Ed McKinney, assistant planning director with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Planning Department, told Ballantyne Breakfast Club attendees that part of the Unified Development Ordinance will enhance growth and development in the city.
But some residents have doubts that a central office can know what’s best for each area of a city as large and diverse as Charlotte.
“It’s not just about the south Charlotte area. We’ve got quality development here. The problem is that there is no consideration of how we’re improving the road system,” said Ballantyne Breakfast Club founder Ray Eschert.
“They keep thinking that they’re going to use mass transit, but that’s not viable in most suburban areas.”
Charlotte is in the beginning stages of rewriting the rules that govern development in the city. Called the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO), the new rule book will change what could be built where, how land is divided for new subdivisions and what rules would govern aspects of new developments such as signage and building design. The new ordinance is at least a few years from being complete, with a phase-in possible sometime in 2019 or 2020.
In practical terms, the UDO will bring together all the planning, zoning, and development codes into one document, making the information more uniform and making it easer to navigate the myriad of regulations and processes that come with land use, planning, zoning and development.
Charles Breitbart, president of the Park Ridge HOA, came to the meeting July 13 representing his 560-plus home subdivision that is located on the border of Charlotte and Pineville, across Park Road from Carolinas HealthCare System Pineville. The subdivision was built in the late 1970s and early 1980s and Breitbart says he’s concerned about how the UDO and the new development it will encourage will affect existing neighborhood such as his.
“What kind of impact will this have on established communities? I live in a community that was established in the 1970s and the lights have kind of been shut out,” said Breitbart.
He says the Park Ridge neighborhood has worked hard to make it a walkable, bikeable community, but the paths lead nowhere.
“Everybody talks about less cars and walkability, but we are trapped in our neighborhood. NCDOT won’t put in a cross walk because they don’t want to slow down the traffic on N.C. 51, so we can’t get to the other side of the road,” said Breitbart.
McKinney assured him that the new UDO would take existing neighborhoods into account.
“It’s important for us to look at rules and ordinances through that lens, making sure that we’re providing for economic opportunity everywhere,” said McKinney.
“We want to put rules and policies in place to celebrate existing places as well.”
The UDO website states the project will ‘help better preserve, strengthen, and protect the patterns of development that define the character of the City of Charlotte, direct investment to targeted growth areas, and create new opportunities for economic development, helping to make the City a more sustainable, livable and business-friendly community.’
Ballantyne residents Joan and Larry Huelsman came to the meeting to learn more about the UDO process, but expressed skepticism at its viability.
“Over the last 20 years we’ve gone to a lot of meetings – a master plan for this, a master plan for that. These plans are great for a while, but then they change or they are forgotten,” said Joan Huelsman.
“How will this plan be any different?”
McKinney said the various communities must work together with city staff and elected officials to make sure the UDO is successful.
“It’s important for us to define clearly what we want to see happen – to adopt these policies and make them the foundation of what we build,” said McKinney.
“It’s important for communities such as Ballantyne to be minders and keepers of the plan and work with the City Council to make sure that it is followed.”
Melinda Johnston is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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