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Cincinnatians wary of 'Connected Communities' plan to overhaul zoning at first public meeting

Cincinnati residents engaging with information about the proposed Connected Communities plan at a public meeting at the Bond Hill Rec Center on February 20, 2024.
Becca Costello
Cincinnati residents engaging with information about the proposed Connected Communities plan at a public meeting at the Bond Hill Rec Center on February 20, 2024.

About 50 Cincinnatians attended the first public engagement meeting for Mayor Aftab Pureval's proposed plan to overhaul city zoning code. Pureval announced "Connected Communities" last month, offering changes focused in neighborhood business districts and along major corridors.

READ MORE: Mayor Pureval wants to redesign Cincinnati. Here's what that could look like

Pureval and other city officials gave a brief overview of the plan to start the meeting in Bond Hill Tuesday night. Most of the event consisted of one-on-one conversations between residents and city staff at separate stations that offered in-depth information about specific elements of the plan, like so-called middle housing (a range of options, from duplexes to row houses), parking, regulatory barriers, and Metro's eventual Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) plan.

Clifton resident Steve Slack says he's concerned about the plan to allow some multi-family housing in areas currently zoned for single-family homes only.

"Zoning is what protects our neighborhoods — it protects families, it protects our housing values," Slack told WVXU. "You can have families in apartments, but I think the quality of life in a house is ideal and what most people would probably want."

LISTEN: Ky. lawmaker wants to bring back 'middle housing'

Connected Communities would allow housing of up to four units in all neighborhood business districts plus a quarter-mile radius; along BRT routes plus a half-mile radius; and along other major corridors on the block-face only.

Areas targeted in the Connected Communities plan for comprehensive zoning reform.
City of Cincinnati
Areas targeted in the Connected Communities plan for comprehensive zoning reform.

Bond Hill Community Council President Jacqueline R. Edmerson says she attended the meeting because she knows housing is a problem in her community.

"People can't be first time homeowners because the investors have bought all the housing," Edmerson said. "Cincinnati just fell asleep — the whole country fell asleep on that one. And I'm not happy, but I don't know what you can do about it."

Edmerson remembers the last heated City Council debate about housing, when former Council Member Liz Keating proposed allowing more density in multi-family zoning districts.

"They were looking at trying to put more housing, more apartments, in [already] dense neighborhoods, and people said no," Edmerson said. "So I wanted to see if they had new initiatives ... How are we as a community going to deal with exorbitant rents, and homelessness, and displacement?"

Some residents say they support the goals of Connected Communities — like making new housing more affordable to build and making it easier for residents to navigate the city without a car — but they're skeptical.

RELATED: The hottest trend in U.S. cities? Changing zoning rules to allow more housing

"It is a concern, if they're proposing increased density and fewer restrictions that don't have to go through a public process or community council to see if there is community buy-in for whatever is proposed," said Evanston resident Jacob Knight.

Garland Waleko of Evanston says she's seen the Planning Commission and City Council make decisions contrary to community input, and that makes her wary of reducing some of the barriers that allow for public input.

"Can we trust the city to implement this?" Waleko said. "The city wants our support on this policy, and I would love to give it to them. But how are you being responsive to neighborhoods now?"

Knight is also concerned about suggested changes to parking minimums.

"I would prefer that our city not be as reliant on automobiles, but for the time being, it seems like we are and it's not going to change overnight," he said. "So what's the kind of transition plan, I suppose?"

Knight and Waleko say they understand the proposed changes a little better after attending the engagement meeting, but didn't hear enough to calm their concerns.

At least one resident attended with a lot of enthusiasm for the plan: David Emery of North Avondale. He says he learned about the meeting on social media, where a neighborhood group was encouraging residents to attend and express opposition.

"I am actually supportive of the majority of this ... so I wanted to make sure that it wasn't just a negative voice coming from my neighborhood," Emery said.

Emery says he's especially interested in making middle housing more possible to build in Cincinnati.

RELATED: $34M of Cincinnati's affordable housing fund can't be spent. Why?

"We've been so conditioned to think that you either rent an apartment, or you get a single family house," he said. "That's not working for everybody, and also it's not respecting the diversity of lifestyles and choices that people need. And then lastly, it's also just not environmentally sustainable."

Emery says he understands the hesitancy from many residents, and he thinks most opponents are well intentioned. He says Tuesday's public meeting helped him understand the proposal in more detail, and that will help him continue the conversation with his neighbors.

Timeline and how to give input

Officials say there will be many opportunities to give feedback and suggest changes. A webpage with more detail, including an interactive map of the city that identifies specific proposed changes, is available now at

The city is collecting feedback through several online surveys on that webpage, through the "story map" on the "engage" section.

Engagement meetings

Learn more and RSVP at this link.

  • Wednesday, Feb. 28, from 6-8 p.m., Price Hill Recreation Center — 959 Hawthorne Ave
  • Tuesday, March 12, at 6 p.m., virtual
  • Saturday, March 23 ,from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Duke Energy Convention Center — 525 Elm St.

A presentation will be scheduled for an upcoming meeting of City Council's Equitable Growth and Housing Committee, which meets every other Tuesday at 1 p.m.

The city plans to have engagement sessions at the annual Neighborhood Summit (date TBD, typically in March).

RELATED: Unaffordable rental market hits record heights

A draft of actual legislation will be released sometime in April, incorporating feedback gathered so far. The city's Department of Planning and Engagement will host a public staff conference and introduce the ordinance(s) to the Cincinnati Planning Commission.

If the ordinance(s) pass a planning commission vote (likely in May), it will go to a City Council committee for more discussion and possible changes, and is expected to get a full Council vote before the summer recess begins at the end of June.

Local Government Reporter with a particular focus on Cincinnati; experienced journalist in public radio and television throughout the Midwest. Enthusiastic about: civic engagement, public libraries, and urban planning.