Charlotte wants to change triplex rules nearly a year after UDO implemented

Charlotte city planners are making a request for construction workers to build new triplexes on corner lots only — a backtrack from previous development rules for neighborhoods.

The proposal was presented during recent Charlotte City Council meetings, which included concerns about issues such as housing density and traffic.

It would change plans set in the city’s Future 2040 Plan and Unified Development Ordinance which currently allows that duplexes and triplexes may be built anywhere in places previously restricted for single-family homes.

Triplexes would only be allowed in zoning districts where development for residential dwellings is limited to lots 3,000 square feet or greater and along arterial road routes.

The city UDO has a “blanket approach” for allowable uses with no difference between the district, city spokesman Lawrence Corley III said.

This proposal would reduce triplexes in lower intensity zoning districts and increase the type of units allowed in the higher intensity districts to include townhomes — currently not allowed. Stacked quads — buildings with four dwelling units — would also be allowed.

“Increasing the allowance for townhomes and stacked quads provide an opportunity for home ownership and greater affordability that does not exist in the ordinance today,” Corley told The Charlotte Observer.

Councilwoman Marjorie Molina said in a statement officials must consider the city’s need for more diverse and affordable housing options.

Triplexes provide a “missing middle” housing type that can increase density in a way that blends into traditional single-family neighborhoods, she said, adding the city needs a balanced approach while having standards for designs to fit communities.

“These are complex issues, but I remain committed to putting Charlotte families first and making sure we grow in a sustainable, equitable way that provides high-quality housing choices for all,” Molina said. “I welcome continued public dialogue on this important matter.”

Some affordable housing advocates, such as DreamKey Partners, agree this change would be beneficial and could bolster efforts to create more housing.

When Will the Changes Be Made?

City council members are scheduled to vote on the changes in July. If it’s approved, the changes will start immediately mid-summer.

“We believe the topic will continue to be controversial due to segments of the community being very supportive of the concept while other segments of the community oppose it,” Corley said.

“There is not a unified voice in the community and some express there is still a lack of awareness and education with regards to the UDO. The goal remains to balance the incredible need for housing while maintaining the character of our existing communities.”

What’s the Reason for the Proposed Change?

Charlotte’s 2040 Plan, approved in 2022, was developed as a long-range guide for developments and investments in the city for the next two decades. Increasing the diversity of housing options and providing opportunities for affordable housing are some of the goals listed.

Implemented in 2023, the rules allow single-family detached homes, duplexes and triplexes in residential zoning districts. After the UDO went into effect, city officials worked to make sure it connected with a comprehensive plan to avoid unintended problems, Corley said.

Instead of a one-size-fits all approach, city officials strive to have unique zoning districts that would allow development of residential dwellings on lots of 3,000 square feet to 10,000 square feet or more.

City officials would like to reallocate units across all six district types, Corley said.

“In some districts, this change would be allowing additional density and in other districts, the change would be lowering allowable density,” Corley said.

The City Council recommended these changes after months of internal analysis and testing. Staff took a look at communities across the city and market conditions with the help of consultants.

Triplexes in Charlotte

Historically, triplexes are somewhat new to Charlotte and the Southeast and have not been built throughout the community, Corley said. It comes from New England with three units stacked on one another with units of three, nine or 12.

Allowing triplexes on corner lots and arterial roads will give developers permission to build at those spots and at arterial roads in new and existing neighborhoods. The remaining parts of the street can be populated with single-family homes and duplexes.

“There are challenges with triplexes related to parking, driveway cuts for each unit and ensuring we save room for trees,” Corley said. “Allowing triplexes on corner lots would provide access off of two streets instead of one helping to address these challenges.”

Will it Clash with Affordable Housing Projects?

With more than 100 moving to Charlotte everyday, it’s continuing to be one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S. Many people can’t keep up with the cost to rent or buy a place to live, according to demographics from housing officials.

DreamKey Partners’ president Julie Porter serves on the UDO advisory committee and is not concerned about possible triplex changes when it comes to affordable housing.

“We want to see quality neighborhoods that are aesthetically pleasing, as well as have some density that will support affordable housing,” she said.

The planning department has worked with affordable housing partners, Porter said

“Almost all of us have weighed-in on whether this will affect us or not,” Porter said. “In general, I would say the planning department is trying to get as much density as possible, but not to the detriment of the overall look of the neighborhood.”

Porter added that officials are more concerned about subdivisions being built around a highly dense triplex plan with developers trying to take advantage of rules and creating something that’s not attractive.

“It’s acknowledging that if somebody is putting a triplex on a smaller lot, that it’s basically going to be all driveway and front,” she said.

How will Developments Underway be Impacted?

Depending on the phase of the developments, the change could impact each development plan in different ways.

If a completed plan is submitted for permitting before the amendment has gone into effect, no change would be required, Corley said, according to state law.

Final plans submitted after the amendment will be required to comply with the changes.

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