Update on the new rules shaping Charlotte’s growth!


It’s often missing from Charlotte’s development process. If we expect to grow sustainably for decades to come, we must create a vision now of what growth should look like in different parts of the city. Both developers and residents need to have a clear understanding of that vision and how the zoning ordinance works to support it.

Why update our zoning?

Development in Charlotte is anything but predictable. City Council handles mountains of time-consuming conditional rezoning requests each month. Our zoning ordinance is a massive and complex beast at 15 chapters. Contradictions even exist among all of the various development-related ordinances. Many projects being built throughout Charlotte are entirely inconsistent with area plans.

Most importantly: “The current Zoning Ordinance does not adequately implement the community’s goals for smart growth and sustainability.” (UDO website)

The Unified Development Ordinance creation process was discussed at the April 10 Charlotte City Council Transportation and Planning Committee meeting. Charlotte’s overhaul of its outdated ordinances related to development includes two key components:

First, the Vision: Place Types define the places we want to create.

Second, the Implementation: The Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) will establish the rules to create those places.

Moving towards a Place Types Palette

place types

A few of the many potential Place Types to be included in the final palette.

“Place types are a policy tool, used in conjunction with the Unified Development Ordinance, for guiding development. They provide a way to shape the future of our community by concentrating on context – the look and feel of places, their form, and their character – instead of focusing only on the conventional land use categories.” (UDO website)

Interim Planning Director Ed McKinney shared progress being made towards finalizing the Place Types Palette. When finalized and approved by Council, this palette will be the foundation for developing a UDO to support the creation of those place types. Here’s what has happened so far:

  • 5 community engagement workshops hosted throughout Charlotte, plus neighborhood follow-up meetings.
  • Formation of an Advisory Committee. Sustain Charlotte is proud to serve on this committee!
  • Monthly meetings of the Planning Commission.

Development to support sustainable transportation and smart growth

We’re really excited about three proposed Transit Oriented Development Priorities of the UDO:

rail trail

1. The Rail Trail as a shared public space along the light rail line.

transit oriented development properties

2. Coordination of parking location and quantity to support active transportation.

design density

3. Design that supports an awesome pedestrian experience!

Committee members weigh in

Council member Kinsey (District 1) shares our concern for making sure that new development is accessible to residents without generating an unsustainable amount of automobile traffic. She said that the city needs to make sure sidewalks are available and asked about the coordination with transit planning: “Is the UDO [process] working with CATS to improve access to public transportation?”

CATS’ bus network redesign initiative, called Envision My Ride, will improve the bus network to not only better meet the needs of current transit riders, but also to attract new riders. Reversing the decline in bus ridership will be key to managing congestion and supporting dense, walkable development in our growing city!

Committee chair Lyles (at-large) urged Planning staff to look to other cities that have successfully created the types of places similar to those that Charlotte wants to create. “Almost all cities that are like ours have been going through this growth crisis. Let’s look at the places we would like to be [similar to].”

As Kinsey pointed out, lots of development that doesn’t fit our city’s vision is already happening, and will continue to happen, before the UDO is complete. We urge Planning staff to work as quickly as possible to confirm the Place Types Palette and draw on lessons learned by other cities.

The next steps are for the Planning Department to return with a draft Place Types Palette and an annotated outline of the UDO that defines zoning districts based on Place Types in summer/fall 2017.

Vision Zero on next month’s agenda

The committee had planned to discuss how Charlotte will implement Vision Zero and street safety initiatives, but ran out of time at their April 10 meeting. This important topic will be discussed in May.

Learn more about the UDO and ways to get involved at charlotteudo.org. View the full presentation from the T&P meeting here.

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