Development Reaches Critical Crossroad

Written by Tom Low What makes a good city? How well is Charlotte handling today’s challenges of growth? Every month for the last 10 years at Levine Museum of the New South, the Civic By Design Forum gathers citizens, planners, architects and interested folks to talk. It’s free and open to the public — a place in this fast-growing metropolis where cross-discipline community conversations regularly take place. Our 10th anniversary is an appropriate time to look back — and ahead. Here are some opportunities for making Charlotte better: Our center city has its swagger back. In two to three years, we will have a substantially new city core — one we all hope we can enjoy and be proud to showcase as equal to or better than competing cities. But too much of the street level is being built with blank “decorative” walls devoid of human activity. And too many buildings are excessively large with monotonous egg-crate-on-end facades that obscure daylight. Other popular cities don’t tolerate blandness and zombie streetscapes. We need better civic design for our public realm if we expect to have a competitive, beautiful city with an active urban street life in the near future. The University Area is booming, and this time leaders hope to get out in front of the development by using time-tested urban design rules for increasing the area’s A+ urbanism. Block structure is not something you hear about a lot in Charlotte’s development community, but it’s one of the most important rules for great urbanism and successful retail. We need better walkable site design to retrofit passé suburban apartment complexes, office...

ASU Students Gather to Learn About the Planning Profession

Written by Nicholas Stover, APA-NC Education Outreach Student Subcommittee Appalachian State University Representative On March 19th, 2015 the APA-NC Education and Outreach Committee organized a gathering of students at Appalachian State University (ASU) to meet with planning officials to learn about what planners do in the professional environment. As the ASU student representative on the APA-NC Education and Outreach Committee Subcommittee, I served as one of the primary coordinators of the effort. What the process entailed was my working with professors and planning officials to bring together a question and answer session that would shed some light into the inner workings of the planning field from a professional perspective. More specifically, my role was to act as a student liaison between those in the professional world and those in the academic world. I worked with several people in the process to bring the forum to fruition. Dr. Rich Crepeau served as a faculty liaison in the process, and was instrumental in bringing aboard planning officials from around the area, while my work focused on developing a flyer and getting the message out about the event. We had a turnout of around 23-25 students as well as a total of 7 planning officials: Bill Bailey – Planning Director for the town of Boone Joe Furman – Planning director for Watauga County Adam Stumb – Planning Director of Ashe County David Graham and Phil Trew both of the High Country Council of Governments APA NC Education and Outreach Committee Chair, Cynthia Jenkins from the City of Durham, and Vice Chair Ashley Clark from the University of North Carolina in Charlotte Urban Institute As...

Education and Outreach Committee Hosts Resume Mentoring Event

The APA-NC Education and Outreach Committee was excited to host a resume mentoring event at UNC Chapel Hill’s Department of City and Regional Planning (DCRP) on January 23, 2015. Area planners held one-on-one resume review sessions with students and provided valuable feedback on resumes and general job search advice. The event was held as part of the Education and Outreach Committee’s efforts to connect local planners with students around career development. The resume event was held with the assistance of Nathan Page, a graduate student at DCRP who is the APA-NC Student Representative and also on the Education and Outreach Committee’s Student Sub-Committee. In 2014, the Education and Outreach Committee created the student sub-committee, which is comprised of student representatives from planning programs at North Carolina colleges and universities. The student representatives serve as liaisons to their universities and work with APA-NC to help schedule events with local planners that best fit the needs of the students at each school. Special thanks to our resume reviewers for volunteering their time: Oliver Bass, Chief Planner, NC Department of Commerce Libby Hodges, Planning Director, Alamance County Alysia Bailey-Taylor, Planning Supervisor, City of Durham Pete Sullivan, Senior Associate, Clarion Associates Aspen Price, Community Planner II, NCDOT Geoff Green, Transit Planner, Triangle Transit Additional thanks to DCRP Staff Udo Reisinger and Jennifer Butler for their assistance. The Education and Outreach Committee’s next event will be held at UNC Charlotte on February 24, 2015. A panel of planners from the Charlotte area will discuss their experiences in the planning profession. Photo credit: Udo...

A Year in Review – Charlotte’s Events Tell the Story

Written by Tom Low, AIA AICP CNU LEED NCARB This past year brought us continued interest in walkability with a talk by urban designer Julie Campoli featuring her book Made for Walking as well as the 3rd annual Janes Walk recap sponsored by UNCC’s Urban Institute. We discussed how Good Bones — human-scale buildings and ready-made networks of small blocks and connected streets — make walking easy. We discovered there are growing concerns with the proliferation of Snout Houses infesting our older walkable neighborhoods and a lack of ways to protect them. Citizen activists Ken Steiner and Nancy Pierce are rallying awareness about the consequences of too much outdoor lighting with a forum on Illuminating Glare. Victor Dover inspired us with the Street Secrets for creating great streets. Exciting to hear from Ken Szymanski, the Chairman of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Coalition for Housing about how Charlotte is taking bold and necessary actions towards Housing Homeless. We collaborated with Darlene Heater, Executive Director for University City Partners to determine the top 10 time-tested urban design rules for increasing the University City area’s A+ Urbanism. We produced this with forum participants by tapping into the expertise of Nico Larco’s design rules ideas from his book Site Design for Multi-Family Housing and Rob Steuteville’s, 5 steps for complete communities, and how to build better suburbs. But we found out we are not A students per our grades on the Sustainability Scorecard of our Environmental, Economic, and Social Health by Sustain Charlottte as presented by Shannon Binns, Executive Director. We discussed the importance of creating good bones to the urban fabric and once the good bones are...

Planners Discuss the Key To Attracting Millenials

What can communities do to help businesses attract the talent they need to succeed in a global economy? That’s the question that a group of planners sat down to discuss in Asheville, NC last week. The program at the Land of Sky Council of Governments was sparked by a 2014 poll conducted by Harris Interactive for APA of Millennials (ages 21 – 34), Gen Xers (ages 35 – 49), and Active Boomers (50 – 65) in North Carolina to find out their economic perceptions and community preferences. The survey found that nearly 70% of North Carolina millennials believe they are likely to move to another part of the state within the next five years. What would it take for them to either stay, or choose a particular city to live? According to the survey, safe streets, clean air and water, high-speed Internet, and infrastructure that supports a healthy lifestyle were all key factors in the decision. Interestingly, Active Boomers and Gen Xers also valued these community attributes. In Asheville, the issue of the “walkability” was one that came up repeatedly. A major component for many people’s choice on where to live, the ability to walk to restaurants and towns can be a benefit to be advertised, or a challenge that must be overcome. While some work has been done in the mountain region to increase accessibility, a lack of sidewalks continues to be a common complaint. To learn more about the discussion, check out the article on Asheville...

Assembly Line – APA’s Legislative Summary

Written by Chad Meadows, AICP Legislative Committee Chairman 2014 was another difficult year for planning at the General Assembly. This year’s short session, like the long session in 2013, was fraught with rapid fire legislative proposals, complex catch-all omnibus bills, tax reforms that spell the end to several revenue sources, and a budget that cost several state planners their jobs. The following list summarizes key planning-related legislation that passed the General Assembly in 2014. This post also includes some details on the legislation that didn’t pass (but may be back in 2015) Bill #: Title/Description Summary S865 – Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction ETJ authority removed from Boone (and Weaverville). H1050 – Privilege Licenses Local governments can levy privilege license taxes for the rest of FY 2014 (and the amount may not exceed the amount charged in 2013). After FY 2014 ends, privilege license taxes will no longer be authorized. S734 – Vested Rights (Choice Provision) In cases where an applicant submits an application and the regulation changes after submittal but before a decision is made, a local government must allow the applicant to choose which rules they wish to follow. Does not apply to “zoning” permits, but does apply to subdivision rules and any development regulations housed outside the zoning code. S786 – Environmental Omnibus (Fracking) Allows the state Energy Commission to override local development regulations if the Commission finds the local regulations prohibit or have the effect of prohibiting oil and gas exploration/production. S402 (Budget) – Historic Preservation Tax Credits/Film Industry Incentives Current historic preservation tax credits (20% tax credit match from NC) & film industry incentives (25% refund) will sunset at the end of 2014....
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