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Ohio Land Use Planning (1-OH-a)

Information current as of 2021
In Ohio, land use planning is generally delegated to local municipalities, townships, and counties. A developer should ensure that the proposed project complies with adopted land use plans and zoning regulations. However, the Ohio Public Utilities Commission (PUCO) has authority to regulate public utilities, Ohio Rev. Code § 4905.04, and the Ohio Power Siting Board (Board) has authority to regulate “major utility facilities,” Ohio Rev. Code § 4906.01.



Land Use Planning Process


1-OH-a.1 to 1-OH-a.2 – Is the Project 100 kV or Greater?

A developer must obtain a certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need from the Ohio Power Siting Board (Board) for the construction of "a major utility facility," defined as electric transmission lines and associated facilities with a design capacity of 100 kV or more. Ohio Rev. Code § 4906.01

Major utility facilities are governed under the sole authority of the Board, and no public agency or political subdivision (i.e. Municipalities, Counties, or Townships) may require approval for the construction or initial operation of one. Ohio Rev. Code § 4906.13(B)

In addition, the Ohio Public Utilities Commission (PUCO) has sole authority to regulate public utilities. Ohio Rev. Code § 4905.04. Boards of county commissioners and boards of zoning appeals may not regulate the “location, erection, construction, reconstruction, change, alteration, maintenance, removal, use, or enlargement of any buildings or structures of any public utility . . . whether publicly or privately owned, or the use of land by any public utility . . . for the operation of its business.” Ohio Rev. Code § 303.211.

A “public utility” includes “an electric light company, when engaged in the business of supplying electricity for light, heat, or power purposes to consumers” in Ohio, “including supplying electric transmission service for electricity” delivered to Ohio consumers, but excluding regional transmission organizations approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Ohio Rev. Code § 4905.03.

A major utility facility may be proposed by a public utility or some other entity. It should be noted that the RAPID Toolkit does not outline the public utility certification process because of the low threshold at which facility certification is required. Most bulk transmission projects will likely surpass this threshold and therefore the public utility certification is outside the purview of this resource. For more information on the process by which a developer may obtain a certificate of Environmental Compliance and Public Need, see:

Transmission Siting Process:
8-OH-a


1-OH-a.3 – Land Use Planning Delegated to Municipalities, Townships, and Counties

If the project is under 100 kV, the state delegates authority to local political subdivisions. The developer should contact the appropriate local government to ensure that the proposed project is consistent with planning, zoning, and development regulations. In Ohio, the relevant political subdivisions include:

Municipalities

Each municipality may establish a city planning commission, Ohio Rev. Code § 713.01, which must adopt a plan demonstrating its zoning recommendations, Ohio Rev. Code § 713.02. The planning commission must approve the location, character, and extent of construction (including the construction of a publicly or privately owned utility) within the municipality, in accordance with the adopted plan. These powers are not valid against “the construction, maintenance, use, or enlargement of improvements by any public utility . . . on its own property” if the utility is for profit. Ohio Rev. Code § 713.02.

Additionally, the municipality’s legislative authority may overrule the construction denial by a two-thirds vote. Ohio Rev. Code § 713.02. City planning commissions may also divide their respective municipalities into districts or zones and regulate the development of those zones “in the interest of the promotion of the public health, safety, convenience, comfort, prosperity, or general welfare.” Ohio Rev. Code § 713.06.

Townships

Each township’s board of trustees may regulate the location, size, and use of buildings and lands in the unincorporated territory of the township “in the interest of the public convenience, comfort, prosperity, or general welfare.” Ohio Rev. Code § 519.02. The board of township trustees must create a township zoning commission, which submits a plan containing its zoning recommendations to the board of trustees. Ohio Rev. Code § 519.04; Ohio Rev. Code § 519.05. Zoning regulations enacted by the township zoning commission do not apply to municipalities. Ohio Rev. Code § 519.18.

Counties

Boards of county commissioners may regulate building and land use in the unincorporated territory of the county “in the interest of the public health and safety.” Ohio Rev. Code § 303.02. The board of county commissioners must establish a county rural zoning commission, which create a comprehensive board demonstrating its zoning recommendations. Ohio Rev Code § 303.05. Zoning regulations enacted by the board of county commissioners do not apply within municipalities. Ohio Rev. Code § 303.18. Additionally, township zoning regulations (see Ohio Rev. Code § 519.02) that are adopted prior to those adopted by the county rural zoning plan take precedence over zoning regulations adopted by the county, unless a majority of voters within the zoned area of the township elect to have the township zoning plan replaced with the county rural zoning plan. Ohio Rev. Code § 303.22.

County rural zoning regulations (see Ohio Rev. Code § 303.02) that are adopted prior to those adopted by the township plan take precedence over zoning regulations adopted by the township, unless a majority of voters within the zoned area of the township elect to have the county rural zoning plan replaced with the township zoning plan. Ohio Rev. Code § 519.22.

Ohio law also authorizes counties (Ohio Rev. Code § 713.22) and municipalities, townships, and boards of county commissioners (Ohio Rev. Code § 713.21) to establish county and regional planning commissions, respectively. Where a regional planning commission has been established within the area of the jurisdiction of a county planning commission, the two entities may, by mutual agreement, transfer or delegate powers. Ohio Rev. Code § 713.23(C). These cooperative planning commissions may make studies, maps, plans, recommendations, and reports concerning the physical, environmental, social, economic, and governmental characteristics, functions, and services of the region or county. Ohio Rev. Code § 713.23(A).


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