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atlrvr

Is Charlotte a development whore?

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Looking at the Ikea debate, as well as many other projects in the pipeline that have received approval (while receiving mixed reaction from UP forumers), my question is; Is Charlotte a development whore? Does the city make it too easy to build here? Does it bend the policies too liberally to encourage new development? Or....Does the city need to do more to stimulate development? Are subsidies part of life for developing urban in Charlotte? Are suburban big-boxes good, simply because they bring in tax dollars that would otherwise go to a neighboring county?

Charlotte seems middle of the pack to me, subsidizing some urban projects, and especially cultural facilities, but also requiring some design concessions, mostly is suburban developments. Some cities have subsidized much of their downtown residential development which Charlotte hasn't, while other cities demand developers to provide off-site neighborhood amenities just for the right to build a new tower.

Like I've said, this has been mentioned in several recent threads, but what really amazed me was the list of demand being presented by a neighborhood group in Boston to Harvard University, which wants to expand its campus. The neighborhood group is requesting:

New multi-acre public park

Access to university shuttle busses.

Access to university athletic facilities.

New subsidized day-care facility.

New magnet or charter school, sponsered by Harvard

Full tuition scholarships for neighborhood kids

Compare this to Charlotte, where a 100 acre subdivision might donate a piece of land for an elementary school.

So what is the right way? Is growth good, and should the status quo be maintained, or should the city capitalize on its popularity and demand more concessions, resulting in a slowdown in development?

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Wow, that neighborhood in Boston is certainly going for the gusto, aren't they? I hear that, milk them for all they've got, LOL.

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How does their developed land vs. open space compare to ours? Do the neighborhoods have that big of a negotiating power? If the University says no to their demands, is there another option? I definitely think that Charlotte and Mecklenburg County could be a little more demanding when developers try to build something new. I think as our public services are stretched even thinner, we'll see more stringent rules and requirments.

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There is essentially no "greenfields" within the city. Where Harvard wants to build is filled with distribution warehouses and surface lots (the residential neighborhood is several blocks away). The neighborhood probably won't get everything (though the might) as all neighborhoods have a reputation for suing, suing and more suing if they don't like development. This often kills a commercial development, where the time lost fighting lawsuits is a huge hurdle to overcome in changing markets. Harvard has the advantage of not responding to market conditions (but they still need space) and deep pockets. Ultimately, the process can be killed by the mayor (it's a very strong mayor system) or a myriad of city henchmen if he doesn't want to do the politcal heavy-lifting himself.

It seems that Charlotte is at a disadvantage here, because there is little oversight beyond zoning. If the zoning is in place, you can build in Charlotte. In Boston, if the zoning is in place, then you're about 5% of the way there. If the structure is over 20,000 sq. ft., there are numerous public meetings to be held, architectual review meetings, redevelopment authority meetings, and finally hoping that after all of that, the Mayor likes the vision, and says "ok".

A comparable example in Charlotte would be if the Houston-Harris neighborhood in University City thought that UNCC was too large, they could protest and sue to stop every new building proposed on campus, and ask for the university to build them neighborhood amenities. They could appeal to McCrory to not allow the new Student Union to be built, and McCrory could essentially stop all new construction on campus for as long as he wanted.

Another example would be with the new Wachoiva project. Instead of the city saying yes, please build the tower, and how much do you need for those museums, the answer from the city would be, we will consider allowing this tower, but we are in need of a new theatre. Will you be constructing the building shell and placing several million in an operating fund?

^ This all sounds very exteme, and completely unfeasible in Charlotte, but that's the way it happens in several cities across the country. I don't think that there should be limits to that exteme in place, but I do think that the city is allowing poorly designed crap to be thrown up without the proper infrastructure or design principals in place.

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I own a few rentals in Charlotte, and occasionally read landlord forums. When people from Massachusetts post, and describe all the things landlords are required to do, I think "Good Grief! It's not worth it. I'd just hop the border to a neaby state, if I wanted to keep renting property." Boston is truly a couple of leagues above Charlotte in regulations.

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Due to Boston's historical identity and preservation, I'm not surprised. I wonder if all of this is in place for a city more similar to Charlotte, such as Richmond?

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^ This all sounds very exteme, and completely unfeasible in Charlotte, but that's the way it happens in several cities across the country. I don't think that there should be limits to that exteme in place, but I do think that the city is allowing poorly designed crap to be thrown up without the proper infrastructure or design principals in place.

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I think it's tough to compare historical Boston's highly activist Ivy League culture that permeates civic life with Charlotte. There is a tradition of deference to corporate and developer power in this town and we are naturally sprawly. There is no sense of eco-awareness overall and the majority of residents are happy with massive and ill conceived development. There is no motivation to protect Charlotte's "identity" by making demands on developers because we don't have a coherent "face" and most people don't care anyway. I don't see this changing.

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Comparing Boston to Charlotte is probably not a fair example. Boston is bounded by the ocean on the east and a myriad of towns to the west, so they are basically land-locked. Boston has also been a large city for 200 years or so, so it's very urban throughout.

This is more than just Charlotte proper, but I heard that there were a record 30,000 residential permits issued in 2006 alone in the metro area... I'm guessing that's Meck, Union, Cabarrus, York, S. Iredell, Gaston, E. Lincoln. That is an astounding number, and underscores the demands facing the area.

I think transit is essential to redirecting growth. Sprawl is going to continue (just look at Union Co!), it's just a matter of degree. I think the repeal effort will fail, and eventally people will come around to the broad transit/land use concept, and eventually, neighboring counties will want a piece of the action, and that may have some potential sprawl correcting benefits.

Other than transit issue, I don't think Charlotte is much different than most sun belt growth cities... for the most part, developers rule.

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I wasn't trying to compare, but rather point out that other cities demand much more from developers and that other cities have neighborhood groups that are effective as preventing development that they don't approve of.

I guess my question really is, should more oversight be placed on the development process which will slow the rate of development, but likely produce a higher-quality urban environment, or should be let things run wild to get the "big-city prestige" and tax base, and fix it when we run out of space, and it time to redevelop?

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A lot of this has to do with the role that a city can play in development in North Carolina vs Mass. In NC the state grants all powers to cities and counties and traditionally they have limited a city's authority to tell people what they can do with their property. It's gotten better, the sphere of influence ruling on zoning for example, but for the most part, change in this area will have to come from the NC Legislature first.

It's also interesting to note there are big historical differences between Mass and NC in the way the affairs of the state are managed. Mass. is a commonwealth whereas NC had a government based on English style authoritarianis based on land ownership and that difference can be seen today.

However I think Charlotte's biggest problem is the city council and mayor are directly involved in zoning issues and I think they would be better served if they could create a zoning commission, order that commission to following the city planner's directions, and set general policy rather than making decision on whether a new Bojangles should have a drive thru or not.

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I guess my question really is, should more oversight be placed on the development process which will slow the rate of development, but likely produce a higher-quality urban environment, or should be let things run wild to get the "big-city prestige" and tax base, and fix it when we run out of space, and it time to redevelop?

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I think that Southeastern cities still have a mentality formed decades ago, when the region was poor and when there was plenty of available land: "growth is good, no matter what". In the olden days, any new business or development could help the area escape poverty, and there were no concerns about overpopulation, traffic or congestion.

Conversely, in the Northeast, many cities have traditionally been large and wealthy. So any new business or development would be seen as just adding more people and overcrowding, and the added development wasn't needed (at least in the olden days).

Charlotte is better about this than some smaller cities (such as Greenville, where people will do anything for new jobs or developments- see today's Greenville News, with an article about a Dunkin' Donuts development coming to down).

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You know, my take on this is that we're comparing apples to oranges here. Boston is so well-established, and so built out, that any new development can be scrutinized. Compare the neighborhoods actions to those in downtown Charleston and you'll find some comparision. Even in comparison look at the development rules for downtown Charleston vs Mt. Pleasant or any outlying area.

Charlotte has a lot of undeveloped land, and very few established neighborhoods with strong organizations (Dilworth comes to mind). Taking that into consideration, it isn't very hard to see why the only thing you need to meet in Charlotte are the zoning requirements.

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I think mallguy has a good point here. This isn't just a Charlotte phenomenon, and unfortunately Greenville is a good example of that (or any other SC city for that matter). Take a step back from Boston and compare Charlotte with a city that isn't in the Northeast. What about Jacksonville?

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I guess my question really is, should more oversight be placed on the development process which will slow the rate of development, but likely produce a higher-quality urban environment, or should be let things run wild to get the "big-city prestige" and tax base, and fix it when we run out of space, and it time to redevelop?

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The irony is that uncontrolled development probably won't actually produce a bigger-city feel. We've often heard that many NE US cities have smaller populations than their SE US counterparts, yet feel much bigger and more urban in terms of the built environment.

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Then we would just be another Atlanta...

A2

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For example Atlanta. We're larger in size than Atlanta itself right? It's all of their ring towns that make them bigger and the other cities are just denser than us.

We hear all the time about smaller cities like Cary, Waxhaw, etc. putting moratoriums on new housing projects until the developers make concessions or until public services catch up.

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For example Atlanta. We're larger in size than Atlanta itself right? It's all of their ring towns that make them bigger and the other cities are just denser than us.

We hear all the time about smaller cities like Cary, Waxhaw, etc. putting moratoriums on new housing projects until the developers make concessions or until public services catch up.

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Is that right...we are bigger than Atlanta? In what way? I always thought both the city limits, inner and outer rings, and population of Atlanta was much larger than Charlotte. I am certain that the "city" and downtown of Atlanta is larger than Charlotte's. Does anyone have exact numbers on the size of both cities?

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Charlotte's incorporated "city" is around 650k, while Atlanta is around 480k, but ATL has the surrouding area's.

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Charlotte IS bigger than ATL as far as CITY populartion and CITY limits are concerned. charlotte incorporates Univesity City near Cabarrus county all the wya to Ballentyne touching the South Carolina line. The city limits of Charlotte are bigger than that of Chicago's! If you dont believe me, just check out www.emporis.com and they have that stuff on there.

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One of the reasons that we don't like to compare cities by their size is because different state laws affect what makes up a city and also limit or help a city's ability to annex relatively rural land. Atlanta's big issue is that in Georgia counties are very small so their urban area crosses a number of counties that are not interested in becoming part of Atlanta's municipal government.

North Carolina on the other hand allows for involuntary annexations if the area in question meets a minimum set of development requirements for population and infrastructure. Property owners can also ask to be annexed but I don't recall that happening that many times with Charlotte. So in Charlotte's case every time a subdivision is built, it becomes eligible to be annexed by the city and most of Charlotte's growth over the last few decades has come from annexing in vast areas of land. The city is now close to 300 sq/miles.

This is a map from several years ago, but it shows where the final borders for Charlotte and the 6 smaller cities will be once the entire county is annexed out.

spheres01_sm.jpg

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