Debate Begins Over Park-Woodlawn Area Plan

The Park Road Shopping Center

A draft land use plan for the Park Road corridor (see map HERE) could have lasting impacts on the value of thousands of commercial and residential properties in the densely populated area, but if you’re like most residents, you probably know very little about it.

That’s not necessarily the City’s fault — the Planning Department has been been aggressively promoting the Park-Woodlawn initiative since it began in the fall of 2011. But if you’ve been blissfully unaware of this effort now’s the time to start paying attention. City Council is expected to start debate on the plan next month, and once it’s adopted, the land use and architectural design policies it contains could permanently affect your development rights.

While area plans like this one don’t necessarily change the zoning of property, they serve as a guide for how the City will respond to development and rezoning requests. So if an area plan calls for densities of no more than 10 units per acre on a particular site, the property owner will face an uphill battle in trying to make the case for a high-density apartment project.

At a public meeting last week to discuss the draft plan, planners heard area residents and business owners voice concerns ranging from the lack of any proposed traffic calming measures along Park Road to the 20′ and 40′ height restrictions on any new development along the corridor. Here’s our take:

    The draft provides for reasonable residential densities along the corridor, but contains few policy recommendations on how to achieve the redevelopment that will be necessary to maintain the area’s vitality. Too much of the plan language is  focused on protecting existing neighborhoods with height and density restrictions along the commercial corridor, an approach that may make it economically infeasible to transform declining properties into ones that will revitalize the community and enhance property values.While the plan proposes new streetscapes along some of the area’s commercial corridors, it expects them to come about through exactions on private property redevelopment. Instead, the plan should argue for public investment in these much-needed capital projects, which in turn would help with the economic vitality of the corridors. Montford Drive, a fast-growing dining and entertainment corridor is a prime candidate for this type of investment — it desperately needs wider sidewalks and a public parking deck to improve pedestrian access and traffic safety — but the plan doesn’t call on city leaders to consider this.The proposal call for increasing the tree canopy in the mixed-use activity center, where it is the lowest. But this strategy goes directly against the need to increase density in this commercial node, so that the canopy can be better protected in the surrounding wedge.A number of future public street and greenway connections go directly through existing properties, with no consideration of the potential impact on businesses or residents. While these connections are only conceptual in nature, they represent a lack of consideration for some area business owners and residents, and are sure to get pushback.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission will hold a public hearing on the plan during its February 19 regular meeting, at 5 p.m. in Room 280 of the Government Center. Property owners in the Park-Woodlawn area are strongly encouraged to review the full proposal to understand the impacts on their property and any future redevelopment prospects. You can download a copy of the draft plan HERE.

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