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Council Quickies: Committees Establish Plans for 2022

Meeting notes from Feb. 7, 2022

What happened: Charlotte City Council met for a strategy session on Monday night, with most of the five-hour meeting consisting of Council Committee 2022 Work Plans. This is when the chair of each committee (there are seven), updates council on what key areas their committee will be focusing on this year, followed by discussion. It was all very broad and generalized, and what we’ve included below is just a small smattering of things we found important or interesting.

What’s next: Council will meet next Monday, Feb. 14, for an action review and business meeting.

Charlotte City Council Committee 2022 Work Plans

Budget and Governance: The Budget and Governance committee intends to continue researching potentially extending city council terms to four years rather than two, and chair Ed Driggs recommended that council then punt the issue to the next council that will get elected later this year to make any final decisions. 

Victoria Watlington said she believes the current council should do it, and Malcolm Graham agreed. 

The committee’s research will also include looking at options on how to get council back to odd-year elections after recent delays have pushed the election into an even year.

Braxton Winston said he agreed with Watlington and Graham, stating that “time is of the essence” and if council can move on any of this stuff now, they should.

Mayor Pro Tem Julie Eiselt seemed to agree, pointing out that a few current council members (like herself) are not running for reelection, so they can look at the issue impartially, on top of the fact that they are more familiar with the issue.

The earliest any decision would take effect is 2023. Ed Driggs said, “The people who will be affected by it strike me as the more logical ones to make the decision.” He added that the current council is “in overtime,” so it’s only right to save this for the new council.

Regardless, council moved forward with the understanding that council will begin looking at options for new term lengths and making changes to the election schedule, with the potential that they may make a decision on that before the new council comes in.

Environment, Engagement & Equity: During the Environment, Engagement & Equity presentation, the issue of an increase in litter came up multiple times. Mayor Vi Lyles said there’s been an alarming rise in people just throwing big bags of fast food and other trash out the window as they drive down the road.

Renee Johnson says it’s been a large problem in her District 4 (University area and north/northeast Charlotte) and there’s new signage going up to discourage it. Greg Phipps says he’d like to see a war on litter. He said that, as a Municipal Service District, Center City gets daily trash pick-ups, so University City should get the same treatment.

Mayor Lyles said most areas used to benefit from groups that would organize all sorts of voluntary stream/street/neighborhood clean-ups but those have all but disappeared in the pandemic.

Intergovernmental Relations: The Intergovernmental Relations committee this year will begin digging into possibilities around consolidating the governmental duties of the city of Charlotte with this of Mecklenburg County. Malcolm Graham said that he helped spearhead a similar effort in 1995 and had some insight. 

“I just wanna make sure if we go down this road we have a very good GPS,” Graham said, adding that it was all in the details and public perception, and if the team makes a mistake in either of those areas, the entire thing could fall apart. 

There are certain areas that both the county and city currently work in (affordable housing, economic development) that can serve as “low-hanging fruit” in terms of starting points on a long road to full consolidation in the future, pointed out IRC co-chair Tariq Bokhari. 

Transportation and Planning: Greg Phipps asked city manager Marcus Jones if the “less than flattering” performance metrics of the Gold Line since it launched Phase 2 will endanger the launch of Phase 3, to which Jones said the city is now “refreshing” plans for Phase 3 and contemplating its feasibility.

Recommendations for City-Owned Land for Affordable Housing

There were six city-owned parcels that city council approved for a request-for-proposal process to host affordable housing developments last summer: Newland Road, Providence Road West, South Boulevard, University Boulevard, Wendover Road, Archdale Drive. The RFP period has now ended

The city received no proposals for the Archdale Drive property, and staff is still looking over two proposals for the Wendover Road property. Shawn Heath with the city manager’s office presented recommended proposals for the other four properties on Monday. 

These are preliminary numbers from site plans that will likely change as plans move forward: 

Newland Road: 12 townhomes for sale, built by Habitat for Humanity. Providence Road: 98 rental units in a multi-family complex (apartments), built by Crosland Southeast. University City Boulevard: 76 rental units in a multi-family complex, built by DreamKey Partners/Conifer Realty. South Boulevard: 120 rental units in a multi-family complex, built by NRP Group. That’s 294 rental units and 12 homes for sale, in case you didn’t throw on your calculator app.

Sites that may be included in the next RFP process for city-owned lots to be made into affordable housing units include England Street in the Montclaire South area, Eureka Street in Double Oaks, and Statesville Road. 

No real commitments will be made to even allow developers to begin on these developments until spring.

City Council COVID-19 Federal Stimulus Update

Not a lot of new information was presented during Monday night’s update on federal stimulus spending, though Heath did give some details about a potential development that could be a game changer in the Thomasboro-Hopkins neighborhood. 

A Local Foods Production and Distribution Center (that’s the real working title right now) is proposed for Hoskins Road in northwest Charlotte. The LFPDC would buy and sell local food, including produce, livestock and dairy. 

The facility would cost $14 million ($1.5 million in stimulus spending from the city) and would be run by local nonprofit Carolina Farm Trust. The cost includes the first three years of operation, but it would become self-sustaining in the long-term. 

The location is the site of an old food production and distribution facility, with 25,000 square feet of existing building space and 60,000 square feet of open space. The development would keep with CFT’s mission to fight food instability, by making food affordable and accessible to underserved communities.

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