After Mayoral Scandal, What Next for Charlotte's Permitting Reform, Streetcar Project?

Former Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon resigned after taking bribes in exchange for zoning and parking privileges. Will the fallout affect the city's streetcar plans or its efforts to streamline permitting and code enforcement?
April 7, 2014, 12pm PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Following former Mayor Patrick Cannon's recent arrest and subsequent resignation for accepting bribes from an undercover federal agent in exchange for zoning and parking privileges, local stakeholders are concerned about two of the city’s most significant efforts regarding land use and infrastructure. First is a planned expansion of the $126 million Gold Line streetcar—developments along the proposed route of the streetcar were the subject of some of the promises made by Cannon during the federal investigation. The second is an ongoing effort to streamline the city’s permitting and code enforcement process.

Andrew Dunn reports on the implications of the scandal to the streetcar project. In fact, the corruption charges center on promises made regarding possible development along the line: “Deep in the 42-page affidavit outlining the federal government’s investigation of Patrick Cannon, the former mayor touts his ability to connect a supposed business partner with a “prominent Charlotte developer” with significant land holdings along the proposed streetcar line,” writes Dunn.

Although the affidavit doesn’t specifically identify the developer Cannon mentioned, Dunn spoke with a few of the developers with properties along the line, who are worried that the scandal might risk the transit project and the many potential development investments that would have followed.

In a separate article, Eric Frazier reports that in the wake of the scandal, City Manager Ron Carlee and Mecklenburg County Manager Dena Diorio have reassured the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce that they are going ahead with plans to “streamline local permitting and code enforcement.”

“After decades of complaints from developers, they intend to hire consultants to see whether the permitting currently split between the city and county can be made more efficient,” writes Frazier.

The city had announced its intentions to study reforming the development approval process before the scandal broke.

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Published on Saturday, April 5, 2014 in Charlotte Observer
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