Transportation, Planning and Development Committee: June 5

Aerial view of Charlotte

The Transportation, Planning, and Development (TP&D) Committee met again on June 5 to receive an update on CATS from interim CEO Brent Cagle and hear more about the duplex/triplex policy outlined in the newly implemented Unified Development Ordinance(UDO) from Planning Director Alyson Craig.

CATS Update

Cagle’s report covered much of the same information that he presented to the Metropolitan Transit Commission (MTC) on May 24. He also updated committee members on a few related items:

  • The Federal Transit Administration is hiring two contractors to conduct two special reviews of CATS this calendar year: financial and operational.
  • CATS staffing is starting to stabilize thanks to rising compensation. CATS now offers one of the highest starting pay points in the country.
  • CATS is hiring new security contractors, at least one of which will provide de-escalation training for bus and rail operators.

UDO Update

As requested at a recent city council meeting, Craig provided a quick presentation about the UDO’s policy on duplexes, triplexes, and quadruplexes. She clarified several points, namely that duplex and triplex sidewall height is restricted to 20 feet or the average height of nearby structures, and triplexes and quadruplexes are not allowed on sublots.

In response to concerns about large properties (5 acres or more) potentially being developed with only duplexes and/or triplexes in areas without enough existing infrastructure to support higher density, she offered committee members two options for next steps:

  1. Monitor development patterns with regular reports to council providing data and examples over the next 6 months.
  2. Consider an approach requiring a mix of units when duplexes and triplexes are proposed in large residential subdivisions. This option would increase diversity of housing types, but would reduce total units allowed.

Craig noted that the city has opted to be a “plan-making city”, meaning that we want to have ordinances in place that allow good development to occur by right. This limits the need to bring every project before council for approval.

Committee Chairman Ed Driggs, with the support of other committee members, chose to move forward with option two and requested that Craig continue to attend the monthly TP&D Committee meetings and provide updates.

Several committee members asked for clarification on the Neighborhood Character Overlay (NCO), – one option outlined in the UDO. Craig described the NCO as a tool in the toolbox of anti-displacement strategies. Not every neighborhood will need this tool, nor is this tool appropriate in every neighborhood. Planning staff will present all of the anti-displacement strategy tools at an upcoming meeting. Council Member Renee Johnson requested that information about NCOs be made clearly available on the city website for those neighborhoods who want to learn more.

Our take

We are pleased to see CATS staffing stabilize and compensation rise. Bus and rail operators are the backbone of our public transit system and these new starting pay points are well-deserved.

We are also grateful to Craig and city planning staff for taking the time to inform council members, and thus the public, about the UDO. It is a complicated document that requires careful attention to detail to understand as implementation occurs. We encourage planning staff to continue educating elected officials and the public about this thoughtfully-crafted new ordinance.

The UDO intentionally limits the maximum height of duplexes and triplexes in neighborhoods so they will fit in with the neighboring single family homes and would not be built any larger than a new single-family home in the same neighborhood. We recognize that some of Charlotte’s outlying areas do not currently have enough infrastructure to support a rapid increase in residential density. Any potential changes to the UDO to address this issue should be targeted to specifically address this concern.

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