Residential Development Survey of Planning and Development Officials in Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky
A survey of a sample of planning and development officials from 21 jurisdictions (nine counties, four townships, and eight cities) in Southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky offers insights about new residential development, regulatory practices, and attitudes of decision-makers.
Types of Housing and Their Economic Contribution
- Almost all jurisdictions (88%-94%) have had development in all four single family homes price ranges (<$150,000 through $300,000+). About three fourths have had condominium and rental housing built, while only 45% have had housing for seniors. Significant geographic differences are: fewer custom homes in Northern Kentucky, and more high-priced condominiums in the Cincinnati area.
- Less expensive and rental housing are viewed less favorably in terms of their contribution to the community’s economic well-being. A significant geographic difference is that all lower priced housing options are viewed much more favorably in Northern Kentucky.
Housing Patterns and Densities
- Market forces are viewed as the most important factor driving patterns of residential development, while developers and land use controls are seen as less important factors. On the other hand, elected officials are much more likely to see developers as the principal shapers of residential development patterns.
- Many respondents (61%) indicate that their jurisdictions encourage planned unit developments “Almost Always” or “Most of the Time.” Northern Kentucky respondents are much less likely report that their jurisdictions encourage the use of planned unit developments.
- Jurisdictions frequently consider the impact of residential development on schools, but they usually do not consider the impact of regulations on home prices and affordability. Three fourths of respondents see density as the prevailing factor “Almost Always” or “Most of the Time” in their jurisdiction’s zoning and subdivision decisions. Planning staff are much less likely to view density as the prevailing factor in zoning and subdivision decisions.
- About half of all jurisdictions impose one or more development fees, and several others would if they had the authority. Impact fees are almost non-existent in Northern Kentucky. Conflicting answers from multiple respondents within some jurisdictions seem to indicate that elected and appointed officials are not always aware of the existence of development fees.
- Development fees for water and sewer were identified most often by the respondents; these fees represent more than half of all fees listed. Other major categories of development fees were: parks and recreation, roads and rights-of-way, and schools.
- Half of all respondents believe developers currently bear all on-site costs of infrastructure and other improvements required to support residential development, and most other think developers bear some on-site costs. Surprisingly, several think developers bear none of the on-site infrastructure and improvement costs.
- Nearly three-fourths of the respondents believe developers should bear some the off-site costs of infrastructure and other improvements. Most of the rest think developers should bear all off-site costs.
Design Issues and Features Affecting Approval
- Among reasons for both favorable and unfavorable review of a development proposal, the most common responses dealt with density / scale / lot size. Greenspace / landscaping was next in both positive and negative categories. Zoning, utilities and infrastructure, and consistency with land use plans were the next three types of reasons.
Farmland and Open Space
- Two-thirds to three-fourths of communities indicate that a) residential development has occurred at the expense of actively farmed agricultural land (less so in Northern Kentucky), b) they support conservation easements and other measures designed to conserve farmland, and c) their open space preservation efforts are focused on providing recreational outlets for the residents.
- While a majority of elected and appointed officials indicate that they have written criteria or standards to guide efforts to preserve undeveloped land, only 30% of planning staff say this is true.
The two most common elements in definitions of sprawl were “growth and development” and ”unplanned/unmanaged growth,” which often appeared together. The next most common references in were to old urban and/or newer suburban areas and to development density or spread.
- Sprawl is seen as little or no problem by 30% of respondents, as a serious or somewhat serious problem by 24% and as a moderate problem by 47%. Sprawl is not seen as a problem in Northern Kentucky.
- Most respondents say planning issues should be managed on at the jurisdiction level; this is unanimous in the Cincinnati area, but only a majority elsewhere. Some, though not a majority would be willing to yield authority over planning and development as part of a comprehensive approach. However, nearly two thirds indicate that water and sewer infrastructure is extended on the basis of a comprehensive plan.
- The great majority of communities encourage development officials to participate in the local planning process and facilitate training for planning commissioners.
- Opinion is divided on the need to more evenly disperse low and moderate-income housing, except in Northern Kentucky, where there is strong support for it. Opinion is also mixed on the idea that homebuyer preferences should play a major role in planning decisions.
- Fairly strong, but not overwhelming, support exists for two growth management tools: development boundaries and purchase of development rights. On a related matter, the Dayton area’s interest in using housing moratoria contrasts with opposition to this strategy in the Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati areas.