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City manager releases timeline to pass Charlotte’s 2040 comprehensive plan

Charlotte City Manager Marcus Jones answers WBTV's questions about the paid time off policy...
Charlotte City Manager Marcus Jones answers WBTV's questions about the paid time off policy during the coronavirus pandemic.(WBTV)
Updated: May. 7, 2021 at 11:31 AM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A new timeline for passing Charlotte’s controversial 2040 Comprehensive Plan has been set by City Manager Marcus Jones.

Jones made the announcement in a memo sent Thursday. In it, he proposed holding two special meetings for the City Council to discuss the plan. The first special meeting is scheduled for Monday, May 10, while the second is scheduled for the following Monday, May 17.

The first meeting, Jones said, will be conducted like the budget adjustments process. Council members will discuss the recommendations proposed by staff resulting from committee referrals and consider revisions to the plan. The items that receive five or more votes from council members will be analyzed by staff and brought back for straw votes at the second meeting.

At the second meeting, staff will bring forth proposed revisions to the plan. Each of the revisions that receive six or more votes will be included in the final draft of the plan.

Following those straw votes, a second draft will be released for a two-week public review and comment period.

The final policy will be released in June and presented to the Planning Committee for their adoption on June 15. City Council will then consider adoption of the final Comprehensive Plan at the June 21 Zoning meeting.

The memo from Jones highlights some of the revisions staff has made so far on the most controversial aspects of the plan. Over the past month, city councilmembers have been hosting community forums and committee meetings to help shape changes to the plan.

One of the most widely discussed aspirations of the plan was to allow duplexes and triplexes in lots currently zoned for single family housing. The memo notes that staff is proposing minor changes to that language after a Great Neighborhoods Committee meeting on the topic.

City of Charlotte staff made small adjustments to the language regarding single family lots...
City of Charlotte staff made small adjustments to the language regarding single family lots that would allow construction of duplexes and triplexes.(WBTV)

Some community members have already expressed hesitancy regarding “place types” because the city is not determining where those are until after the 2040 plan has been passed. Other residents and city leaders have stated that one of the best ways to address housing affordability in the Queen City is to increase supply.

District 1 Councilman Larken Egleston said that will be one of the key focus areas at the council meeting on Monday.

“I feel certain the change in single-family language will be a hot topic of discussion when council starts to weigh-in and consider it but I’ll have more interest in how we can work with some of the anti-displacement impacts,” Egleston said.

The proposed 2040 revisions include the creation of an Anti-Displacement Strategy to help protect vulnerable communities from displacement.

In an interview with WBTV Anchor Jamie Boll, Councilman Tariq Bokhari claimed the change from “lots’ to “place types” will make the situation worse.

“It’s actually worse because not only do we not understand how it works, it will ultimately be a situation of the more affluent neighborhoods are going to be the ones who can say no,” Bokhari said.

During the interview Bokhari also cited a lack of faith in City of Charlotte Planning Director Taiwo Jaiyeoba and the rollout of the 2040 plan.

“I think we could all hopefully agree you don’t put something out publicly and run it down without knowing at least how your Councilmembers are going to react to it,” Bokhari said.

“That’s unacceptable and if that alone is probably a fireable offense ,but how it’s been treated since then has really been us trying to negotiate with him, and that’s no longer acceptable.”

Other councilmembers WBTV spoke with said that Jaiyeoba is firmly secure in his job. Regarding the prospect of firing Jaiyeoba Councilman Malcolm Graham said “That’s BS” and Mayor Pro Tem Julie Eiselt said “He’s one of the assets the city has.”

Another hotly discussed item was the inclusion of Community Benefit Agreements, or CBA’s. CBA’s are an agreement between a project developer and community that “detail the project’s contributions to the community and ensures community support for the project.”

While CBA’s are legal, the memo states that it is unclear if the City of Charlotte can participate or mandate CBA’s in coordination with neighborhoods and developers. City Attorney Patrick Baker “recommends that the city seek special legislative authority from the general assembly before using CBAs as a regulatory tool in land use decision making.”

The proposed revision to the CBA language in the 2040 plan would create a new group to oversee their effectiveness.

A proposed policy would create a working group to help oversee the CBA process.
A proposed policy would create a working group to help oversee the CBA process.(WBTV)

At-Large Councilmembers Braxton Winston and Dimple Ajmera both noted the importance of passing the plan.

“It’s important that we get this right while continuing to address the current needs of our residents,” Ajmera said.

“This is a big deal. This is going to guide growth and and change in this city and influence the the region for the next generation,” Winston told WBTV.

The revisions to the 2040 plan come after a March 22nd hearing on the plan that saw significant pushback from developers and members of the community.

Soon after, Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles announced that the timeline for the plan was being pushed back to address some of the most divisive parts of the document.

Opinions on the plan were largely split among residents, industry heads and neighborhood leaders who spoke during the meeting.

Some of the consistent themes during the meeting were also addressed by Mayor Vi Lyles in an email to city council members the previous Sunday announcing the delay of the plan.

  • Allowing duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes in areas where single family homes are currently zoned.
  • Impact fees and Community Benefit Agreements that currently aren’t allowed under state law.
  • “10 minute neighborhoods” that provide shopping and services within a short walk.
  • Conflicting policies in the 2040 plan and other city goals, such as the tree canopy.
  • Anti-displacement policies incorporated within the plan.

Read the entire 2040 Comprehensive Plan here and the executive summary here.

Some residents in favor of the 2040 plan said that being able to rent in a duplex in more exclusive neighborhoods helped their own career paths.

“Those duplexes and triplexes are another path to homeownership,” Meg Fencil said.

“If we don’t act boldly now our children may end up moving to the cities that will be bold,” David Lewis said.

A handful of residents from far east Charlotte said they would not support a plan for higher density without significant promises of improved infrastructure in their neighborhoods.

Real estate professionals and developers were widely in support of delaying approval of the plan.

Tim Sittema of Crosland Southeast, which is a partner with the city in on the Eastland Mall redevelopment project, was one of the sharpest speakers against the plan saying it would cost jobs and not help economically.

During a city council meeting two weeks ago, most council members cast doubt on the plan’s timeline after hearing from constituents who voiced concerns about the plan. Some of them said that voting on the plan less than a month after the public hearing session was not giving the feedback provided by residents enough credit.

Under the new timeline, Mayor Lyles said the council committees will review some of the main issues identified and that council members will host weekly virtual meetings to hear from people in the community.

“The goal is to have the elements of communications, engagement and governance resolved, and a recommendation on the Charlotte Future 2040 Comprehensive Plan before the full Council by June 30th,” Lyles wrote.

At the end of the meeting Lyles said that it was clear what people in the community were in opposition to about the plan.

“Now is the time to pivot to what you want to see,” Lyles said.

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