressed by their processes. Ultimately, the implementation of Vibrant NEO 2040 is up to Northeast Ohio’s communities and residents. But regardless of the applicability of each initiative to any particular part of the region, the goal for each community within the Vision is the same: stability, prosperity, and a high quality of life for all of its residents.

 

Recommendation 1: FOCUS NEW RESIDENTIAL AND COMMERCIAL DEVELOPMENT ON SITES WITHIN ESTABLISHED COMMUNITIES

Initiative 1.6: Consider instituting a land value tax to replace existing improvement-based property assessment and taxation methods.

WHAT THIS MEANS. Land value tax is a method of property taxation that is gaining traction in policy circles, though relatively few places have implemented it to date. Most counties and municipalities in the United States in fact employ a method that assesses the improvement value of land, which has the unintended effect of “punishing” more valuable buildings with higher rates of tax. Moving to a land value tax would reverse this, assessing land based on its value within a local and regional market for land, and thus making less productive uses and practices more expensive to maintain from a tax perspective.

The case of a downtown surface parking lot is a good example with which to illustrate the proposition. In such an instance, the owner invests minimally in improvements to a property – merely paving it (which has its own external costs through burdens placed on the stormwater management system, contribution to the urban heat island effect, and so forth) and perhaps constructing a small structure at the point of ingress and egress. The owner earns impressive revenues from the use, owing to the high demand for parking near clusters of employment and leisure destinations, but the only tax he pays is on what the jurisdiction assesses for the paving and the control structure. This incentivizes more entrants into the market for parking, which consumes valuable land and returns ever-lower tax revenues for the jurisdiction. The same principle applies to land speculators, who hold on to land in anticipation of a future appreciation in value, and have no disincentive to prevent a property from falling into disuse and disrepair. For such reasons, even Milton Friedman, the free-market economist who was otherwise deeply skeptical of taxation, once acknowledged that a tax based on the unimproved value of land was the “least bad” to a local economy (Citation: Lincoln Land Institute, Assessing the Theory and Practice of Land Value Taxation, https://www.lincolninst.edu/pubs/dl/1760_983_Assessing%20the%20Theory%20and%20Practice%20of%20Land%20Value%20Taxation.pdf).

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT. Land value taxes align incentives in a manner that encourages better market outcomes and thus benefits municipalities financially in the long run. The case of Pittsburgh stands as the best example of this practice in a major metropolitan area. From 1913 until the city-county consolidation of the property assessment function in 2001, Pittsburgh employed a two-tiered property tax system. Land was assessed at a higher rate than the improvement (by nearly five times), which incentivized more intensive development in higher-value quarters of the city and kept at bay the speculative financial practices that led to foreclosure crises and perpetually vacant land in many other American cities. This, more than any other public policy factor, is responsible for the stabilization and modernization of the Pittsburgh region’s core, especially in the critical decades spanning the transition to a postindustrial economy (Citation: Oates, Wallace E. and Schwab, Robert M. “The impact of urban land taxation: the Pittsburgh experience.” 50 National Tax Journal 1-21 (March 1997)).

Northeast Ohio communities would do well to consider a land value-based tax, particularly to encourage developers to deliver projects that make the highest and best use of urban land, and to set up the stage to capture back some of the value appreciation due to investments in transit infrastructure and public realm improvements.

GETTING IT DONE. This initiative relies on taxing entities understanding and coming to agreement on the fact that a tax on land value constitutes a suitable and beneficial basis for property assessment and taxation, seeking clarification from and advocating for change if necessary in state law; and having the will to retrain or retool assessment departments as needed. Municipalities, townships, and counties will ultimately need to lead this process. Taxing power ultimately rests with them and they have the most to gain in encouraging better development outcomes. NEOSCC and regional planning partners could help to catalyze the process by studying the proposition further and convening a regional discussion roundtable of local government partners to deliberate on the feasibility of its implementation. Local universities with public policy and economic development research institutes may also be a technical and organizational resource on this initiative.

Lead

Municipalities, Townships, Counties

Target Community

Strategic investment areas, asset risk areas, cost risk areas

Implementation Complexity

High

 

An Initiative A Day 1.5: Addressing Cost Burden of New Sewer Infrastraucture

January 24, 2014 in Vibrant NEO 2040, Vision

On February 25, the NEOSCC Board will be voting on the the Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Action Products.  With just under 40 days to the vote and 41 initiatives in the vision, we thought it would be good to create a countdown to the vote.  Everyday over the next 5 weeks,  we will be sharing an “Initiative A Day” with you so you can gent a better understanding of the vision and framework!  If you would like to read all of the Initiatives, you can download them here Vibrant NEO_Recs&Init_010114.

These recommendations, initiatives, and products, are not one-size-fits all and some aspects of the initiatives won’t be applicable everywhere in the 12-county region.  The Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Products are intended inspire and guide decision-making at the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), Council of Government, and local levels to ensure that land use, transportation, and environmental considerations are simultaneously addressed by their processes. Ultimately, the implementation of Vibrant NEO 2040 is up to Northeast Ohio’s communities and residents. But regardless of the applicability of each initiative to any particular part of the region, the goal for each community within the Vision is the same: stability, prosperity, and a high quality of life for all of its residents.

 

Recommendation 1: FOCUS NEW RESIDENTIAL AND COMMERCIAL DEVELOPMENT ON SITES WITHIN ESTABLISHED COMMUNITIES

Initiative 1.5: Require the users of new sewer extensions that serve previously unsewered areas to pay the full cost of service.

WHAT THIS MEANS. Sanitary sewer and wastewater service is a major determinant of regional development patterns. Sanitary sewer is unique as it is a major infrastructural expense that is borne mostly, even entirely, by local governments: capacity enhancements to roads are partially financed by federal funds passed through Metropolitan Planning Organizations; and electric power, natural gas, and water are mostly covered by separate public and investor-owned utilities. . Depending on whether the local government unit is a member of a regional sewer district, municipal liabilities could range from installation and maintenance of local sewer and stormwater pipes to construction and maintenance of an interceptor (trunk) line and wastewater treatment facilities.

Development of new wastewater infrastructure capacity is typically financed through issuance of bonds by the responsible jurisdiction, and paid back through the fees collected from users. A large body of case law has taken shape around the question of how the cost burden of new wastewater infrastructure can be passed on to users. At issue is whether extensions to capacity constitute a good enjoyed by all users of the system, regardless of location, or whether that extension provides a disproportionate benefit to the new users. Ohio state law is clear on the subject: local governments and sewer districts are empowered to collect special assessments related to the capital costs of new improvements to water and sewer infrastructure for new users.

Sanitary districts in Ohio generally collect use fees on a graduated schedule that is based on the underlying land use. A similar approach could be built into the capital cost fee structure to more fairly capture the impact of the addition of a particular land use (and in the case of residential uses, density of housing units) to the sanitation network. Research supports the validity of such fee schedules, particularly on residential density: studies show, on average, that housing development with greater than six gross housing units per acre is 20% to 30% less costly to serve with wastewater and stormwater than lower density developments (citation: Nelson, Arthur C. et al, A guide to impact fees and housing affordability, Washington: Island Press, 2008, p. 119). Establishing capital cost fee schedules based on use type and density would fall within criteria established by the Ohio Revised Code, which provides for districts to assess properties based on proportional benefit.

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT. Capitalizing the cost of wastewater infrastructure capacity expansion into the fees assessed to new users represents a fair distribution of the economic burden associated with growth, especially since the jurisdiction as a whole assumes the long-term liability of maintaining the infrastructure. This would not only help with maintaining the fiscal solvency of the system, but also send a clear signal to the market that the type and intensity of use matters in terms of real cost to the jurisdiction.

GETTING IT DONE. Entities that own and operate local sanitation and wastewater treatment districts must ultimately implement this initiative through legislative or administrative actions specified by their governing statutes. While of moderate legal and administrative difficulty, implementing this initiative will require a shift in perspective from one regarding extensions of sewer lines as a strategy for “growing” the fee base supporting the system, to one acknowledging that growing the system for its own sake may only hurt its solvency in the long run depending on the type and intensity of land use. Regional planning partners such as Northeast Ohio’s Areawide Planning Agencies and the Eastgate Council of Governments can play an important catalyzing role by leveraging their state-mandated regional wastewater planning functions, perhaps using the next occasion of such planning to survey the region’s sanitation districts to better understand the range and distribution of practice, and engage them on the necessity of policy change (citation: http://www.epa.ohio.gov/dsw/mgmtplans/208FacilityPlanningGuidelines.aspx).

Lead

Sanitary Sewer Districts; Municipalities, Townships, Counties

Target Community

Cost risk areas

Implementation Complexity

Moderate

An Initiative A Day 1.4: Prioritize Public Subsidies to Projects within NEO’s Established Communities

January 23, 2014 in Vibrant NEO 2040, Vision

BEST PRACTICE: Re-Imagining Cleveland: Alternative land use strategies used in this initiative to return vacant land to productive use in ways that complement the City of Cleveland’s long-term development objectives and empowers residents to reclaim their neighborhood. http://www.npi-cle.org/places/urban-greening/about-reimagining-cleveland/

On February 25, the NEOSCC Board will be voting on the the Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Action Products.  With just under 40 days to the vote and 41 initiatives in the vision, we thought it would be good to create a countdown to the vote.  Everyday over the next 5 weeks,  we will be sharing an “Initiative A Day” with you so you can gent a better understanding of the vision and framework!  If you would like to read all of the Initiatives, you can download them here Vibrant NEO_Recs&Init_010114.

These recommendations, initiatives, and products, are not one-size-fits all and some aspects of the initiatives won’t be applicable everywhere in the 12-county region.  The Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Products are intended inspire and guide decision-making at the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), Council of Government, and local levels to ensure that land use, transportation, and environmental considerations are simultaneously addressed by their processes. Ultimately, the implementation of Vibrant NEO 2040 is up to Northeast Ohio’s communities and residents. But regardless of the applicability of each initiative to any particular part of the region, the goal for each community within the Vision is the same: stability, prosperity, and a high quality of life for all of its residents.

 

Recommendation 1: FOCUS NEW RESIDENTIAL AND COMMERCIAL DEVELOPMENT ON SITES WITHIN ESTABLISHED COMMUNITIES

Initiative 1.4: Continue development throughout the region in accordance with local zoning requirements and preferences, but prioritize public subsidies to projects within the region’s established communities.

WHAT THIS MEANS. A host of public subsidies exist for communities to incentivize development within their boundaries, some of which are documented in detail in initiative 1.1. Direct subsidies are often necessary for redevelopment and infill projects to offset the higher transactional friction that developers encounter. This friction, which manifests in complicated financing, difficult interactions with regulatory authorities, conflicts with neighbors and neighboring uses, environmental remediation, and so forth, drives up costs and dampens market activity in the city. Such factors are not prevalent in greenfield development contexts, where transaction costs are lower and capital more readily obtainable. Subsidies are intended to correct inherent imbalances between these location choices; when used without sensitivity to location, subsidies fail to achieve their purpose and can actually facilitate the reverse.

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT. The research and analysis conducted in support of the Vibrant NEO 2040 visioning process indicates that continued patterns of outward development and migration bodes ill for the future fiscal health of the region as a whole. Even so, the general public and stakeholders expressed early in the process a distaste for “hard” development controls such as urban growth boundaries, a tool that some regions have used to direct development inward. Rather, the same objective of achieving development intensification in established communities can be facilitated by truly prioritizing public subsidies to those types of projects.

GETTING IT DONE: This initiative will absolutely require collective action from local governments, though it will ultimately be applied in local practice. A pledge or compact would be a useful instrument for structuring the collaborative action component of the initiative. Summit County’s Intergovernmental Agreement on Job Creation and Tax-Sharing is a good conceptual precedent for this initiative. The agreement is entirely voluntary, with signatories agreeing to share tax revenues if they attract a business to their community from another community within the county. While the substance of the Summit County agreement might not be replicable at the regional scale, counties and local governments could sign onto a compact that pledges to use public subsidies only in the region’s established communities. This initiative could be led by NEOSCC and consortium partners such as MPOs, COGs, and economic development authorities. It may also be possible to make accession to such a compact a qualification for bonus points to communities’ application for various state and federal incentives. The State of Ohio has already upheld in principle the enforceability of such provisions have already occurred for Summit County’s agreement.

POLICY: Support redevelopment of vacant and abandoned properties where infrastructure and services are already in place: Local and county governments should prioritize redevelopment of vacant and abandoned properties over development of greenfields. Local governments should also incentivize development of vacant land-or rehabilitation of existing structures-in areas where infrastructure and services are already in place. The incentives should focus on substantial rehabilitation/improvement of abandoned properties. Prime locations for infill development include downtowns, transit corridors and locations near employment, shopping, and recreational and cultural amenities.

BEST PRACTICE: Re-Imagining Cleveland: Alternative land use strategies used in this initiative to return vacant land to productive use in ways that complement the City of Cleveland’s long-term development objectives and empowers residents to reclaim their neighborhood.  http://www.npi-cle.org/places/urban-greening/about-reimagining-cleveland/

BEST PRACTICE: Regenerating Youngstown and Mahoning County through Vacant Property Reclamation: Reforming Systems and Right-Sizing Markets – In partnership with the Youngstown-Mahoning County Vacant Properties Initiative, the National Vacant Properties Campaign designed a work plan and proposal for a regional assessment of vacant properties in the City of Youngstown and Mahoning County in Ohio. http://www.smartgrowthamerica.org/research/policy-analysis-vacant-properties/

Lead

Municipalities, Townships, Counties; Metropolitan Planning Organizations, Councils of Governments

Target Community

Strategic investment areas, asset risk areas, cost risk areas

Implementation Complexity

Moderate

An Initiative A Day 1.3: Support Analysis of Long Term Impacts of New Development

January 22, 2014 in Vibrant NEO 2040, Vision

Current Trend Fiscal Impact – 12 Counties of Northeast Ohio

On February 25, the NEOSCC Board will be voting on the the Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Action Products.  With just under 40 days to the vote and 41 initiatives in the vision, we thought it would be good to create a countdown to the vote.  Everyday over the next 5 weeks,  we will be sharing an “Initiative A Day” with you so you can gent a better understanding of the vision and framework!  If you would like to read all of the Initiatives, you can download them here Vibrant NEO_Recs&Init_010114.

These recommendations, initiatives, and products, are not one-size-fits all and some aspects of the initiatives won’t be applicable everywhere in the 12-county region.  The Vibrant NEO 2040 Vision, Framework and Products are intended inspire and guide decision-making at the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), Council of Government, and local levels to ensure that land use, transportation, and environmental considerations are simultaneously addressed by their processes. Ultimately, the implementation of Vibrant NEO 2040 is up to Northeast Ohio’s communities and residents. But regardless of the applicability of each initiative to any particular part of the region, the goal for each community within the Vision is the same: stability, prosperity, and a high quality of life for all of its residents.

Recommendation 1: FOCUS NEW RESIDENTIAL AND COMMERCIAL DEVELOPMENT ON SITES WITHIN ESTABLISHED COMMUNITIES

Initiative 1.3: Improve the ability of municipalities and townships to analyze the long-term impacts of new development and better manage their own development.

WHAT THIS MEANS. Making better decisions about what, where, and how to build next requires informed and realistic appraisals of the impact of development at a variety of timescales. Such appraisals are often difficult for local governments because of staffing shortages, gaps in expertise, legal constraints, or political pressures. While a municipality or township is experiencing growth, taking the time to appraise proposed developments can even be viewed as a liability, slowing down the pace of investment. Local governments have an obligation, however, to ensure that development does not compromise a community’s financial or environmental integrity for present and future residents.

Development impact analyses typically focus on the pure costs and benefits of a proposed development. A better approach would integrate the traditional cost-benefit analysis with, at minimum, an understanding and analysis of risk to municipal finances in the short and long term. A strong example of the factors that go into a thorough impact analysis was performed by Smart Growth America and Strategic Economics for three development scenarios in Nashville/Davidson County, Tennessee (citation: Smart Growth America, http://www.smartgrowthamerica.org/documents/fiscal-analysis-of-nashville-development.pdf). The analysis was conducted entirely in financial terms, but it weighed and monetized factors embodying long-term risk.

An even more thorough impact review process weighs impacts of development on quality of life factors such as housing choice and affordability, mobility and accessibility, watershed health and flood risk, and design. Such analyses often inform the levying of impact offset fees on development, a practice which is not generally available to Ohio communities due to the lack of authorizing state legislation.

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT. The return on investment timeline of a municipality or township is both immediate and long term, whereas the developer’s is typically immediate. By relying solely on the reporting of pure costs and benefits of a proposed development, not only is a local government relying on a potentially compromised source of information (as cost-benefit analyses are typically generated by the proponent of a project), but it is discounting a host of other considerations that bear directly on the investment it is making in permitting a particular use on its land, not to mention whatever incentives it is providing to the developer. The first principal of investing is due diligence, which requires having the capacity and will to acquire good information and perform a balanced analysis of the economics of the investment proposition.

Local governments in Northeast Ohio have been hit hard by the region’s long process of economic restructuring. With the economic identity of the region still undergoing transformation, municipalities and townships must be very shrewd investors in their future. This imperative holds true for today’s growing communities and centers just as for the region’s established cities and towns, which were the growing communities and centers of yesteryear.

GETTING IT DONE. Ultimate responsibility for applying a better development impact analysis process rests with local governments; yet substantial gaps exist in the capacity of local governments in Northeast Ohio to do this. Many regional planning entities, notably the Metropolitan Council in Minneapolis and St. Paul, offer trainings and technical assistance to members on development review and impact analysis. Such support is sometimes mandated by state law regarding holistic analysis of development impacts, though this fact does not diminish the importance of prudent analysis. Without such directives from the State of Ohio and considering the scarcity of funding, NEOSCC and the region’s MPOs and Councils of Governments (COGs) should pool their resources and time to develop a “model development impact analysis” process tool that local government can start with should they be interested in implementing this initiative. Those partners should also offer trainings and conferences to encourage skill-building and development of a community of practice around this subject.

TOOL: Envision Tomorrow: This ArcGIS editing environment is linked to spreadsheets to create spatial alternative scenarios and assess the impacts of the resulting development patterns according to a variety of indicators. The tool incorporates building types aggregated up to development types as its basis. This software was used during the NEOSCC scenario planning process in 2013. http://www.frego.com/services/envision-tomorrow/

TOOL: The Northeast Ohio Fiscal Impact Tool (FIT), which was developed by the Vibrant NEO 2040 consulting team to aid in scenario development and evaluation, is one potential starting point for this initiative. The Fiscal Impact Tool is a spreadsheet-based tool that utilizes outputs from the Envision Tomorrow GIS modeling software to estimate the balance of revenues and costs at the county level. While producing estimates at the county level of geographic resolution suited the needs of the regional visioning process, future application to project evaluation and decision-making in local jurisdictions will require further development and refining of the tool’s parameters. Extensive documentation of the tool is provided in the “Technical Appendix”. This initiative might be best led by area universities or Councils of Government.

Lead

Nonprofit Organizations; Councils of Governments; Universities

Target Community

Strategic investment areas, asset risk areas, cost risk areas

Implementation Complexity

Low