This past Monday, February 5, the Transportation, Planning, & Development (TPD) Committee met to discuss all things mobility and growth. CATS Interim CEO Brent Cagle gave a quick update, Assistant City Manager Liz Babson spoke about the Annual Strategy Meeting Measures, Planning Director Alyson Craig spent the majority of the meeting answering questions about potential changes to the UDO, and Assistant to the City Manager Ed McKinney shared news about the City’s mobility strategy.
The City’s mobility staff is now working to finalize the Mobility Blueprint and craft accompanying policy recommendations. Sixteen Strategic Investment Areas have been identified through a “data-driven” and “geographically focused, context-specific” methodology.
Staff are working on a Story Map tool to help the public find detailed information about each project within a Strategic Investment Area.Next steps for staff are to conduct community engagement with the Community Area Planning process and determine how feasible these projects are in terms of cost.
Chair Driggs pointed out that this Blueprint is just a list of projects that are being shaped into a plan, and that plan fits together with council’s adopted Strategic Mobility Plan and the larger Connect Beyond effort. Both Driggs and McKinney acknowledged that “none of this…can really be advanced in any meaningful way without new funding.”
While we are happy to see the mobility strategy moving forward, we are concerned that all of this work is theoretical. The fact that both Chair Driggs and Assistant to the City Manager Ed McKinney pointed out that “none of this. . .can really be advanced in any meaningful way without new funding” puts things into perspective. This further proves that a transformational mobility network in Mecklenburg County is not possible without the One Cent For Mobility sales tax. Without it, these plans are just wish lists. We need everyone, from bus riders to business leaders, to tell their elected officials that we need the One Cent For Mobility, and we need it now.
Annual Strategy Meeting Measures Update
During the annual strategy meeting, city council members expressed a desire to change the policy goal for Vision Zero from “eliminate transportation-related fatalities…” to “reduce transportation-related fatalities. . .”
Staff reminded this committee that they adopted a goal to eliminate transportation-related fatalities.
Committee Chair Driggs argued that the term “eliminate” is not measurable and cannot be achieved. Council Member Molina agreed that changing the term to “reduce” will help us show progress towards the goal.
Council Member Watlington countered that “eliminate” is an objective measure and can be tracked, but understands that “reduce” is establishing a glide path to “eliminate.”
Chair Driggs then asked for an accountable framework to measure the goals presented to council and said council has to “get real” about 10-minute neighborhoods and where they are and are not feasible.
We are discouraged that this committee is planning to weaken our Vision Zero commitment. Traffic-related fatalities CAN be eliminated, as evidenced by the Vision Zero successes in Hoboken and Jersey City, NJ. City council committed to eliminating traffic-related fatalities in 2018, and to walk back that commitment now would be telling residents that their safety is not a priority.
Planning Update (We recommend watching the meeting recording to understand the full context of this discussion.)
This update focused on the 2040 Comprehensive Plan’s Goal #2 to include a diversity of housing options by increasing the presence of middle density housing like duplexes and triplexes.
Planning staff is considering recommending adjustments to the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) language that would look specifically at three items:
- Quantity of units
- Quality of the development
- Location of the development
The thought process is that some parts of Charlotte are better equipped for new larger subdivision development with housing diversity, particularly closer to the center of the city and transit options. These considerations would be for subdivision developments over 5 acres in size.
Staff recommends referring this discussion to the UDO Advisory Committee for a potential text amendment(s) in April or May.
Here are the council members’ responses in a nutshell:
- Watlington is worried that increasing density will adversely affect neighborhood character.
- Johnson agrees with Watlington, and wants to look at developments that are less than 5 acres, too.
- Graham is not opposed to amending the UDO, but worried that these amendments could undermine the intention of the Comprehensive Plan
- Driggs thinks council could have done more work on this before the Comprehensive Plan and UDO were adopted. He agrees that the scope of this work should include lots smaller than 5 acres.
- Molina wants to be careful not to create new communities of people who are underserved. Putting folks in mixed use areas is a good idea and will lead to less isolation.
- Anderson believes the UDO is a living document, but we need to be willing to grow and change. And with change there is pain.
We need more housing options and affordability. Reversing the work of the UDO will move us further from this goal. We must also address the need for more infrastructure investment and action to keep up with Charlotte's growth. We must embrace solutions that provide housing affordability for everyone in our community.
We have provided feedback on most of the proposed changes to the UDO so far to ensure they maintain the goals and intent of the 2040 Comprehensive Plan. For decades, Charlotte has primarily built single-family homes or large apartment complexes, with townhomes only becoming a more common option near our centers and transit stations in the past 5-8 years.
This lack of variety in housing options has contributed to housing affordability issues in the area. The UDO (Unified Development Ordinance) has allowed more housing types from the missing middle to address this. It also established regulations to ensure that duplexes and triplexes would be of a similar size and scale to single-family homes so they blend better into the existing neighborhood character.
A new transit operator management company is coming to Charlotte! National Express will replace RATP Dev either this week or next. The new management team will meet with the TPD Committee and the Metropolitan Transit Commission soon.
Both Federal Transit Administration reviews of CATS are nearing completion. So far, the findings show that 97% of maintenance is completed on time, but reporting of the maintenance has been lacking.
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