The Charlotte City Council is scheduled to vote Monday night on a controversial series of amendments to its sidewalk ordinance that will require the installation of new, separated sidewalk in all new by-right development, with the exception of single-family neighborhoods. The amendments are designed to eliminate what City staff refers to as the ‘sidewalk gap,’ a situation in which standard sidewalk is only required as part of a conditional rezoning, and not when a development permit is pulled on a by-right project.
The City’s Land Development Standards Manual requires all development along thoroughfares to provide a 6′ paved sidewalk separated from the curb by an 8′ planting strip. Where substandard, back-of-curb sidewalk exists, the City requires the developer replace it with separated sidewalk meeting the current standard.
REBIC initially raised objections to the amendment when it was proposed as part of the Charlotte Walks pedestrian plan, adopted by City Council in early 2017. The text amendment dealing with the ‘sidewalk gap’ first went before the City’s Development Standards Technical Review Committee (DSTAC) in the late summer of 2017, and was met with pushback over the scope and cost of the new requirement.
DSTAC’s review of the ordinance led to the inclusion of language ensuring that new sidewalk located outside the City ROW will NOT count toward the built-upon area for the property. DSTAC also worked with staff to ensure the ordinance included triggers to limit the impact of the requirement on building expansions — the language exempts additions that are less than 25% of the existing principal building or 2,500 square feet, whichever is greater.
The proposed ordinance also includes an administrative variance provision for property owners and developers able to prove a hardship due to topography, public safety, tree planting requirements or other site constraints. Variance requests will be reviewed and approved by the City Engineer.
In addition, REBIC partnered with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Parnership and other groups to successfully advocate for the inclusion of a reimbursement program for qualified affordable housing developments impacted by the new requirement.
REBIC remains concerned about the principle of requiring costly sidewalk construction on entitled, by-right development, but appreciates the willingness of Council and City staff to support the inclusion of numerous provisions that will mitigate the impact — particularly with regard to qualified affordable housing developments. The ordinance is set to be reviewed by the City Council’s Transportation & Planning Committee tomorrow morning before a scheduled vote before the full Council tomorrow evening.