This article was originally published in the Historic West End Newsletter with the title: “Looking Beyond the Signs: Zoning signs are only one part of influencing neighborhood development”
In a previous newsletter, we shared an overview of how community members can influence development throughout the zoning process. In the write-up Events, Signs, & Meetings we touched on the importance of keeping your eyes peeled for yellow rezoning signs in your neighborhood. We also highlighted the benefits of attending zoning meetings. Now it is time to dive deeper into the power of community member voices throughout the rezoning process.
1. Zoning Impacts Neighborhood Development
Before a developer can build anything in a neighborhood, the permitting process has to happen. The building permit and zoning permit are important steps in the building process.
The Charlottenc.gov Zoning Permit webpage states, “Zoning districts are created to attract certain types of development such as single-family and multifamily homes, offices, neighborhood business, industry and institutions like schools and hospitals.” An area zoned as a single-family residential district has a different set of regulations to abide by than a multi-family district (e.g. apartments, condominiums, etc.) or business district. How an area of land is zoned determines how that land will be developed.
When a developer is seeking to bring new building projects to an area, they must first consider the Zoning Code. If the project they are planning does not fit the current Zoning Code, they must petition the City to change rezone that lot of land before construction can begin. This is the point when the yellow Z signs go up and the community has the chance to influence the outcome of the project, or prevent the project from coming to the area.
Give the phone number on the yellow petition sign a call and find out: 1) what type of project is coming to the neighborhood, 2) when the developer is hosting a community meeting, and 3) when their public hearing with the City Council and Zoning Committee is scheduled.
2. Prepare for Your Role at the Meeting and Hearing
Once a community member has made the decision to attend a zoning meeting, they must prepare to make their voice heard or support the voices that need to be heard. With the community meetings and public hearings, one must first think about the voices of the community members that live in close proximity to the proposed development site. These are the individuals who definitely need to attend and share their perspective at the meetings. Historic West End Partners President J’Tanya Adams suggest that these individuals come ready to converse with the developer. She also suggest that individuals that care deeply about the area, but do not live in the neighborhood where the project will take place, work to empower the voices of those that do.
3. Speak Up at Community Meetings to Impact Zoning
When a developer is going through the rezoning process, their applications most often require that they host a Petitioner’s Community Meeting for nearby neighbors in the proposed project area. At this meeting the developer will share the project concept and converse about it with those in attendance.
Adams said the primary goal of a community meeting is to find ways to make sure the values of the community and the project closely align. She said that these meetings are the time to ask questions about the plans for the property, it is a time to communicate what residents need the project to do for the community, it is a time to make asks of the developer. The meeting is a way to reach a point of understanding between the developer and the community.
If community members support or oppose the project it will be captured in detail within the meeting minutes. Those meeting minutes must be submitted with the rezoning application to the Office of the City Clerk and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission. The voices of the community members from the Petitioner’s Community Meeting become a part of the paperwork for rezoning evaluation process.
4. Influence Zoning Decisions at Public Hearings
Before the City makes a final decision about granting or rejecting rezoning petitions for a project, a public hearing must be held. The developer must attend a public hearing to present the project to the City Council and the Planning Commission’s Zoning Committee. At the public hearing, those community members that support and oppose the project will also have the floor. What community members have to say about the impending project will go on record. This is a chance for community members to influence the zoning decision by speaking directly to their elected officials on the City Council face-to-face. This is a chance for the community to publicly share their stance and perspective about a development project that will impact their neighborhood before the rezoning and building can begin.
When you see a yellow rezoning sign go up in your neighborhood, or you hear an announcement about an upcoming community meeting, do not ignore it. This is your chance to use your voice to influence how your neighborhood will be developed.
For more information, head to the City of Charlotte Land Development website.
Originally published in the Historic West End Newsletter