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In Early Vote, 6 Charlotte Council Members Oppose Ending Single-Family-Only Zoning

Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles (center) said Monday night that “...we have ancestors who did a lot of things but it’s up to us to make some changes about what we’re going to do now."
City of Charlotte
Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles (center) said Monday night that, “We have ancestors who did a lot of things but it’s up to us to make some changes about what we’re going to do now."

The Charlotte City Council took a preliminary vote Monday night against a plan to eliminate single-family-only zoning that’s part of the controversial 2040 Comprehensive Plan.

City staff has proposed eliminating exclusively single-family zoning to encourage more dense development and to diversify the housing stock in neighborhoods. But some residents have said the plan goes too far. They have said it would encourage gentrification and ruin the character of some neighborhoods.

Monday’s meeting was an informal discussion about what parts of the plan council members wanted to keep.

Six council members voted to remove a section of the 2040 plan that talked about single-family zoning. If that vote holds, that type of zoning would remain.

Council member Renee’ Johnson, who represents northeast Charlotte, said the city was going too far.

“I am in support of allowing some neighborhoods to maintain their character and some neighborhoods to have single-family zoning,” she said. “I don’t support being able to put a duplex and triplex in any neighborhood in any subdivision anywhere.”

Johnson was joined by fellow Democrats Victoria Watlington and Matt Newton, along with Republicans Ed Driggs and Tariq Bokhari. The decision was a straw vote, and the council will vote again next week.

Despite her vote, Watlington said she doesn’t favor keeping the status quo. She wants city staff to come up with more ideas about building more housing to lower home prices. She has previously said she’s worried allowing more duplexes and triplexes would lead to more gentrification and make it harder for lower-income residents to buy homes.

Council member Greg Phipps said the city’s plan should “more clearly reflect that duplexes, quads and triplexes are not suitable for single-family lots and only allowed under certain prescribed conditions.” He said those conditions include the size of lots, setbacks, and buy-in from the existing neighborhood.

Mayor Vi Lyles was frustrated council members voted against ending single-family-only zoning. She said the 2040 plan is a way to desegregate neighborhoods and make up for racist policies from the past.

“All I’m saying, guys, is that we have ancestors who did a lot of things, but it’s up to us to make some changes about what we’re going to do now,” Lyles said.

Council members also voted to create an "anti-displacement" task force that would study ways to ensure people aren't displaced from their homes due to gentrification.

Council will discuss the plan again Monday. A final vote on the 2040 plan is scheduled for June.

The Real Estate Business & Industry Coalition said Tuesday it’s behind the campaign titled "Let's Get It Right, Charlotte." A spokesperson said the group is spending "close to six figures" to tell residents the 2040 plan would, in the group's view, raise housing costs and hurt Charlotte’s economy.

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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.