Land near University light rail stop suited for walkers and bikers in danger of becoming car dealership complex
Posted on 13 Sep 2013 by Justin Ruckman
Martin Zimmerman at Plan Charlotte sheds light on a possible land-use f#$% up. If the City Council approves rezoning petition 2013-052 on Monday, a centrally-located and walk/bike-friendly region of land near the University City Boulevard station will be paved over for a big box auto mall, thus mitigating a key payoff of building the light rail in the first place: getting people out of cars.
A University City-area rezoning petition quietly winding toward a public hearing Monday raises serious questions about whether the city can stand behind its plans for transit-friendly development along the proposed Blue Line Extension light rail line.
The case also highlights this fact: Today, almost all the properties in the station areas north of the NoDa neighborhood are zoned for uses and development patterns not in keeping with what should be near a light rail stop.
Will rezoning petition 2013-052 become just another example of a development request that trumps the public good in this developer-friendly city? Charlotte is a place where good intentions can topple like dominos when the prospect of higher property tax returns or fancy developer renderings tempt the Charlotte City Council.
The site is 39 undeveloped acres within a comfortable half-mile walking distance from the planned University City Boulevard station. The site is zoned for multifamily housing, a transit-friendly use.
The agent, George Maloomian of Cambridge Properties, represents the Arden Group, a Winston-Salem real estate company. The developers want zoning to allow them to build an auto mall – a grouping of several car dealerships.
The problem is not necessarily the concept of an auto mall, but its location. An auto mall is the opposite of the sort of development that can best support light rail. Development near transit stops should encourage people to walk or bicycle; one of the whole points of transit is to get people out of their cars more often. A neighborhood that’s easy to walk in has a lot of housing, stores and workplaces nestled close together, preferably within a half-mile of the station. Big surface parking lots and far-apart buildings work against those aims. (…)
Much is at stake for the city. A $1.2 billion public infrastructure project, a decade of station area planning, and the future potential for true, transit-supportive development are all at issue. The council should take time to be deliberate. And it should consider asking planners to initiate rezonings to phase out, over coming decades, auto-dependent uses around BLE station areas.
It certainly should not vote to approve new ones. We should not let an ill-conceived development proposal derail Charlotte’s future.
Nobody’s saying we shouldn’t build auto dealerships, we just shouldn’t build them in the middle of one of the few areas in the city that stands a chance for walk and bike-friendly development. It’s a simple matter of patience, and building for the future. For a city with any kind of aspiration, this should be a no-brainer.