Why fast-growing Charlotte still doesn’t have a planning director after two years

It’s been more than two years since Charlotte had a permanent planning director, and the city is starting another search to fill the position.

City officials said this week that they hope to hire a permanent planning director by late spring or early summer this year. While the planning director’s position might seem wonky, Charlotte is in the midst of a massive growth spurt that’s highlighted issues from traffic to the design of buildings to affordable housing – all issues on which the planning director has input. And Charlotte is simultaneously embarked on a multi-year rewrite of the rules governing zoning and development that could shape growth for decades to come.

The absence of a permanent director has become a frequent topic of conversation amongst developers, architects and other industry insiders with whom I talk. Charlotte leaders initially hoped to fill the job by May 2015, but decided not to hire any of the three candidates an executive search firm presented. In November 2015, officials said they were restarting the search without outside consultants and former city manager Ron Carlee hoped to have a permanent planning director in place by the end of the year.

That didn’t happen, and now new city manager Marcus Jones, named in October, will oversee the process. Charlotte spokesperson Jordan-Ashley Walker said this week that the city’s human resources department is “finalizing the details” of a national recruitment search for both planning director and city engineer.

“We should begin these recruitments no later than the first of February,” said Walker.

Ed McKinney has been interim planning director since Sept. 2014, since former Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Director Debra Campbell was promoted.

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo