Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Where's Charlotte's zoning code update?

I saw a great link to Smart Growth Seattle today via The Direct Transfer, listed under "Urbanism & Design." While the Seattle post is specifically about small-lot housing, the group/site speaks to much larger discussions about city life and urban redevelopment.  Their streaming slideshow contrasting the 1950s to today is funny - I especially like this one.
Believe it or not, many cities are still using zoning, subdivision and other land use codes that date from the 1950s.  Demographics back then assumed nuclear families (with kids tucked under their desks against the Russians!) of two parents and 2.5 children (or in the case above, 3 kids, all clamoring for cake).  The image at right, "Fresh Code," definitely hints at current demographics and the need to develop our land use policies and subsequent built environment around demographic realities.

So where does Charlotte stand in the zoning/land use spectrum of antiquated vs. modern codes? Plan Charlotte noted a need for change in April 2012, highlighting that the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Department's staff did an internal review in 2010, 2010 Diagnostic Assessment and Recommendations ,  and hired Clarion Associates in Fall 2012 to start a year-long review of the code, due in late Summer 2013.

Still, this is only an inventory/review of the existing code - an update could take longer, under a separate process, as noted on the City's website for the project.  Call me impatient, or efficient, but why not go ahead and update the whole code now?  Denver and Miami are two major cities that have done just that, going to form-based codes.  Charlotte may be pursuing slower incrementalism, so time will tell if that's an effective strategy for staying relevant amidst peer cities that have been or plan to be proactive in updating their land use policies.