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After months of debate, City Council voted 6-4 to enact new development rules

Victoria Watlington (wearing a mask) proposed an amendment to delay the implementation of allowing duplexes and triplexes in neighborhoods zoned for only single-family homes.
City of Charlotte
Victoria Watlington, far right, proposed an amendment to delay the implementation of allowing duplexes and triplexes in neighborhoods zoned for only single-family homes.

The Charlotte City Council on Monday passed the Unified Development Ordinance — a detailed set of development rules to help shape how the city grows over the next two decades.

The UDO is meant to make Charlotte a more dense, walkable city. It’s meant to create different types of housing, and to make the city more affordable.

City staff worked on writing it for several years, and the City Council debated it for more than 12 months.

After Mayor Vi Lyles called the 6-4 vote, the crowd in the Government Center clapped and cheered.

Council members Julie Eiselt, Greg Phipps, Braxton Winston, Dimple Ajmera, Larken Egleston and Malcolm Graham voted for the UDO. Tariq Bokhari, Ed Driggs, Victoria Watlington and Matt Newton voted no.

Council member Renee Johnson couldn’t attend the meeting because she has COVID. Johnson has voted against the UDO in the past. Council members voted against a proposal to allow her to vote remotely.

The most controversial part of the UDO would allow developers to build duplexes and triplexes in neighborhoods once zoned for single-family homes.

Proponents say that will create more housing units and make the city more affordable. Others — like Newton — said it will lead to more gentrification and will favor developers over residents.

“(Developers) will also be allowed to proceed without a community meeting or decision by the City Council, the community’s duly elected representatives,” he said.

A proposal by Watlington to delay the implementation of the duplex/triplex provision was defeated by council members before the full UDO was approved.

Graham said that gentrification is “already here” before voting yes.

“It’s not perfect. I’m not going to allow perfection to be the enemy of the good. It’s a very very good start for how we manage our growth," Graham said.

The UDO also has rules for things like the minimum number of parking spaces required for new development and the number of trees needed to be saved in new developments.

The group Sustain Charlotte had lobbied council members to vote yes.

"Allowing duplexes and triplexes in areas that have traditionally been reserved only for single-family homes will increase Charlotte's housing supply," said Meg Fencil, the group's director of engagement and impact. "Hopefully, this will lead to a broader range of housing prices, help more families live in the city, and increase neighborhood diversity."

This was the last meeting for four council members — Newton, Egleston, Eiselt and Phipps. A new council will be sworn in next month.

Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.