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When A City Completely Rewrites Its Development Rules, It Wants Everyone Involved


Charlotte is undergoing an intense rewrite of its development rules, which will take years to complete and will address future city planning in areas spanning from building heights to tree ordinances, urban street design to floodplains, erosion control to transportation.

Input from everyone is necessary, city planning department officials said as they launched a campaign last week to seek Charlotteans’ input.

Charlotte City Planning Director Taiwo Jaiyeoba, visiting planning expert Mitchell Silver and Crescent Communities President of Commercial and Mixed Use Brian Leary speak to community members at a Unified Development Ordinance meeting.

“Planning should not be done in a building, it should be done in a community,” Planning Director Taiwo Jaiyeoba told an auditorium of residents, who spent their Friday and Saturday mornings learning and discussing opportunities, challenges and desire for the future of their neighborhoods.

A single comprehensive set of rules, called the Unified Development Ordinance, will guide future city planning, including a rewrite of Transit-Oriented Development districts.

"Many have felt left out for many years," a Derita resident tells Planning Director Taiwo Jaiyeoba at the City of Charlotte’s Place Types Summit.

Predictability in planning is important for residents, developers and politicians, visiting planning expert Mitchell Silver said in the keynote address at the city of Charlotte’s Place Types Summit Saturday.

“You’re planning for people who aren’t even born yet,” he said.

Silver is Raleigh’s former chief planning and development officer and now serves as New York City Department of Parks and Recreation Commissioner.

“Is Charlotte a plan-making city or a deal-making city?” Silver asked.

Plan-making cities work with guidance and committees toward an established goal. In a deal-making city, Silver said all of the rules are out the door.

“Push the plan aside because the deal looks good; push the public opinion out the door,” he said.

Silver said plan-making cities are predictable; a homeowner knows exactly what is going to be built nearby, which minimizes negative surprises from the community. Developers also know what they are getting into before proposing zoning changes; the rules become a lot more clear. Political motivations are less likely to enter the picture.

Crescent Communities President of Commercial and Mixed Use Brian Leary said developers also prefer plan-making cities. Every zoning issue starts in the neighborhood, Leary said, and communication between cities and neighborhoods is key for future development.

“We all just need to wrap our arms around Taiwo like in ‘Ghost’. I’ll be Patrick Swayze,” he said.

“You rise as a region, and you fall as a region,” Silver said.

Charlotte residents work on defining neighborhood place types, including opportunities and challenges, at the City of Charlotte’s Place Types Summit.

Using Place Type Policies to help define neighborhood types, the UDO will guide what is now eight ordinances:

  • Charlotte’s City Zoning Ordinance
  • Subdivision Ordinance
  • Tree Ordinance, Chapter 19 (Streets and Sidewalks)
  • Floodplain Regulations
  • Erosion Control Regulations
  • Stormwater Regulations
  • Driveway/Access Standards

The UDO will also implement city policies such as the Transportation Action Plan, the Urban Street Design Guidelines and the Urban Forestry Master Plan. The Transit-Oriented Development proposition would allow developers to earn points, which could be traded in for increased building heights.

The UDO will likely be implemented in 2020.

On Monday, the Transportation and Planning Committee heard a presentation on the UDO draft ordinance, and council members had concerns about council engagement and community understanding of the zoning process.

“Nearly 40 mins into #cltcc Transportation & Planning Committee, and entire conversation has been about UDO & Place Types. Council still struggling to understand the concept,” Real Estate and Building Industry Coalition Executive Director Joe Padilla tweeted.

As part of the UDO, historic and neighborhood conservation overlay districts could be considered regarding infill development and change in older neighborhoods. After hearing concerns from city council members and REBIC, Jaiyeoba announced the neighborhood character overlay district’s plan would be put on hold.