What’s next in the overhaul of Charlotte’s zoning rules?

A rezoning notice sign in the southwest corner of the intersection of Sharon Road and Colony Road near the Colony Apartments.
A rezoning notice sign in the southwest corner of the intersection of Sharon Road and Colony Road near the Colony Apartments.

Charlotte City Council voted to spend $650,000 this week on the next phase of its rewrite of the city’s zoning ordinance, a change that could shape development for decades to come.

It’s been months since we’ve heard anything about the zoning rewrite, which is expected to be a multiyear process. Zoning ordinances control what can be built where, thus forming a crucial, if snooze-inducing, basis for the city’s development. Most people don’t pay attention to zoning until they hear that someone is planning to build a McDonald’s with a drive-thru at the entrance to their neighborhood – when they suddenly realize that zoning is actually pretty important.

Charlotte’s zoning ordinance hasn’t been overhauled in more than two decades, so the rewrite is a pretty big deal. The city already approved spending $1.1 million on the rewrite last year, which included $750,000 for the first phase of a contract with Chicago-based consulting firm Camiros.

The $650,000 allocated at Monday’s City Council meeting will fund the next phase of Camiros’ work.

Here’s where the city stands in the process, and how long officials are expecting the next phases to last:

▪ The initial phase of work, which officially kicked off in January, is complete. That included a detailed review of the existing zoning rules, interviews with staff and discussions with City Council and the Planning Commission. “This initial phase of work has established an approach and detailed scope of work that defines the process and services to be provided through the development and adoption of a Unified Development Ordinance,” staff wrote.

▪ Developing the new zoning ordinance: This will take 18 months, according to a timeline from city staff. The process will include meetings with the community, open houses, workshops, interviews with stakeholders such as developers and neighborhood groups, and, of course, actually drafting the new ordinance.

▪ Adoption of the new ordinance: The third phase is expected to take another year. The city will create a user guide to explain the new ordinance to the public and city staff, and hold training sessions. City Council will vote to enact the new ordinance, which should be in place (if all goes well) by January 2019.

So, buckle up for the ride: Zoning changes are on the way, even though the new code is still at least 2 1/2 years.

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo