Mayoral Election Will Impact Cincinnati’s Planning Future

Cincinnati is in the midst of revitalization. There have been several significant accomplishments achieved since 2007 when the city’s Planning Department was reconstituted. Initiatives such as Plan Cincinnati and the development of Form-based code have united regional leaders and communities to help build a shared vision of the city’s future.

These efforts could be affected drastically with the election of a new mayor on November 5th.

Qualls: Focus on vision and and consensus building:
In her time as Mayor in the 1990’s and when she returned to City Council in 2007 Roxanne Qualls (C) has been the leader in implementing a bold vision for Cincinnati through planning policies. In the 1990’s, Qualls lead the effort to narrow Fort Washington Way which allowed for the expansion of downtown and the conversion of the riverfront into a showcase for the city.

The award winning Banks Master Plan owes its existence and implementation to Qualls’s dedicated leadership in establishing the Riverfront Steering Committee which developed the plan. By the time Qualls returned to council the plan had advanced through Mayor Mark Mallory (D) who formed The Banks Working Group and began implementing the plan in 2008.

Qualls has also been active in developing Plan Cincinnati, the city’s recently adopted comprehensive plan. But since her return on council she has been more closely associated with bringing form-based codes to Cincinnati.

Since 2007 she has led several groups on tours to Nashville, TN and Columbus, OH to learn more about form-based codes and how they benefit cities. Last month, that vision became reality when Madisonville became the first city neighborhood to adopt the form-based code regulating plan.

The Cincinnati form-based code is a comprehensive land use regulation that was developed by the city through years of community participation. It is a code that emphasizes that new development be constructed in a form that integrates into the traditional character of the neighborhood.

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Cranley: Focus on removing barriers for developers:
Running against Qualls is former council-member John Cranley (D) who served on council from 2001 to 2009. He resigned from council in 2009 to pursue building a private development in East Price Hill.

The Incline Square project, located next to the Queens Tower apartment building, was envisioned to have a 22,500 square-foot office building be constructed along with a 58-unit four-story apartment building and restaurant space. Only the residential and restaurant portions of that development were built.

A review of Cranley’s track record on council had shown that early in his council career, he had been an advocate for making the city more “developer friendly.” In 2002, he was instrumental as chairman on the Budget & Finance Committee in dissolving the city’s long standing Planning Department, the oldest continuously running planning division in the country at the time.

The dissolution came over disagreements between the Planning Department and a developer in Oakley for the Center City of Cincinnati development. The unprecedented move generated a good amount of public outcry.

In 2002 Cranley told the Cincinnati Enquirer, “”The Planning Department was almost given the mission of causing problems, because it was completely divorced from economic incentives and any kind of market reality.”

However; Cranley did not oppose Mallory’s effort in 2007 to reestablish the department. He also signed a motion with Qualls on advancing form-based codes in 2008, but at a recent mayoral debate sponsored by the Urban Land Institute, Cranley strongly opposed them. He has also stated his opposition to planning and zoning, stating that the solution to neighborhood problems is money.

The outcome of this election will determine the future vision and progress of Cincinnati. That vision of progress is either one forged on grand visions and community outreach or one that favors minimizing regulations and oversight to increase development in the city.

  • Damn is that incline apartment building butt ugly.

    • Jules Michael Rosen

      Just the kind of tasteless bullsh*t that developers will pursue without any oversight. Everything will be done on the cheap.

    • Guest

      Such a hypocritical thing to believe, that I don’t want any controls on my development and then to run from the west side to live in a SUBDIVISION in PLANNED Hyde Park.

    • Mark Christol

      yeah, ditching zoning is a big Libertarian thing but I doubt Amy Murray or Mark Miller want to give up their zoning protections anytime soon.

    • matimal

      What does Mark Miller have to do with Cincinnati? He lives in Anderson Township.

    • Miller lives in Cincinnati. Most of the other COASTers live in Blue Ash or Anderson Township.

    • matimal

      Who lives in Anderson Township?

  • Look at the great attention and development interest the form-based code neighborhoods (Westwood, College Hill, Walnut Hills, and Madisonville) are receiving. And Cranley wants to dismantle that. Amazing.

  • Guest

    Cranley’s vision is that of a planning-less community similar to BOOMING Whitewater Twp and “Frog town” Miami Twp, where development has been unhinged from the constraints of planning controls. Lol

  • Guest

    The Cranley campaign: “Democracy is, perhaps, the most charming form of government ever devised by man. It is based upon propositions that are palpably not true and what is not true, as everyone knows, is always immensely more fascinating and satisfying to the vast majority of men than what is true.”- H.L. Mencken

  • I am very concerned as to what will be proposed by a Cranley Administration during the next round of budget discussions. He has already essentially stated that he’s going to get rid of City Manager Milton Dohoney. So will he go back to his old ways and cut the Planning Department as a way to make the city more “development friendly” while also cutting non-public safety spending (which he says he will absolutely not cut)?

    It’s a frightening concept to think could become reality if Cranley is elected mayor. Cincinnat is winning national awards, receiving regional praise and has changed its narrative largely through the innovative and comprehensive planning work that has been done. It would be a real shame if that were to be undone, and Cranley has made no commitment that he would fight for and preserve the funding currently provided to those parts of city government.

    • Eric Douglas

      We’ll see how much Dohoney and Mallory screwed Qualls pushing the parking lease in an election year. Gave Cranley two bullets instead of one and the support of the FOP.

    • The problem is that Cincinnati’s options are very limited in terms of what they can do to balance the budget, as John Yung wrote in April:

      The city’s plan to spin off Water Works into a separate entity a few years ago seemed like a good idea — raising money for the city without raising costs for city residents. But because of a COAST referendum in 2009, the city can’t pursue that option without going to the voters first.

    • John Yung

      That is correct. The city manager had two major non-tax increasing ideas over the past few years and both of them were nixed by voter approved charter amendments crafted by COAST. It’s worthwhile to note that they both were passed by the voters without notice as urbanists and transit advocates focused on defeating both Issues 9 and 48 instead.

    • My hunch is Dohoney’s in hot water regardless of who’s elected.

    • Jules Michael Rosen

      Why not bring the Water Works issue to the voters? I think with the right publicity about how it would save them money, city residents might be willing to unhinge this burden from Cincinnati.

    • The problem is that we’d have to vote on the Water Works issue one year, and then couldn’t use that money to balance the budget until the following year. It also requires the city to put together a ballot initiative to “sell” the idea to the public, deal with opponents who will likely come together and generate more misinformation about the plan, etc. It would be much less of a circus if our elected representatives simply had the ability to carry out this plan.

    • Jules Michael Rosen

      Although it would be nice to see the elected officials carry this out on their own, I think it might do the municipal government some good to have to plant for a budget a year in advance.

    • Eric Douglas

      COAST didn’t prevent Dohoney from pursuing the parking lease two years ago instead of just 6 months before the fiscal year it was needed for, and COAST doesn’t determine Dohoney’s budget forecast.

  • Mark Christol