Posts

Silver Line Light Rail Update and MoRA Area Stations

We seen a handful of updates recently about the long awaited Silver Line, a transportation project that would transform southeast Charlotte between Independence Boulevard and Monroe Road. LYNX completed a transit study of the Silver Line and the southeast corridor and they have made great progress with setting forth a vision of a huge transportation project.

What is the Silver Line?

The Silver Line is a short-term and long-term plan to improve transit options and accessibility between Uptown and Matthews. The short-term is a rapid transit bus plan with park and rides down the corridor, including near Conference Drive and Sardis Road North. This plan will help ease congestion until the long-term plan is viable.

What are the long-term plans?

The long-term plan is a light-rail system stretching from Uptown down to CPCC Levine just past 485. The rail will hug Independence Boulevard, then connect to Monroe Road off of Village Lake. The rail will push along behind the Woodberry Forest neighborhood, then between some apartments and condos. There are 13 planned stops, with the hope to connect to the existing blue line and a future rail line to the airport. Specifically in the MoRA area, we have four proposed stations: Sharon Amity and Independence Boulevard, Conference Boulevard and Independence Boulevard, Village Lake and Monroe Road, and Galleria Boulevard and Monroe Road.

While preliminary, the more specific of the plans include replacing the shopping center behind Meridian Place with a station, and putting a station in or around residential property on Village Lake, just off of Monroe Road.

What will this do to the area?

Silver Line Projected Path

We have seen the huge developmental impact the light-rail has had on South End and other parts of Charlotte, and would expect to see a similar result in southeast Charlotte. The rail system would connect residential and commercial, and plans have included 7 to 10 miles of adjacent pedestrian and cycling paths that would connect to the McAlpine Creek Greenway, additional parks, and additional planned trails. The expectation is the rail will remove access to side streets from Independence Boulevard, making the expressway feel more like a major highway. No more turning from Independence to Ashmore Drive. It should also limit traffic to existing exits, along with a revamped E W.T. Harris/Village Lake intersection and a bridge at Sharon Forest.

Rail stations would become locations for more and better development, such as mixed-use development, pedestrian-friendly shopping, and higher density residential space.

In summary, current plans to improve Independence Boulevard and a future light-rail system would dramatically improve transportation and accessibility in the corridor. It would allow for higher density development, and make the corridor more friendly to pedestrians. Residents would be less reliant on their vehicles to get around. It would become the biggest project for our area in the last 50 years.

What are the next steps?

As you may have heard, the Silver Line still needs funding. Federal funding isn’t available until projects are much further through the process, so this is no different or far behind other transportation initiatives. The hope is CATS can soon start an environmental impact study, which has been described as “lengthy.” They have begun working with rezoning to secure space for the rail system. According to prior coverage of the Silver Line, the project would cost at least $1 billion. There is still plenty of work to be done before anyone breaks ground on the rail system, but there appears to be a sizable push to get this project progressing. The light-rail is still listed as 15 to 20 years until implementation, but we are hopeful an emphasis on transportation speeds up this plan.

For more information, and to stay on top of the Silver Line, visit and bookmark the CATS page for the rail system: http://charlottenc.gov/cats/transit-planning/Pages/silver-line.aspx

MoRA needs YOUR help! VOLUNTEER with us on important community projects. Can’t volunteer? DONATE to help make our public art dream a reality. Even a $20 tax-deductible donation will help give the neighborhood a beautiful, defining sculpture that residents can be proud of.

Monroe-Idlewild Development: Why You Should Attend Wednesday’s Meeting

We learned a month ago that some exciting development is coming to the Monroe Road and Idlewild Road intersection. MoRA representatives met with the developers over a month ago, and have since met with the Charlotte Area Transit System and the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Department. There are a lot of moving parts and we have tried to get an idea on how it will shake out.

 

For any new development on Monroe Road, we generally ask the following questions:
• Is what is proposed an appropriate gateway statement for our area?
• Is it welcoming to access by bikes and pedestrians?
• Can it function as a community gathering spot?
• Does it offer mixed-use as guided by city plans?
• Will it be able to shift to accommodate the Silver Line along Independence as that is built?
• Is it complementary to nearby properties?
• Is this the highest and best use of the site?

We love the plan to bring another grocery store to our area. The Monroe-Idlewild intersection is severely underserved, especially when it comes to grocery stores. The current buildings have fallen into disrepair and are in desperate need of replacement. Plans for the Silver Line suggest possibly putting a light rail station within walking distance of this area, and new commercial property could turn our area into a destination than simply a pass-through. The prominent intersection has a lot of potential, but early plans appear very suburban. City planning suggests our area should have mixed-use, like what we see at Meridian Place and the proposed Oakhurst Square one mile away.

Wednesday’s community meeting (hosted by the petitioner/developer and mandated by the rezoning process) is the time to be sure new construction includes things that are important for you and for the neighborhood. Do you think the plans have enough green space and walkable areas? Might this be a community gathering place that will be enhanced by a potential light rail station? Are designs appealing and materials high quality? Will Monroe Road have creative building frontage – or a view of parking lots? Should there be a mix of commercial and residential?

Voice your thoughts 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday December 14 at the Independence Library, and ensure that new construction is in line with your vision of the area.

MoRA needs YOUR help! VOLUNTEER with us on important community projects. Can’t volunteer? DONATE to help make our public art dream a reality. Even a $20 tax-deductible donation will help give the neighborhood a beautiful, defining sculpture that residents can be proud of.

Reshaping MoRA’s Future – Weigh In!

DSC_0125WEIGH IN ON THE FUTURE OF MORA AT OUR SECOND ANNUAL GOVERNMENT OPEN HOUSE

Meet your reps at MoRA’s Second Annual Government Open House – Wednesday, October 12 from 5:30-6:30 at East Mecklenburg High School’s media center; immediately afterwards, from 6:30 – 7:30, learn about key projects that can reshape MoRA’s land use and transportation future.

Development and revitalization doesn’t happen overnight. It occurs months and years ahead of time. Take advantage of this rare opportunity to meet and discuss with countless members of the local government the changes and future of our cherished area. They will cover updates on construction, development, traffic, land use, and the future of the Monroe Road corridor.

Government Open House from 5:30 to 6:30

  • Construction update on Independence Boulevard
  • The latest on the Silver Line
  • MoRA items in November’s bond package
  • Learn about new McAlpine Greenway events
  • Meet your community’s police officers
  • Find out about new happenings at the Independence Regional Library
  • Updates from Charlotte’s Economic Development department
  • Charlotte’s lead paint abatement initiative
  • Hear the latest from the Public Information Office

Land use development changes from 6:30 to 7:00

Planning wants to update and modernize Charlotte’s zoning and development process to meet the changing needs of a rapidly growing city. More information is available on the Planning Department’s website. Changes may include:

  • New neighborhood requirements
  • Mix of commercial and residential areas
  • Sidewalk placements

Learning what is under consideration will give MoRA stakeholders an edge on harnessing any new code to bring desired area improvements.

Development of Monroe Road intersections from 7:00 to 7:30

The City’s Idlewild/Rama/Monroe Intersection (IRMI) project team will introduce this long-range project at MoRA’s Oct. 12 Workshop. The team will identify and plan for future improvements at these intersections, such as:

  • The future of this part of Monroe road
  • Improve mobility and accessibility at these intersections
  • Support the right types of private development at these sites
  • Learn how to mix pedestrian, bicyclist, public transit, and motorist traffic

Currently, the team is beginning the planning stage. That makes your input crucially important. Weigh in while changes can be considered. More information can be found on charlottefuture.com.

Visit the media center at East Mecklenburg High School between 5:30 and 6:30 on Oct. 12 to meet with representatives of over 14 state and local government agencies. Don’t miss this chance to be involved with the biggest future changes for southeast Charlotte.

 

Charlotte’s Zoning Rewrite – Explained!

The City of Charlotte is currently undertaking a multi-year rewrite of the city zoning ordinance. Perhaps the biggest change that is likely to come out of this undertaking is a shift in emphasis from land use to building form or appearance. While this simply sounds like semantics, the magnitude of this change cannot be understated.  It will have profound effects on how Charlotteans live, work, and play every day.

zoningThe current code reflects a land-use approach to zoning. Under a land-use ordinance, the law is primarily concerned with how individual plots of land are used. The three major land uses are residential (houses and apartment buildings), commercial (malls, shopping centers, business offices, etc.), and industrial (factories, plants, airports, etc.). Each city then comes up with a list of zoning districts that fall under each of these major types (Charlotte currently has 109 – which in case you were wondering, is a lot). Each zoning district will specify regulations for things like building size, setbacks (the distance between a building and the street or another building), and density (the number of buildings allowed on a single parcel), among other things.

Land-use zoning can be a little inflexible at times and typically works best when development projects fit neatly inside one of the existing zoning districts. This is especially true in Charlotte, where many of the zoning districts have either very vague or very strict requirements and there are not very well-defined rules that guide such transitions as those between areas with lots of apartments to areas filled with single-family neighborhoods.

form-based code image

The alternative is what is referred to as form-based zoning. Form-based zoning emphasizes the physical appearance (or form) of a building, rather than its actual use. So, as long as a building fits in with the general look and feel of the surrounding neighborhood, the zoning code would allow it to be used for anything from apartments to retail shopping. Naturally, this type of code allows for better transitions between different neighborhoods, as the emphasis is on creating a consistent look in each area. Form-based zoning also makes it much easier to design and implement mixed-use developments (developments that contain a mix of both residential and commercial activities). While a land-use-based code typically allows for mixed-use development, it is often a cumbersome process that involves exempting or overriding the existing development standards for an area in a process that is as unpredictable as it is time-consuming.

In addition to being faster and more efficient, a form-based code allows people living in a community greater predictability about what the development standards are for their neighborhood and how they will be applied. The code itself is more flexible, so there is less need to change the standards mid-stream. There is also less need for public hearings in the approval process, as the development standards for a given district are clearly spelled out in the code. This allows the development process to move more quickly while avoiding some of the acrimony that can result from a zoning hearing.

In all likelihood, the Charzoning form-based imagelotte Uniform Development Ordinance (UDO) will be a hybrid of form and land-use codes. While the details are still to be hammered out, a UDO that places greater emphasis on form should provide developers, the City, and neighborhoods greater predictability regarding future development while also ensuring that any new projects fit within the existing Area Plans that have been developed by local stakeholders.

– Marc Seelinger

MoRA needs YOUR help! VOLUNTEER with us on important community projects. Can’t volunteer? DONATE to help make our public art dream a reality. Even a $20 tax-deductible donation will help give the neighborhood a beautiful, defining sculpture that will make residents proud.