On Monday evening, the Charlotte City Council held a hearing on proposed changes to the Tree Ordinance, that if enacted, would disincentivize future single-family in-fill development. As drafted, the text amendment would eliminate the density bonus altogether for developments “not subject to” the subdivision ordinance and greatly limit the incentive for minor subdivisions.
NIMBYs turned out in droves, as representatives of three neighborhood groups were on hand to voice their concerns over the current Tree Ordinance and its so-called impact on their neighborhoods. As far as we could tell, the only impacts its usage was having on existing neighborhoods was that it was increasing property values at a staggering rate.
Another concern raised was that trees in “tree save areas” were still being cut down at an alarming rate. However, no data was provided to substantiate this claim. City staff further argued that eliminating the tree save incentive would have no appreciable impact on the tree canopy. When questioned by Members of Council, staff was only able to provide data on tree save acreage going back about two years. The current version of the ordinance has been in place since 2002.
Rick Roti, representing the Charlotte Public Tree Fund and the Sierra Club, and Lee McLaren and Judson Stringfellow representing REBIC, spoke in defense of the current ordinance and urged City Council to keep the provision in place as it is having an even more positive impact than was originally expected–nearly twice as many trees are saved when using the incentive than otherwise. A fourth speaker, and a homeowner in one of the communities supporting the change, joined with us in arguing in favor of the current ordinance. Other than a couple of minor tweaks that he suggested, he felt it was working quite well and wanted to preserve his right to potentially utilize the incentive at a future date.
The Council is scheduled to have a vote on the measure on Monday, August 22nd, during its regularly scheduled business meeting. The Zoning Committee will be voting on this next Wednesday, July 27th. You can find the staff analysis here and a matrix depicting the proposed changes here.