Tucked between Anderson and Sugar Creek is the area of NoDa near the Sugar Creek station, and it is on the cusp of a rezoning boom. It’s currently not the most inviting place, as it houses NoDa’s industrial past, but there is a hidden gem. Dedicated to the city in 1923, though the city never accepted that dedication, for 98 years an urban forest and protected wetland has grown in the almost-acre stretch between Anderson, Essex, and Sweetbriar, offering shelter to roosting owls, hawks, fireflies, and more.
Soon, if not already, it will fall victim to bulldozers and city planners. Luckily, the wetland is protected, but at least a hundred mature trees leading up to the wetland are slated to fall in spite of the best efforts of nearby residents and Charlotte’s stated goal of preserving tree canopy. It may be too late to save this stretch of urban forest, but there is still much that can be done to influence how this area of NoDa develops in the future.
Rezoning meetings are the best opportunity for residents to have a say in what is developed. While Ken Olson attended the meeting related to rezoning petition 2020-022 and expressed concerns about how the forest might be impacted, it was a TOD rezoning so did not have a required preliminary site plan. The forest is not part of the rezoned area, and without a site plan there was no tangible way to discuss the future impacts on the forest and Essex Street with the City Council. If a rezoning is advertised and there is any concern, contact the City Council to request a preliminary site plan before rezoning approval and attend the rezoning meeting to voice any concerns. This link is a great resource: charlottenc.gov/planning/Rezoning/Pages/Home.aspx
Other great ways to be proactively involved are to reach out to the NoDa Neighborhood Association (NBA) for advice and support, preferably before the rezoning meeting. If a rezoning is approved, contact the City of Charlotte Planning, Design, and Development Office as soon as possible (PDDinfo@charlottenc.gov) and ask for help setting up meetings with the city planners involved in approving the new development.
More broadly, the final adoption meeting for the Charlotte 2040 Comprehensive Plan, a guide for how the city will grow and expand, is scheduled for June 21. The revised draft was just released and is available at cltfuture2040.com. You can also provide your feedback on the revisions until June 3. Currently included in the plan, but opposed by developer special interest groups, is a directive to explore the use of Community Benefits Agreements (CBAs). CBAs create an enforceable agreement between developers and residents, allowing residents to influence how their area develops and grows. Now is the last opportunity to contact the City Council and give your feedback on the revised draft and show support for CBAs before the 2040 Plan is finalized.
A product of the 2040 Plan is a new Charlotte Unified Development Ordinance (UDO), which should be available for public review four to six weeks after adoption of the 2040 Plan. Eric Zaverl, an NBA board member, is serving on the Unified Development Ordinance Advisory Council. While the 2040 Plan is like a wish list, the UDO is the enforceable regulation that creates a more cohesive zoning process for future development. The UDO could be one way of implementing CBAs here in Charlotte. To learn more about the UDO, contact Eric at firstname.lastname@example.org or, better yet, attend an upcoming NBA meeting and ask questions.
Construction is coming for us all, and the time to act is now.