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Cincinnati Planning Department Abolished at Behest of Big Box Developer

| Written by Stacy Mitchell | 1 Comment | Updated on Apr 1, 2003 The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at

In an effort to reduce a budget deficit and make the city more “developer friendly,” in the words of Mayor Charles Luken, Cincinnati has abolished its planning department.

Eight staff members and the remnants of the city’s planning activities have been transferred to the community development department. The department will carry out state-mandated functions, such as zoning and historic preservation. Planning will largely be subordinate to economic development. An appointed planning commission will still advise the city council.

Eliminating the department was a top recommendation of the mayor’s Economic Development Task Force, which is chaired by Rob Smyjunas, a major big box developer. Two years ago, city planners delayed one of Smyjunas’ big box projects pending the completion of a neighborhood master plan, which ultimately forced the shopping center to be scaled back.

Smyjunas has plans to develop three more big box shopping centers and is now proceeding without interference from city planners. His latest project, a large Home Depot store that involves demolishing several homes, was approved by building inspectors at the behest of the mayor and despite strong neighborhood opposition. The now defunct planning department had envisioned multi-story buildings on the site with a mixture of uses including housing.

Ironically, Cincinnati was the birthplace of U.S. zoning when it became the first city in the nation to adopt a comprehensive plan in 1925.

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About Stacy Mitchell

Stacy Mitchell is co-director of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, and directs its Community-Scaled Economy Initiative, which produces research and analysis, and partners with a range of allies to design and implement policies that curb economic consolidation and strengthen community-rooted enterprise.  She is the author of Big-Box Swindle and also produces a popular monthly newsletter, the Hometown Advantage Bulletin.  Connect with her on twitter and catch her TEDx Talk: Why We Can’t Shop Our Way to a Better Economy. More

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