It's hard to miss Charlotte's building boom, with cranes dotting the city's skyline, but plans to guide the city's growth haven't kept up.
That's why Charlotte Planning Director Taiwo Jaiyeoba told a City Council committee on Tuesday that the city needs a new comprehensive plan to guide growth for the coming decades. His goal: A plan called CharlotteFuture 2040.
"It's time to redefine our future together," Jaiyeoba said. "There's a need for a comprehensive plan. ... We cannot continue to go forward into the future with a Band-Aid approach."
A new plan could also give some form to the city's rewrite of its development rules, a years-long effort to rewrite an alphabet soup of regulations that's bogged down.
"There is still a disconnect in terms of the UDO," Jaiyeoba said, using the acronym for "unified development ordinance," which is the city's goal for an end product. Officials had hoped to have a new unified development ordinance in place by mid-2020.
Assistant City Manager Danny Pleasant said a new 2040 plan for Charlotte development will only result in "minimal delays" for the UDO rewrite, which has already faced criticism for its pace.
Jaiyeoba said a 2040 plan will help Charlotte answer the question of "What do we want to be when we grow up?" The city will start outreach to get more community involvement to help answer that question, Jaiyeoba said. The 2040 plan could be far-reaching, touching on everything from land use to transit and roads to urban agriculture.
The city started studying how to overhaul and modernize its development codes in 2013. The tangle of rules that have sprung up in the past few decades govern everything from what can be built where to the appearance of sidewalks to stormwater runoff controls. In some cases, the ordinances, many passed or updated at different times, conflict with each other, such as requirements to both build sidewalks and preserve trees on the same land.
And the city's zoning ordinance is largely outdated, with categories that allow strip shopping centers and single-family subdivisions but don't easily accommodate dense, urban, mixed-use development, with apartments, shops, restaurants, offices and hotels mixed together on the same site.
The city's goal is to create a single, unified playbook of rules that would combine all of Charlotte's development regulations. But City Council has struggled at times to understand the effort, with members complaining that they're being left out of the process by staff and don't have enough input.
By stepping back and defining an overall vision for the city and its growth — a process that could take two years — rewriting the development rules will become easier and clearer, Jaiyeoba said. In the meantime, staff will continue working on short-term fixes, like ironing out what to do when ordinances like the tree and sidewalk requirements conflict, and defining new transit-oriented development zones along the Blue Line.
"We're growing as a city," he said. "We're not stopping growth because we're doing a plan."
City Council members seemed largely receptive to Jaiyeoba's idea, especially when he emphasized that he wouldn't be stopping the development ordinance rewrite.
"We have to put the horse back before the cart," said Braxton Winston, a member of the city council's transportation and planning committee.