September 21, 2023

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Charlotte revises new zoning, land development plan


Charlotte planning officials do not anticipate including short-term rental regulations in the final draft of the Unified Development Ordinance. The document, which sets the rules of what can be built where in the city, is scheduled for a City Council vote in late August.

Charlotte planning officials do not anticipate including short-term rental regulations in the final draft of the Unified Development Ordinance. The document, which sets the rules of what can be built where in the city, is scheduled for a City Council vote in late August.

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With a vote set for late summer on a lengthy development rule book, don’t expect to see any controversial regulations around short-term rentals like Airbnbs.

That’s one of many changes to the first draft of Charlotte’s Unified Development Ordinance. The 685-page document will help guide what can be built where in the fast-growing city for years to come.

City staff working on the UDO made a number of other revisions — everything from fixing typos to bigger topics like tree protections— after receiving more than 1,200 comments from the public.

City Council is expected to take a vote on the ordinance in late August.

Short-term rentals

Short-term rentals received the most amount of public feedback since the first draft was released in October.

City staff proposed requiring short-term rental operators to get a zoning use permit. It also required rentals of whole homes be separated by at least 400 feet.

There are around 3,500 active rentals in Charlotte as of this month, according to AirDNA, a vacation rental research firm.

Some residents were pleased to see the city regulate the bustling market, pointing to how some houses can be problem properties with frequent parties and loud noise.

But a large number of people who run rental homes decried the 400-foot separation rule, saying it would set up scenarios where they’d be forced to stop operating and lose that source of income.

In late April, Charlotte scrapped its regulations entirely, citing a recent legal case and possible state legislation around the industry. A North Carolina appeals court ruling in April struck down parts of Wilmington’s regulations, saying that city was violating a state statute when it required short-term rental operators to register their properties.

Some on Charlotte City Council want to address concerns from both short-term rental operators and neighbors who complain about nuisance houses.

But with the uncertainty around the Wilmington case, Charlotte’s interim planning director Alyson Craig told reporters this month not to expect to see regulations brought back in for the final draft.

Text amendments could be added after City Council votes on the UDO Aug. 22.

“We know it’s something that’s important to address,” Craig said. “We just don’t have the legal clarity to write the regulations in a way that provides that kind of clarity.”

Want to cut a tree down?

Charlotte officials have revised, but not scrapped, regulations around other big topics, like tree protections and parking.

Residents will still be required to get a permit to remove a tree on their property — as first proposed under the UDO.

Under the latest draft, residents would have to send in an application fee and then pay a $500 mitigation fee that requires the replanting of one tree. The mitigation fee could be reduced to zero if homeowners plant additional trees. The mitigation fee was $1,000 under the first draft.

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Charlotte is aiming to reduce loss of trees, especially in single-family neighborhoods. An updated development ordinance would require homeowners to get a permit before removing a tree. CHRISTOPHER A. RECORD

Developers can take trees down if it’s on the development footprint and poses a “demonstrated conflict,” Craig said.

The city has increased the fee to remove a tree from $1,000 to $1,500, while still requiring one tree to be planted in its place. Each additional tree planted reduces the fee by $250. Fees collected by the city will be used to plant more trees around Charlotte.

The rules only apply to heritage trees, defined as native to North Carolina and 30 inches or greater in diameter. They don’t apply to diseased or hazardous trees.

Parking rules

Many cities like San Francisco, Portland, Oregon, and Minneapolis, have done away with parking space minimums. They capped how much parking can be added to new development in an effort to reduce vehicle emissions, according to the Raleigh News & Observer. Raleigh has discussed eliminating minimums, as well.

Charlotte is keeping a three-tiered system in its latest draft, with some minor revisions.

The three tiers sets different levels of minimum and maximum parking requirements depending on whether you’re in a more residential, industrial or commercial part of the city.

The document emphasizes capping the number of parking spots in the city’s most transit-oriented development districts. Those districts encourage higher-density growth and pedestrian-friendly development around transit stations.

In the latest draft, the city allows for relatively few or no parking minimums if a development is within a half-mile walk of an existing transit station. The revision goes toward a city goal of encouraging more pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods around public transportation.

What happens next

Residents can comment or offer feedback on the second draft between now and June 30. To find the second draft, visit The city has uploaded a summary of key changes, as well.

A public hearing is scheduled for July 11 on the second draft. A Planning Commission committee will consider the draft for recommendation to the City Council on July 19.

A third draft will be considered and voted on by the City Council on August 22.

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Gordon Rago covers growth and development for The Charlotte Observer. He previously was a reporter at The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Virginia and began his journalism career in 2013 at the Shoshone News-Press in Idaho.


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