Frustrated with Charlotte’s Zoning Ordinance? Here’s Your Chance to Sound Off

Charlotte planners are gearing up to undertake what could become a comprehensive revision to its Zoning Ordinance — but first, they want to hear from you.

The city has hired Denver-based consulting firm Clarion Partners to conduct an assessment of the ordinance and present three alternatives for making improvements. The process kicked off this past Tuesday night with a pair of public meetings, during which the consulting team heard an earful from developers, zoning attorneys and neighborhood representatives about what works and (mostly) doesn’t work in the current code. REBIC was on hand for both meetings, and here are some of the key points that were made:

Development Industry Concerns:

    The ordinance frequently conflicts with other city development regulations, like the Tree Ordinance and Urban Street Design Guidelines.The ordinance doesn’t provide sufficient predictability for developers or property owners, and thus deters economic development.Too many regulations, like the Building Height Ordinance, are applied citywide, when they are only appropriate for specific neighborhoods.The code is vague in too many places, and staff interpretations are often inconsistent.Permitted use categories should be broader in scope, to allow the ordinance to easily adapt to changing market trends and technologies.The city’s Locational Policy doesn’t allow enough latitude for creative development that meets the needs of a changing real estate market.The ordinance needs to be online in an interactive, searchable format.The ordinance doesn’t focus enough on property rights.The city needs a standing committee through which industry professionals and staff can regularly evaluate the zoning code and development process.

Neighborhood Concerns:

    Developers have too much influence in the rezoning process.Small area plans are ignored.The zoning process is too politicized.Charlotte is becoming too urban.Planning staff never recommend denial of any rezoning applications.Developers are pushing people toward high-density living and mass transit.The city should hire an ombudsman to help neighborhood groups organize against rezonings.Too difficult for residents to learn about what’s being rezoned in their community.Developers pay off city council members to get what they want, and planning staff are too afraid for their jobs to stand up and oppose.

Both groups also voiced their concerns with the lack of opportunity for public input into the assessment process. Tuesday’s meetings, which allowed for only 2 – 3 collective hours of feedback, are the only ones planned during the nine-month-long assessment process. REBIC has encouraged the planning department to conduct a series of one-on-one interviews with developers, engineers and experienced community stakeholders, but so far, there are no plans to do so. Instead, the consultants will be obtaining feedback through an online survey conducted until October 18.

We strongly encourage all our members to complete this survey and provide specific feedback on what you would change in the zoning process and ordinance. The survey asks specific questions about your experience with the ordinance, but also leaves ample room for open-ended comments. When making these comments, we encourage you to incorporate some of the above points that were made by the development industry in the public meetings, as well as any other ideas you can offer to improve the process and the code.

REBIC will be working closely with the Planning Department and their consultants throughout the review process to ensure the best outcome for our industry and for our city’s economic growth. We fully anticipate this assessment will be followed by a process in which at least parts of the ordinance are re-written — an effort that will likely take several years. The initial assessment is expected to be complete by next summer, and you can learn more about the process and take the survey HERE.

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