Charlotte Sets Public Hearing Date for New TOD Ordinance

img_1355.jpgThe City of Charlotte has set a February 25th Public Hearing date for a new Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Zoning Ordinance, despite a key Building Height Bonus provision still undergoing revision.

REBIC and other industry groups have worked with City staff on the draft for more than a year, as part of a comprehensive stakeholder review process that has seen a number of restrictive provisions pared down or eliminated. But the Building Height Bonus provision, intended to encourage the construction of Affordable Housing units along transit corridors, was only unveiled on December 13th, and has yet to be modeled for effectiveness.

The Height Bonus, which is designed to advance City policy priorities such as affordable housing, open space preservation and sustainability, will give developers the opportunity to amass points that can be used to increase their building height. It would allow buildings to rise as high as 300′ in the highest-density TOD district when the maximum amount of points are obtained. Developers would also be able to increase their building height by paying a fee-in-lieu that that would go into the city’s Housing Trust Fund.

REBIC is particularly concerned about the economic practicality of the Height Bonus as it relates to the construction of affordable housing along the transit line, and wants to ensure the provision is successful in producing units. We believe the incentive would be more effective if it allowed developers to secure variances on many of the ordinance’s costly design standards, which range from building length and facade variation to open space and ground floor activation requirements. We’ve encouraged staff to widen the bonus options to generate more incentives for affordable housing, and to allow sufficient time for detailed case studies and economic impact analysis.

Other outstanding industry concerns with the draft TOD ordinance include:

  • The process of transitioning sites zoned under the current TOD ordinance to one of the 4 new TOD districts that are proposed;
  • The complex menu of building design standards in the new ordinance, with provisions ranging from building articulation to height stepback;
  • A prohibition against requesting a height variance in the optional TOD-EX district;
  • The challenge of providing public open space on small urban sites.

REBIC is continuing to evaluate the TOD ordinance, and has encouraged staff to slow down the adoption process so that detailed evaluation of the draft can be completed. We believe Charlotte’s transit corridors represent some of the city’s most critical economic development opportunities, and want to ensure that the Affordable Housing incentive program is effective and successful.

Full details on the TOD ordinance, including the draft Text Amendment, are available on the City’s UDO website.

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