The Charlotte City Council voted Monday night to approve a three-year extension of the citywide PCCO Mitigation Fee, while renewing a stakeholder review process to determine a more permanent status for the program.
The 7-4 vote to extend the fee option followed a 30-minute debate over the program’s effectiveness in balancing incentives for redevelopment with the importance of cleaning polluted local streams.
Council members Ed Driggs, Kenny Smith, David Howard, Vi Lyles, Claire Fallon and Greg Phipps joined Mayor Pro-Tem Michael Barnes in voting for a compromise proposal that extends the program until December 31, 2017, while directing City staff to convene a new stakeholder process to thoroughly evaluate the Mitigation Fee option. Council members John Autry, Patsy Kinsey, LaWana Mayfield and Al Austin voted against the extension. Mayor Dan Clodfelter was not in attendance.
First adopted in 2011, the citywide Mitigation Fee option gives developers an alternative approach to meeting the on-site storm water requirements of the Post-Construction Controls Ordinance (PCCO) on redevelopment sites. The fee option, which is approved through an administrative process, is $60,000 for the first acre of redevelopment and $90,000 for each additional acre or portion thereof. Some onsite volume control measures are still required for most sites, and properties that contribute to downstream flooding are NOT eligible to buy out.
Prior to being extended citywide, developers could only elect to pay the Mitigation Fee in transit station areas or the city’s Distressed Business Districts — a crescent-shaped swath of acreage around Uptown targeted for economic revitalization. Over the past 2 years, the City has collected $898,000 in mitigation fees from 10 redevelopment projects outside these targeted areas, from developers who chose to pay the Mitigation Fee in lieu of constructing onsite controls. The revenue was used to fund 6 public storm water projects that might otherwise not have been completed, including wetlands restoration near McAlpine Creek and 3 new ponds in north Charlotte. The estimated tax value of the 10 redevelopment projects was $14 million.
Following a stakeholder meeting this past Spring to discuss the program’s future, storm water staff recommended Council approve a five-year extension, with additional requirements for the use of “low-cost, onsite control measures” (ie, catch basin inserts) for redevelopment projects with surface parking.
But in August, City Council’s Environment Committee voted 3 – 1 to recommend extending the program without the additional requirements, which were recommended to add between $2,000 and $3,000 per acre in compliance cost, plus another $1,000 per year for maintenance. Environmental groups blasted the decision and called on Council to defeat any extension of the citywide fee option.
The new stakeholder process, scheduled to begin in January, will evaluate whether the Mitigation Fee program should be eliminated or made permanent, and what changes, if any, are needed going forward. The review will be completed no later than January 2016, with new recommendations delivered to Council that could result in additional changes — or the elimination — of the program.
REBIC will fully engage in the stakeholder review effort, and continue to advocate for the program as a way to encourage redevelopment of vacant, deteriorated sites. Be on the lookout for more details in early 2015 on the launch of the stakeholder process and how you can participate.