West Chester Township has been honored seven times as one of “America’s Best Places to Live” and just this year was named the “Best Community to Live in Ohio”. I’ve said many times before, “If you get it once, it could be an accident, but to get it multiple times, we’re doing something with intention and on purpose”!
Many factors play into the analysis of what makes a community a ‘best place to live’, i.e. educated work force, family income, property values, hospitals, schools, roads, police, etc., but foundationally, zoning and a comprehensive land use plan, play an important part to “tee up” the community for success.
I’ll start with a brief history of zoning in West Chester (Union) Township.
In November 1956 the residents of then Union Township adopted the Butler County Zoning Resolution in order to help direct the future growth of the township. Prior to this it was the ‘wild, wild west’ of building and land development!
It wasn’t until May 17, 1988 that the Union Township Trustees signed Resolution 3-88 declaring the townships intention to proceed with establishing township zoning under Sections 519.02 through 519.25, inclusive, of the Ohio Revised Code. They did this because Union Township had experienced unprecedented growth far exceeding the development of other unincorporated areas (non-cities) in Butler County. Local zoning was adopted in November of 1989.
On March 12, 1990 the Union Township Trustees signed Resolution 8-90 creating the Union Township Land Use Planning Committee whose mission was to “develop and present recommendations on the following to the Board of Union Township Trustees:
(1) community goals and objectives to be achieved by use of the Union Township Land Use Plan.
(2) Maps reflecting existing Land Use, Existing Zoning, Developable Land, and Recommendations for future land use within the community.”
Then on May 28, 1991 the Trustees adopted the recommendations of the Land Use Plan Committee, creating a ‘roadmap’ for Union Township development. It was updated in 1998, 2004 and 2013 to meet the needs of township residents and businesses. The purpose of the Land Use Plan is stated in Resolution 91-14:
1. To provide the Planning Commission, Zoning Commission, Township Trustees, and the staff with a procedure for adopting, amending, and implementing township plans.
2. To improve the representation of township goals and policies in the actions of the County Planning Commission.
3. To enhance the importance and effectiveness of adopted plans.
4. To create a process to link township land use goals and day-to-day zoning decisions.
The entire West Chester Comprehensive Land Use Plan can be accessed at the following URL: https://www.westchesteroh.org/home/showdocument?id=1072
One of the most important things that the West Chester Comprehensive Land Use Plan Committee did was to designate approximately 40% of the West Chester geography as Commercial/Industrial and 60% Residential! This strikes a great balance for property value taxation that helps to keep residential property taxes relatively low. Basically, the Commercial/Industrial districts pay their property taxes without huge demands on Lakota Schools and township services.
Fun fact – It wasn’t until June 28, 2000, that Union Township became known as West Chester Township, when residents voted to approve the name change. Of the 1340 townships in Ohio, 27 of them are currently named “Union”. There’s only ONE West Chester Township! This all spins my head around because I moved here in 1990 and was CLUELESS as to what was happening around me with good leaders, sound government and planning!
Back to zoning. To me, zoning is a balancing act, it’s a double-edged sword. I believe too many zoning restrictions choke development, while too few allow an “anything goes” development mentality.
I remember driving to Myrtle Beach, SC and along the way after leaving the interstate, seeing a beautiful brick home right next to mobile homes. I don’t know how often this actually occurs and if the people who live there even care, but it surprised me none the less.
West Chester today has a 158-page Zoning Resolution ‘handbook’ that details current zoning for each of the zoning districts. It can be found on the West Chester website at https://www.westchesteroh.org/home/showdocument?id=966. It’s been updated eighteen (18) times since local zoning was adopted in November 1989, making it a ‘living’ document that’s occasionally revised to add specificity, correct oversteps and to stay current with emerging trends in our community. The zoning districts are as follows and can be found on the Official Zoning Map:
• Olde West Chester
There are two organizations in West Chester that administer the Zoning Resolution Code. They are the Zoning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA). They are each comprised of five (5) West Chester residents or business owners who are appointed by the Board of Trustees to five (5) year terms.
Both the Zoning Commission and the BZA are tasked to work with residents, businesses and developers to approve or disapprove projects ranging from new business development in each of the zoning districts, to variances from the Code like business sign size, residential deck location, etc. With the attitude that West Chester is “business friendly”, they do a great job working with applicants, and instead of saying “no we can’t”, they say “let’s figure this out”.
This ‘can do’ and ‘win-win’ attitude has led to amazing growth and prosperity in West Chester, and West Chester’s tag line “Where Families Grow and Businesses Prosper” perfectly describes us!