The rezoning petition filed recently to allow an office building in South End on the site of the Common Market and Food Truck Friday has generated plenty of anxiety from people worried about neighborhood change.
But it should also pique your interest for another reason: The request is the 128th rezoning petition filed with the city of Charlotte so far this year. As of this week, there have been 134 such requests filed, underscoring the record pace of development in the city, particularly with new apartment buildings.
That’s more than the 120 rezoning petitions filed during all of last year, and we’re only in October. For comparison, there were just 86 such requests filed in 2009 and 80 in 2010, when the depths of the recession chilled new development and construction.
A rezoning petition is when a property owner seeks to change the use allowed for a property, say from single-family residential to a business, or apartments.
The record pace of rezoning petitions matters, because city staff must evaluate each petition and conduct a detailed analysis. Charlotte City Council has to hold a public hearing on each petition, and they can be long, emotional events, as people argue passionately about what should be built in their neighborhoods.
But city staff and City Council don’t get twice as much time when the number of petitions almost doubles. That’s led to a slowdown in the the rezoning and development process. And the rezoning hearings themselves – which are often citizens’ only chance to try to influence what gets built down the street – have lengthened as well, often now stretching past midnight.
Such marathon meetings don’t serve the public well. If you or your neighbors want to speak about a rezoning petition in your neighborhood, you might have to wait until Monday night turns into Tuesday morning before you get a chance to speak.
That can lead to curiosities like last month’s rezoning hearing, when, after five hours of waiting, neighbors with concerns about a proposed rezoning of the Pepsi site on South Boulevard had to leave. The attorney representing the developers agreed to read the neighbors’ statement when the hearing started around 11 p.m.
It’s more crucial than ever that neighbors speak to voice their opinions on rezoning petitions, because the N.C. General Assembly banned protest petitions this year. Under the old system, adjoining property owners could formally challenge a rezoning proposal with a petition. Such challenged proposals needed a super majority of nine City Council votes instead of the usual simple majority to pass, and that gave neighborhoods a lot of leverage against developments they opposed.
City Council has directed staff to explore ways to shorten the meetings. The city is also preparing to start an overhaul of its zoning code, which is expected to take about four years but could result in a more streamlined process.
In the meantime, if you want to see what’s coming in your neighborhood, you can check out the city’s rezoning website at www.rezoning.org. And if you want to speak out, sign up to speak at a City Council rezoning hearing at the Government Center the third Monday of every month. Just don’t plan on an early night.
Zoning by the numbers
Here are the number of rezoning requests filed each year for the last decade. Check out how they rise and fall with the economic cycle:
▪ 2014: 120
▪ 2013: 103
▪ 2012: 105
▪ 2011: 83
▪ 2010: 80
▪ 2009: 86
▪ 2008: 158
▪ 2007: 159
▪ 2006: 170
▪ 2005: 169