Residents, elected officials, community leaders and others soon will have a new tool to help study neighborhoods across Mecklenburg County.
A new website will be formally rolled out in early January to share data collected for the 2012 Quality of Life Study, a joint effort among UNC Charlotte, the city, county and a host of other public and private agencies.
The site will replace a printed report that has been published biennially. Instead, visitors will be able to look online at how their neighborhood or another area stacks up on roughly 75 indicators such as median income, the violent crime rate or water consumption.
Still, anyone familiar with the past Quality of Life studies will notice another big change in this years report. In the past, neighborhoods in Charlotte or just beyond the city borders were labeled as stable, challenged or transitioning based on how they performed on different variables in the study.
The 2012 study eliminates those labels, in part because of concerns from citizens about the stigma those designations carried. Two years ago, 88 Charlotte neighborhoods were classified as stable, with 27 as challenged or in need of more support.
Owen Furuseth, research team leader for the study, said officials debated whether or not to continue using the rankings before ultimately deciding to not use them. But he said the website will allow people to compare how an area measures up against the county average or other neighborhood on the different variables.
The new website is currently in an unfinished, beta form and wont be released until January. But city and county leaders were given presentations about the project this week.
Other notable changes this year: The study now covers the entire county, and not just Charlotte. Mecklenburg is broken down into 464 neighborhoods, more than double the 173 studied in the last report. It also expands the type of data measured to include items about the environment, health and community engagement.
The website pulls data from a variety of sources, including the American Communities Survey produced by the U.S. Census Bureau. And in what Furuseth called a first, it also includes household-by-household data on energy use from Duke Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas.
What Mecklenburg County has is like nothing anybody else has, said Furuseth, an associate provost at UNCC.
Mecklenburg officials say they hope the study can be used to help share decisions about the budget, construction projects or other policy needs. The study will be presented to the public, and leaders in the countys six towns in the first few months of 2013.