The UDO or Unified Development Ordinance was passed through Charlotte City Council Monday with a vote of 6-4. This plan aims to unify building codes which were adopted over a long time and have many overlaps and contradictions that will be fixed with the new ordinance. There are however, many areas that are of concern to homeowners. For someone new to the Charlotte area, these changes may not mean much yet, but they can change the character of neighborhoods so it is worth noting the highlights of the UDO.
Let’s get to it right away. The most contested item in the Unified Development Ordinance is a change to single-family only neighborhoods. The change allows multi-family development in areas typically zoned for single-family only homes. This means that a home can be taken down and a tri- or quad-plex home could be built in its place. It could also change future development projects so they include a mix of different housing styles to fit the needs of different families.
City leaders say that the change will lead to more urban density and residents can use existing and upcoming transit options to help the city thrive. Residents are worried about additional gentrification and changing the character of historical neighborhoods. The new rule does not apply to neighborhoods that have a homeowners association as the rules for the association supersede the city rules. This means that we could see some neighborhoods start to take proactive action and form homeowners associations to protect themselves from future development.
Going along with that ruling, are additional ways for residents to help preserve the historical nature of neighborhoods. This should help slow the feared gentrification and erasure of the city’s history. In addition to saving structures, the ordinance contains new rules for tree removal in an attempt to save the city’s tree canopy. If a tree is a specific size and a heritage tree, you will need a permit to remove it and could also need to plant a replacement tree and pay a fine. Rules for open areas and natural spaces are set forth for new developments to make sure that we have natural spaces to balance paved areas.
Other major parts of the UDO include parking minimums for cars in mixed-use developments. This is to prevent people from blocking residents when they are visiting a place of business. This means that we can’t have any truly car-less developments, but it does help patrons of businesses. This section also sets out rules for bike parking establishing that new developments must have a bike parking space for every five units.
Another major part of the ordinance sets rules for electric vehicle charging stations. With the trend headed towards electric or hybrid cars, new developments need to take that into account and have reserved parking for residents and guests for changing. There are also rules for adding public charging stations to existing buildings or neighborhoods.
As you can see, the planning and zoning laws in Charlotte are complicated and there are many areas where the new code is lauded by residents, and many where residents ire was stoked. It remains to be seen how the new Unified Development Ordinance will fare once put into practice. There could be future amendments, or it could work better than anticipated.