Taking A Closer Look At Charlotte's Proposed Single-Family Zoning 'Compromise'
Charlotte’s planning director this week said he’s willing to compromise on a controversial part of the city’s 2040 growth plan that would eliminate the zoning for single-family-only housing. Under the compromise, instead of allowing denser housing like duplexes and triplexes on any residential lot, neighborhoods would be allowed to decide where higher-density housing would go.
For more, we turn to Tony Mecia of the Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter.
Marshall Terry: Tony, if this compromise from city planner Taiwo Jaiyeoba is approved, how would it work, exactly?
Tony Mecia: Marshall, it's going to sound like we're getting a little bit in the weeds here, but this is a big plan that's going to guide how the city grows for the next couple of decades. You'll recall that last month there was a lot of discussion, a lot of opposition to one very specific part of the plan. And that is: Is it OK to put duplexes and triplexes in single-family neighborhoods? The city would like to do this in order to increase the city's housing stock, create more types of housing diversity in different neighborhoods. A lot of neighborhood leaders and some City Council members had said, "Look, we don't think that that should be allowed" or, "We have we have some questions about how that would work."
So, what happened at a meeting this week, the city planning director, Taiwo Jaiyeoba, said, "Well, instead of saying that duplexes in triplexes would be allowed on every lot in single-family neighborhoods, instead we're going to say they're going to be allowed in every place type, which is a designation essentially saying "in each neighborhood," so you can have duplexes and triplexes in each neighborhood. But the details of where exactly those might be allowed — those are going to be hashed out in a future process.
So, they could be along a transit corridor, they could be on the edges of the neighborhood, but not necessarily in every single lot in every single-family neighborhood. So, that's sort of viewed as a little bit of a compromise, putting some of the hard decisions farther down the road. But that might be able to be enough to get the plan approved.
Terry: But some places would be restricted, no matter what, to just single-family, right?
Mecia: Well, it's still unclear. I mean, there are neighborhoods where because of deed restrictions or restrictive covenants, that those are just not going to be allowed. But the rules really haven't been written. This is an aspirational document. It sets out goals. It doesn't get into a lot of the specifics that a lot of the people really want to see right now. The answer is we don't really know. It's just sort of saying we're creating a process and we'll involve the neighborhoods, will involve planners, there will be a lot of people have seats at the table, and we'll hash this out down the line.
Terry: Tony, Charlotte "lacks entrepreneurial culture." Now, those are not my words, but rather, as the Ledger pointed out this week, the words of a local tech CEO. Who, exactly? And what did he mean by that?
Mecia: Yeah, Abhishek Mehta, who is the CEO of a software company, Tresata — a company here in Charlotte for the last 10 years, about 50 employees. They do some things around data analytics. He gave a speech at UNC Charlotte last week in which he said that Charlotte largely fails to support entrepreneurs, that it lacks the Silicon Valley ethos of being OK to fail, and that Charlotte tends to celebrate real estate developers more than technologists. This is all reported in Business North Carolina this week.
He further went on to say that Charlotte "Needs to stop saying we have an entrepreneurial undercurrent. We don't." So, those are pretty tough words about the entrepreneurial culture here in Charlotte. I think he's saying publicly what a lot of people in the tech industry and startups sort of say privately, which is that while Charlotte is good for a lot of things, the risk-taking environment and the collaboration maybe is not as strong as it is in some other areas.
Terry: After people get vaccinated, some will undoubtedly hit the road for trips and they may rent a car, which right now is expensive. For example, renting a midsize sedan for a week at Charlotte Douglas (International Airport) through Hertz will cost you about $800. The Ledger this week looked into why rental car prices are high right now. What did you find?
Mecia: Well, a few different things. You know, oftentimes when you see changes in prices, it's supply and demand. On the supply side of rental cars, a lot of rental car companies cut their inventories last year during the pandemic because nobody was renting cars. Now travel is picking back up and they don't have the inventory to rent to people, so the prices go up.
As people are starting to plan trips, you know, envisioning the end of this pandemic that we're in, they're getting some sticker shock when it comes time to rent cars. So, some of the advice that experts give is make sure you book early, maybe check a bunch of different websites, rent from places that aren't necessarily in the center of the tourist activity. And that includes airports. Airports oftentimes tack on an extra fee for people who rent at the airport, so if it's possible to rent at, say, a downtown location or farther out, that can save you some money as well.
Terry: Finally, Tony, there's something smelly in south Charlotte, and you report that frustration among residents is escalating over it. What's going on?
Mecia: Yeah, you know, it's been going on for a few weeks. South Charlotte, upstate South Carolina, Indian Land (South Carolina), as well as over as far as Waxhaw. Residents are reporting just a stench in the air — not all the time, but occasionally it wafts into their houses. They say it smells like raw sewage or rotten eggs or burning rubber. Officials in South Carolina New Indy paper plant in Catawba, South Carolina.
The plant hired a bunch of consultants who said, "Well, we actually don't think that it's us. We think that it's something else." But whatever the cause is, there is definitely a big stink going on in south Charlotte and parts of upstate South Carolina — a lot of complaints pouring in. There's even a Facebook group that's been started devoted to chronicling some of the problems with it, so they're working to figure that one out, Marshall.
Terry: All right, Tony, thank you.