Here’s how your property rights could be impacted by new Charlotte ordinance

CHARLOTTE — The city of Charlotte is looking for feedback on newly crafted development regulations.

The Unified Development Ordinance, or UDO, has massive implications for Charlotte residents and developers, from building standards to tree removal provisions.

>> Click here to submit comments on the proposed UDO.

The ordinance was created to implement the 2040 Plan. The 2040 Plan was a hot topic in early 2021 because it calls for duplexes and triplexes to be allowed in single-family zoning areas.

But the massive new 608-page document implements the city’s vision.

>> The entire ordinance can be found here.

Trees:

Charlotte is a city known for its trees. The canopy is beloved by new and longtime residents. Unfortunately, the city is losing those trees faster than they can be replaced. Officials say 65% of canopy loss comes from individual lots.

“People really love Charlotte’s tree canopy and it is a jewel we want to protect,” Deputy Planning Director Alyson Craig said.

Craig said the city is proposing requiring a permit to remove a tree larger than 30 inches in diameter, as long as it is not dying or in danger of falling down. In some cases, mitigation may be required. That means homeowners would have to pay a fee or commit to planting a new tree somewhere else.

“We do think that is a very important part of the higher temperatures we are seeing and being able to provide canopy,” Craig said.

Developer David Smith said the proposal is another hurdle for homeowners that needs more discussion.

“We all support and say that we need additional tree regulations,” Smith said. “But we really haven’t had much tree regulations in Charlotte and it needs to be a long, thought out process.”

Tree ordinance and changes for homeowners, according to the city of Charlotte:

Recent findings show that 65% of the tree canopy loss occurs on individual lots rather than in larger commercial development projects. The UDO’s plan to better protect the canopy in residential areas is a proposal that no heritage tree (30 inches in diameter or greater) be removed unless a city-issued work permit is requested and approved. Permits for removal can be issued when the following conditions are met:

  • Tree and root zone are within the buildable area where a structure may be placed and there is no other reasonable location. Mitigation is required.
  • Tree is diseased, dying, is a safety concern, or conflicts with other ordinance requirements. Mitigation is required.

Mitigation can come in the form of a fee payment or a combination of paying a fee and planting trees.

  • Mitigation fees will go toward the Canopy Care Fund which includes a Large Tree Assistance Fund to help residents maintain trees on their property.

Short-term rentals

The ordinance also includes changes for people who rent their homes or apartments as AirBnBs or VRBOs, which are popular short-term rental sites. The city is planning to require a permit for them and they must be spaced at least 400 feet from each other. There would also be a ban on parties and events inside of them.

“We feel like having a permit process will provide better clarity on where those AirBnBs are, both for residents as well as the city, as well as be able to tackle those enforcement issues,” Craig said. “We hope we don’t have to have but sometimes they do occur.”

SRO changes, according to the city of Charlotte:

Short-term rentals (e.g. AirBnb, VRBO) are covered in Article 15 of the UDO. They are permitted with prescribed conditions in all Neighborhood 1 and Neighborhood 2 zoning districts as a commercial use (refer to the Zoning Matrix on pages 15-30 of the ordinance). Some of the highlights of the prescribed conditions are:

  • A zoning use permit is required.
  • Must be separated from other short-term rentals and B&Bs by 400 feet. This would not apply to existing short-term rentals.
  • No parties, events, classes, weddings, receptions, or other large gatherings are allowed.
  • After three violations, the permit is revoked.

Short-term rentals are allowed today in our residential districts. There are no specific regulations for them, so they are regulated as a residential use. Consistent with residential uses, the number of occupants is limited to a related family or six unrelated individuals. Also, these cannot be used as event facilities. The permitting process proposed in the UDO will provide better tracking, clarity, and enforcement when violations do occur.

Renovation projects

Smith said the new rules and fees could add more time and money to construction projects, whether it is a new house or a renovation project.

“Dramatic price increase,” he said. “For some people, it will be a minimum impact but for others, it will mean they cannot do their expansion.”

According to the UDO, if you are looking to add something like a deck or a pool, a homeowner would need to submit a drainage plan and obtain a permit. The city said permit fees have not yet been determined.

Craig said the process is intended to be fast.

“We want to make sure they aren’t causing flooding issues,” she said. “If there’s not, it will be a really quick and easy process to get that permit and move forward.”

Regulation for decks/ pools, according to the city of Charlotte:

UDO will do more to ensure the installation of decks and pools is conducted in a way that does not create site drainage and flooding problems for neighbors. The UDO has new drainage regulations in Article 24 that will require several development activities to provide a storm drainage plan and permit approved by Storm Water Services:

  • When you construct or expand any building, structure, driveway, street, or parking lot
  • When you connect driveways, storm drainage pipes, or retaining walls within a storm drainage easement.
  • When you create or connect storm drainage pipes or control measures that convey runoff from a publicly maintained street.
  • When you disturb the land in a way that recontours the land.

Storm Water would consider both a deck and a pool to be a structure that would require the homeowner to submit a drainage plan to obtain a permit. However, if that deck has minimal or no impact on the site drainage, the process for getting that permit would be simple and quick.

Duplexes/Triplexes

The most controversial aspect of the 2040 Plan allows duplexes and triplexes to be built on single-family zoning lots. The provision passed on a narrow majority.

In October, a presentation to Charlotte City Council predicted most of the new duplexes and triplexes will be built in the wedge.

Despite the scrutiny on the new provision, Smith does not predict residents will see a major shakeup.

“I don’t think duplexes and triplexes will be that dramatic to most people because they’ve added so many new regulations to them,” he said.

Requirements for new duplexes and triplexes include only allowing one driveway per street frontage. Parking must be located in the rear or the side of the building. According to the city, heights for duplexes and triplexes will need to be scaled to other adjacent buildings. They will also be limited to a sidewall height of 12 feet or the average heights of adjacent building sidewalls on either side of the structure.

What’s next?

Public comments on the first draft of the UDO are being accepted until Jan. 14. The city expects to release a total of four drafts before Charlotte City Council adopts the UDO. A vote will likely take place in the summer before a new council is sworn in.

The city is holding virtual conversations about various UDO aspects through the middle of January.

For more information on the UDO, click here.

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