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Charlotte City Council Approves 2040 Plan In 6-5 Vote

Council member Matt Newton voted against the 2040 Comprehensive Plan.
City of Charlotte
Council member Matt Newton voted against the 2040 Comprehensive Plan.

The Charlotte City Council Monday night voted 6-5 to approve the 2040 Comprehensive Plan, an aspirational document that looks to increase the city’s housing supply and create a more walkable city where people live near where they work.

The debate was contentious as council members debated whether the plan would achieve those goals – or whether there would be unintended consequences like increased gentrification.

The most controversial part of the 2040 plan would eliminate zoning that only allows for single-family homes, along with duplexes on corner lots.

At the start of the meeting, District 3 council member Victoria Watlington proposed approving the plan, except for the provision that would eliminate single-family zoning. She wanted the city to conduct a detailed study that would take six to eight weeks to look at how many neighborhoods and lots would be impacted by the change.

Many neighborhoods already have deed restrictions or homeowner association agreements that would prevent the construction of duplexes and triplexes. She wanted an analysis of where those neighborhoods are, along with where other restrictions like setback requirements would preclude developers from building duplexes and triplexes.

“What I’m proposing is that we wait until we get the results,” Watlington said.

Council member Renee’ Johnson said the change would “pull the rug out from under people who have already bought in single-family neighborhoods.”

But Watlington’s motion failed, in a 5-6 vote.

Democrats Watlington, Johnson, Matt Newton, and Republicans Ed Driggs and Tariq Bokhari voted to remove single-family zoning, pending the study.

Democrats Julie Eiselt, Malcolm Graham, Larken Egleston, Dimple Ajmera, Braxton Winston, and Greg Phipps voted the other way.

Those were the same alliances in the final vote to approve the plan.

Eiselt said she supports the plan because the city needs more density to handle the tens of thousands of people coming to Charlotte over the next several years.

"Our city is changing and growing rapidly," Eiselt said. No matter what we do or don’t do we will continue to change. And we need more housing of all types in all parts of town for all people."

Sam Spencer, the chair of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission, agreed.

“The goal is to increase housing supply,” he said. “Increasing housing supply is a tried and true method of increasing affordability.”

Planning director Taiwo Jaiyeoba has proposed creating an anti-displacement task force to mitigate any impacts of gentrification. But he hasn’t said how the task force would do that.

Council member Malcolm Graham, who represents District 2, said he would never take a vote that would hurt low-income neighborhoods.

Now that the 2040 Plan has passed, the city will start working on what’s known as the Unified Development Ordinance. Those are the detailed rules and regulations that will put the 2040 plan in motion.

The 2040 Comprehensive Plan also aims to create so-called "10-minute neighborhoods" in which people can walk to stores and groceries.

It also seeks to have developers provide "community benefits" when building large projects, such as affordable housing or open space.

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.