Thursday, October 24, 2013

What's up (or not) with a zoning ordinance re-do?

It's been almost three months since a consultants' report concluded the city's zoning ordinance is seriously in need of updating. (See my article, "Report: Charlotte ordinance confusing, lacks modern tools" from July.

What's happening next?  Planning Director Debra Campbell discussed that at an Oct. 7 meeting of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission, an appointed advisory board to the city's Planning Department and City Council. 

Campbell said the planning staff is discussing how to link the zoning ordinance assessment process with their planning process. The planners want to look at whether a revised zoning ordinance would mean revising the way plans are done, which today are the "Euclidian model," Campbell said. For non-planners, that means based on single-use zoning districts.  (The term "Euclidian zoning" isn't about Euclidian geometry, but is named for the 1926 Supreme Court case, Village of Euclid, Ohio, v. Ambler Realty Co., which ruled that land use zoning is constitutional. The Euclid zoning ordinance was based on single-use districts, a type of land use generally considered suburban or rural, not suitable for large cities.)
"Our plans are very use-based," Campbell said. "They're colors on a map." In other words, local plans tend to map large areas and, with color-coding, delineate land uses should go where. Instead, Campbell said, "I want them to focus on both use and character." Sometimes, she said, getting too deep into the planning process can seem dry and boring to the general public. "In general people want to be involved with what’s it going to look like, what’s it going to feel like?"

Laura Harmon, the department's director of development services, said the staff would have a better idea of how to link plans and the zoning ordinance "in the next month or two."

Said Campbell: "If there's a fatal flaw that I have, it's that I like to go slow ... I like to bring folks along with me."