Monday, April 15, 2013

Charlotte council, smarting over airport resolutions, threatens Monroe Bypass

Charlotte City Council is threatening to withdraw its support for the proposed Monroe Bypass in a key, regional transportation planning group.  And one council member suggested the city should rethink its regional participation in other regional groups, including the Charlotte Regional Partnership.

Council members Monday night directed their representative to MUMPO (Mecklenburg Union Metropolitan Planning Agency) to seek a revote on a MUMPO resolution supporting the bypass. (Update Tuesday, 4/16: The vote at issue is a March 20 "Resolution to Support Prompt Action for the Construction of the Monroe Bypass." It was not a vote on whether to fund the bypass. It has been in the Long Range Transportation Plan since 2002, MUMPO Secretary Robert Cook told me Tuesday afternoon. This paragraph has been edited to clarify that point.)

Why the switch? It's all part of continuing anger (a more accurate word might be "livid") among Charlotte council members over a bill in the legislature that would strip the city of its control of Charlotte/Douglas International Airport by creating a state-appointed regional authority and transfer the airport-owned property to the state. County commissioners in Union, Gaston, Lincoln and Iredell counties have passed resolutions supporting the bill. None of them talked with Charlotte city officials before taking those votes.  (See "Regional counties jump into airport fray, support regional board" and "Charlotte airport fight pits city against region.")

Last week, council member David Howard told the Charlotte Observer: "It makes you not want to get involved in regional efforts at all.” Howard told the Observer he wondered whether Charlotte should continue to support the construction of the Garden Parkway and the Monroe Connector-Bypass – two toll roads proposed for Gaston and Union counties, whose boards voted in favor of the airport authority bill.

Howard is the Charlotte City Council representative to MUMPO and Monday he told council members that his vote to support the Monroe Bypass resolution came before the Union County vote in favor of taking Charlotte airport control away from Charlotte. Howard suggested that the council should direct its MUMPO representative to seek a MUMPO revote on the resolution. On a motion from council member Warren Cooksey, the council did just that, unanimously.

Because MUMPO votes are weighted according to population, Charlotte has 16 votes. All the other entities have a total of 22 votes. In other words, it's fairly easy for Charlotte to carry a vote.

Read more here:

The next MUMPO meeting is 7 p.m. Wednesday, and Howard can't attend. Council member Michael Barnes will represent Charlotte at that meeting. Barnes said he would offer a motion Wednesday noting that Howard had sought direction from the full city council and the council had directed its MUMPO representative to seek a revote on the issue of support for the Monroe Bypass. The decision whether to have a revote would come Wednesday, and the actual revote would be a month later.

A few minutes before Howard brought up the Monroe Bypass, council member Andy Dulin asked city staff for information about how much money the city spends on regional groups, including the Centralina Council of Governments and the Charlotte Regional Partnership, a 16-county economic development agency. "If we talk about COG we got to talk about the Regional Partnership," he said.

No council action was taken on that suggestion.