HUDSON — Officials are rewriting the Land Development Code to make the document more "user-friendly" and provide greater diversity in housing, according to the city manager.

City Council gave a first reading to the proposed amendments to the code June 19 and referred the proposal to the planning commission, which is expected to discuss the issue Aug. 13. The commission will have a public hearing that night. Councilman Hal DeSaussure (At Large) said that hearing will be one of "several" that will occur regarding the proposed changes to the Land Development Code.

"This will be a months and months-long process," said DeSaussure.

Under the proposed rewrite, City Manager Jane Howington said all such requirements for a given zoning district would be listed in one section.

She said the groups also wanted the code to allow for more flexibility in housing.

Howington said the LDC that was written nearly 20 years ago was created for a "different environment than what there is now." She said the city has a lot of empty nesters in large colonial homes who are now looking to downsize, but end up moving to another city because they are unable to find a smaller home in Hudson. She noted there is not much housing available to young professionals. Code revisions would allow for more a greater variety of housing to accommodate those demographics.

A trend that city officials have noticed is developers requesting a rezoning of land to allow for denser development than what is currently allowed. As an example, Howington said one developer might offer a good housing plan in conjunction with a requested rezoning. If the rezoning request was approved, but the developer did not pursue the project, another developer could come in an and "do what they want, what’s allowed in that new zone, without very many options for the city," said Howington.

As it stands now, only the planning commission would have to approve the site plan.

Howington said the proposed rewrite of the LDC includes "flexibility in housing" through a special permit or planned development process that would include review, approvals and public hearings by both the planning commission and City Council.

"If a developer comes in with a great plan, we go through this multiple public hearing, multiple open process and it’s a discretionary approval, so if the city doesn’t like it, if the residents don’t feel it’s right, the city has the ability to turn it down," said Howington.

In that example, if the city approved the project, but then the developer did not pursue it, Howington said another developer coming in would have to go through the same process.

The intent is to allow for more options on housing, but not give away the approval process.

"We’ve basically doubled the scrutiny opportunities by putting it under special permit," said Howington.

If a developer requested a rezoning for a project, Howington said that under the new LDC provisions, city officials would not recommend approving the rezoning and would instead have the developer go through the planned development/special permit process.

There are two commercial corridor zones that have many lots that are non-conforming and where a developer can’t really do anything with the land, according to Howington.

In the proposed LDC, the city has taken the uses that are allowed in each zone and combined them into one zone, according to Howington. Doing this will give more ability "for redevelopment of some of those under-utilized or non-utilized properties," she said

This new zone would run along both sides of Darrow Road (Route 91) from the Stow border to Georgetown Road, jumps over Jo-Ann Fabrics, and then would run from just north of Terex Road to Stony Hill Road. This zone will now include different setbacks and lot widths, and would allow mixed-uses seen in a commercial corridor, according to Howington. As an example, she noted a developer could build a storefront with an apartment above it on a small lot.

DeSaussure said he expects the revisions to be "tweaked" when the proposed LDC goes before planning commission and said Council will also host a public hearing on the issue. When a resident at the recent forum expressed concerns about the proposed renaming of zoning districts, Council President Bill Wooldredge (At Large) said he and some other Council members "felt strongly" that they would like to keep the same numbering system that exists for the districts now.

Howington said it is common practice to update the comprehensive plan and then update the Land Development Code. After the comprehensive plan was revised a couple years ago, Howington said that updating the LDC — which has not been updated since 1999 — was "the next natural step."

From the adoption of the comprehensive plan until 2017, Howington said city officials solicited input from community, citizen and developer groups to learn what they liked and disliked about the LDC. She noted that "probably the number one" concern raised was that the current code is complicated and difficult to navigate. The groups wanted the code to be simplified, according to Howington.

Howington said that city officials have rewritten the code to make it a more "user-friendly document."

As an example, Howington noted someone who wants to build a home in a particular zoning district would now have to look at five or six different sections of the LDC to find the different requirements they would need to follow.  

"It was really easy to miss something," sad Howington.

Residents can learn more about the proposed changes to the Land Development Code by visiting the city’s website at www.hudson.oh.us and clicking on an icon titled "LDC Rewrite." 

Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, pkeren@recordpub.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.