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Charlotte Urban Planning Policies

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What changes would you specifically make to Charlotte's urban planning policies to make it more pedestrian friendly and urban and less auto-centric (like Portland, OR), besides curbing new sprawl at the periphery, that's kinda of obvious, but what other steps would you implement? What would you do to connect existing neighborhoods in a sea of sprawl? How would you implement policies without discouraging developers and new businesses from building here and without getting to deep into land-owners rights? What policies would you use to encourage people to give up the cars and ride transit?

We discussed this in my Environmental Planning class at UNCC last year and it created a lot of discussion and thought maybe this would be a topic here. I think the biggest thing officials and planners should do is to educate the general public on this topic better and explain why we need better planning policies. For example, the cost-savings on infrastructure, if we have less spread out development and use existing infrastructure, the city will save money in the long run. The more the public is on board with this, the easier it will be for policy makers and planners to go ahead with implementing new measures.

Some specific things I would do (and Charlotte planners maybe doing some now) would be to create special tax zones that would be really competitve with existing land out in suburban areas in transit corridor areas. I know a regional growth boundary like Portland wouldn't get much support here, but I think a more realistic approach would to be to create a special zone around Uptown and existing areas right outside the I-277 loop. Change one-way streets to two-way streets to slow traffic down and create store-front developments (like on Tryon St in Uptown now). Lower the speed limit for major thoroughfares like North Tryon and create more narrow roads with sidewalks which also cause more people to slow down, and this will also force more people to use I-85 and get traffic off of secondary roads. Encourage developers to re-use big box stores or bull-doze them and create more urban mix-use developments along the road like Gateway Village. Of course, this would be a special tax-incentive zone for the developer. This wouldn't happen instantly nor overnight, it would be a gradual process and eventually in a few years start to expand the circle zone around over years, as more suburban big-box stores fall into disrepair.

As for connectivity and getting people around. I would reward businesses (in terms of some kind of incentives) that encouraged telecommuting or one's that subsidize transit for employees. I would shift more money to greenways and build pedestrian and bike bridges and tunnels over or under major freeways and build more greenways to where people want to go.

As for the transit system, I would start a whole new advertising campaign for CATS. You be surprised what you can do with the power of persuasive marketing. Look at Abercrombie and Fitch... they sell worn out and faded jeans for $80 bucks a pair, and all they did was put a half-naked white guy wearing their clothes. Make CATS buses "hip" to ride, while throwing some extra "goodies" like maybe wifi Internet access and sheltered bus stations with ticket kiosk in high traffic areas. While continuing to build on the LYNX system, while showing people of examples of how well transit works in cities that are similar in size to Charlotte like Portland.

I know some of these would be drastic and costly, but I think it would be a good step in the right direction IMO. So what would everyone else do? I hear a lot people saying they want change, but I don't hear many solutions and ways we achieve those solutions. :)

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I would get rid of conditional zoning. Charlotte had a really hard time saying no to developers that want to put up really crappy developments and development that is not good for the community and most of that occurs because they are able to zone individual pieces of property to allow for it. Instead they need to sit down and revamp the corridors and transit plan, map out some areas where they will allow nasty development such as car dealerships and big box retail, zone the areas appropriately then stick to it.

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I think it would be very difficult to make riding a bus "hip" but I agree with the rest

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I'd change zoning laws so that office developments of more than a few hundred thousand square feet could not be built in suburbia.

If the massive office developments in University City had been put uptown, uptown's work force would nearly double. That would have a huge impact on retail and restaurants uptown; maybe we'd have a lot more of both. Transit ridership would also be favorably impacted. We should not let another University City office park develop.

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I would:

- Make it difficult to tear down any building more than 50 years old.

- Ban plastic exterior materials, like EIFS and vinyl.

- Require the burial of powerlines in all residential neighborhoods.

- Require cobblestone or brick streets on any non-thoroughfare that has utilities underneath (it is pretty easy to lift up and re-lay bricks to get to the utilities, but asphalt deteriorates fast and looks terrible with all of these cuts).

- Create a form of zoning within a ~3 mile radius of Trade and Tryon that disallows heavy industrial facilies, disallows surface parking lots greater than a couple acres.

That's all I can think of at the moment.

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I would allow for more cafe style sidewalk seating,plant more medians and encourage the creation of more pedestrian islands like those placed on East. Many of the good ideas already posted here have been proposed by various parts of city government in the much ballyhooed TAP. I had some hopes that it would be put into action but the O recently reported that no measureable progress has been made on any front and it's been consigned to the shelf with all the other wasted good ideas. There have already been so many bad decisions that any responsible developments while welcome will only stand out as exceptions to the overwhelming sprawl.

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I'd also:

* Require that new streets be built in a grid pattern.

* Specify maximum set-backs from streets for buildings.

* Require sidewalks.

These 3 things would make walking around much easier; twisty streets that require unnecessarily long distances to destinations, with no sidewalks and large swaths of land around kill off people's desires to walk.

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First and foremost, I would eliminate off-street parking minimum requirements across the board. Let the market decide.

Next, I would completely do away with the idea that a 4- or 5-foot sidewalk is adequate on a thoroughfare. Every major street needs at least an 8-foot sidewalk.

This is just for starters...

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Improve zoning. Having a suburban style Chic-fil-A a couple hundred feet from a transit station is rediculous. The city manager and the planning department need to be more productive in making sure the appropriate zoning is in place and is followed.

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Legalize garage apartments / granny flats / whatever they're called.

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This is a great topic. First and foremost, we need form-based zoning. Second, do NOT widen any more roads. Until the pain of driving alone to work is greater than the pain of riding transit, autos will win. I would support demolition bonds to accompany all new retail/commercial facilities. If the business goes dark, after a certain point of time the demolition bond would be used to blow it up and start over again. All new suburbs and strip malls need to face the street--no more berms. We need to relax parking regulations to minimize impervious surfaces. Further, we need to give tax breaks for "sustainable" development that incorporates cost-competitive low-hanging environmental fruit. This is required to change the culture of development from value-free to environmentally-centered. It might have the added benefit of rewarding smaller, local developers rather than the publicly-traded corporate developers.

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Oh jeez.....I've been warily eyeing this thread, knowing that I have too many opinions to quickly post. Here goes.

#1. Ban EIFS as a primary facade material. I would limit it to no more than 10% of the non-transulecent portions of the facade. If it was banned altogether for commercial or multi-family applications, I wouldn't shed a tear.

#2. All multi-family or commercial buildings larger than 50,000 sq. ft. must conform to LEED standards OR the developer can pay a fee of $0.25 per square foot to the city/county for use in a "green" fund (to buy hybrid busses, purchase parkland, etc.)

#3. Sidewalk widths should be tied to zoning. Single-family and Industrial = minimum 6', General office, commerical or multi-family = minimum 8'. MUDD = minimum 12'. TOD, PED, and UMUD = minimum 16'. This could increase all the way to 24' depending on the classification of the adjacent street. Also, allow sidewalk planters instead of planting strips in all MUDD, TOD and PED districts.

#4. Require ground-floor retail or commercial space of at least 4% for all buildings larger than 100,000 sq. ft. in MUDD, TOD, PED and UMUD districts. This space must be able to be accessed from the exterior of the buildings.

#5. I'm not sure of the language, but a requirement for all surface parking to be shielded from the street and sidewalk by building.

#6. THS IS A PET PEEVE. Require all commercial and residential buildings to provide direct sidewalk access. There are two recent noteable offenders. A recently completed office building on Morehead where the childrens theatre was, and the Dukin Donut's/Basking Robbins at South/Worthington. It would have taken 8' long sidewalk to connect the front door to the public sidewalk on South!!!

#7. Reduce building setback requirements, allow zero-lot line buildings in more circumstances, and encourage alleways instead of each building having it's own curb cut for parking and waste removal.

and finally

#8. CAREFULLY enact a form based zoning plan for ALL major throughfares. Preferably, this plan would call for mixed-use zero-lot line buildings fronting a majority of the cities arterials.

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#1. Ban EIFS as a primary facade material. I would limit it to no more than 10% of the non-transulecent portions of the facade. If it was banned altogether for commercial or multi-family applications, I wouldn't shed a tear.

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In pre-cast, or for something dressier than paiting precast, I wouldn't mind glazed tile over pre-cast.

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I agree... I just wanted to remind that EIFS can be used for things other than cheap, psuedo classical pediments and cornices. I personally think that EIFS has its place, and can be done correctly. Material selection makes an impact on a project budget and can be the difference between condos on the corner and a vacant lot on the corner. I'll take the edgy eifs condos on the corner.

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I agree with that arguement somewhat, but I feel if all developers and architects are handicapped by the no-EIFS, then they will either have to get more creative in their design/palette, or prices will rise across the board. The average consumer won't understand why all new construction just saw a (let's call it 5% bump), but it will be real, and they will pay it. IMO opinion, unknowingly paying this premium is a solid investment because their building will have longer term intergrity and visual appeal.

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I would declare any building dating back 1960 and beyond an untouchable (meaning it couldn't be torn down) and I'd also make a law against using the same bland tan hue on a certain buildings.

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I think that impact fees should be levied in neighborhoods where growth has outpaced the school construction. ..."but impact fees will just be passed on the consumer..." Great! Those who purchase a home in a district that is at equalibrium should be rewarded. Those who purchase in a district that is overcrowded should have to shoulder some of the burden.

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All new developments must have connecting street grids (no more one way in, one way out), sidewalks are required on BOTH sides of the streets, powerlines must be buried for any new development and any road widening must be accompanied by at least one bike lane.

At pedistrian oriented cooridors traffic calming measures should be enacted around crossings.

No EIFS. Ever.

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I think it would be very difficult to make riding a bus "hip" but I agree with the rest

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CONNECT STREETS.

Take an example in South Charlotte. The entire area bounded by Providence, 51, Weddington Road, and Mckee Road have no connections that go N/S.

Google map the following residences: 739 BARINGTON PL, MATTHEWS, NC 28105 and 2022 MAYNARD RD, CHARLOTTE, NC 28270. Using Mecklenburg County Polaris, I measured the distance to be about 510 feet. Driving distance on Google Maps: "5.6 mi (about 12 mins)."

Also: 1713 STEVENS RDG, MATTHEWS, NC 28105-6862 and 2606 PEVERELL LN, CHARLOTTE, NC 28270. Distance, about 350' or driving it would take 6.8 mi (about 16 mins).

Many of these kids are on the same soccer teams, play at one one another's houses, go to school together (or did previously under the sprawled out plan of schools) so they have to be driven to houses in the area. That puts all the traffic onto two N/S roads and the E/W roads in the area. If Charlotte would have a connected street grid within the larger grid then traffic in areas would be reduced considerably.

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I would also add in terms of regional transportation planning, making a pact with surrounding counties like Cabarrus, Gaston, York, Union, and Iredell. It would incorporate a fee and would create a urban boundary like I mentioned for Uptown, but for their county cities and towns, like Monroe, Gastonia, Concord, Mooresville, etc around the downtown areas. The area insides in the boundaries would be required to convert one way roads to two roads and incorporate urban store fronts. This would create "nodes" so suburban counties wouldn't loose too much money to Charlotte, but also try and contain some of the sprawl. The money for pay for a future commuter rail to Uptown. In the mean time, these areas would continue to use the commuter express buses into town.

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CONNECT STREETS.

Take an example in South Charlotte. The entire area bounded by Providence, 51, Weddington Road, and Mckee Road have no connections that go N/S.

Google map the following residences: 739 BARINGTON PL, MATTHEWS, NC 28105 and 2022 MAYNARD RD, CHARLOTTE, NC 28270. Using Mecklenburg County Polaris, I measured the distance to be about 510 feet. Driving distance on Google Maps: "5.6 mi (about 12 mins)."

Also: 1713 STEVENS RDG, MATTHEWS, NC 28105-6862 and 2606 PEVERELL LN, CHARLOTTE, NC 28270. Distance, about 350' or driving it would take 6.8 mi (about 16 mins).

Many of these kids are on the same soccer teams, play at one one another's houses, go to school together (or did previously under the sprawled out plan of schools) so they have to be driven to houses in the area. That puts all the traffic onto two N/S roads and the E/W roads in the area. If Charlotte would have a connected street grid within the larger grid then traffic in areas would be reduced considerably.

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