Full interview with REBIC chairman Alan Banks

Builders and developers would like the city to slow down the 2040 plan to get it done right and to understand its full effects, an industry leader says.

The Charlotte Ledger’s Tony Mecia last week interviewed the chairman of Charlotte’s Real Estate & Building Industry Coalition (REBIC), Alan Banks, about the city’s proposed 2040 Comprehensive Plan. Banks is also the founder and president of Evans Coghill Homes, a Charlotte homebuilder.

This interview was part of extended coverage of the 2040 plan in the March 8, 2021, edition of The Charlotte Ledger e-newsletter. [More info / sign up for The Ledger here]

Remarks were edited for brevity and clarity:

Q. What is your take on the on the 2040 plan?

REBIC is very much in support of the concept of the plan itself. A plan like this is essential because we’re building the Charlotte that our children are going to be living in, so we need to get it right. And we want to be at the table as this plan is being created.

Q. Hasn’t this been in process for years with plenty of chances for input from developers and other people?

Not so much. The current 2040 plan was released October 31 of 2020. Until that point, we didn’t have anything to actually review. Since that point, we have spent a great deal of time studying the 320 pages of it to understand what’s exactly in that plan.

Q. What are your main objections? Is it a process issue or is it a substantive issue?

I think we’ve got probably both issues here. A plan of this nature absolutely needs economic analysis as a companion piece to it because we’re making really big decisions. Yet we don’t know the economic effects on developers, Realtors, citizens, neighborhoods, builders.

We need the economic analysis. That’s been asked for previously, but to date we haven’t seen anything, and I’m not sure it actually exists. We continue to remain concerned about the urgency that this plan seems to have taken, when in reality, we now know that we don’t have to have a Unified Development Ordinance enacted by July 1 of this year. So we have plenty of time to actually slow this thing down and get it right.

Q. Wouldn’t the city say, “Well, this is an aspirational plan. These are just goals. This 2040 plan doesn’t really have any teeth to it. It’s just laying out the community that we would like to have over the next 20 years.”

That’s exactly what the plan should be — an aspirational plan. But it needs to have a practical element to it. And it needs to be something that could be paid for within the framework that we have now, which means we shouldn’t have illegal provisions for payment of the plan baked into the plan itself. That’s not a good planning strategy to do that.

Q. You’re talking about things like inclusionary zoning [requiring affordable housing in new developments]?

The inclusion in the plan of revenue streams like inclusionary zoning or impact fees is not a good idea, because those streams do not exist at this time. In addition, Charlotte is pursuing a transit mobility tax. Through the good work of our mayor, Mayor Lyles, she’s done a great deal of effort to repair our relationship with the General Assembly so that perhaps we can have a transit mobility tax.

Is now really the time to be putting in print that we want an impact fee and we want inclusionary zoning? Because both of those are things we’re going to have to go to the General Assembly for. Let’s not undo the good work that the mayor’s doing by putting that in print at this point.

Q. If this plan in its current form were to be approved, what would development look like in Charlotte over the next decade or two?

That’s a really challenging answer, because I’m afraid that much of the development that we enjoy, we might not be able to have happen the same way, because we’re going to be removing some of the market forces from the equation. And we’re going to be layering in governmental regulations, which could very well make that next project not work for a developer. At its worst, development slows down or even stops in certain areas and goes somewhere else.

We need the development to continue, because that’s part of the reason why people are moving here and businesses are moving here. And that’s part of our economic vitality. If we’re not growing, then we’re beginning to die. We don't want that to happen. We want to remain economically viable because we are short on housing at this point.

Q. One of the issues that's really emerged in the last week or two is this issue of duplexes and triplexes in single-family neighborhoods. What’s your opinion on that? Is that a good idea?

We support any effort that would positively impact housing affordability. Greater density oftentimes can do that. But we’re really not in that debate. That’s a neighborhood debate.

Q. So your issues are a little bit different?

That’s probably accurate. That’s going to impact a neighborhood more than it impacts large developments.

Q. A lot of times, people have a negative conception of developers and builders. I'm sure that's no surprise to you. Sometimes people think they're just in it for profit, and they don't really care what happens with neighborhoods. What would you say to people who have that conception of builders and developers?

That’s an unfortunate perception that has grown, when in fact, if we look at some of the projects that have happened around Charlotte that make Charlotte a great place to live — large projects like Ballantyne or SouthPark, or even smaller projects, like a project in South End — these are all developer projects built for profit that the public is now able to take advantage of.

We absolutely need this to keep happening.

Q. What is your message on this plan and planning that is going on?

We appreciate the efforts that are being made by city staff to create a plan and create a vision as to where we need to be going in Charlotte. This is essential. This needs to be done.

We believe there is much more input that needs to be included in the plan. We want to be part of that, and we want to see this plan become reality. We just want to make sure it’s something that will benefit Charlotte for years to come.

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Executive editorTony MeciaManaging editorCristina BollingContributing editor: Tim Whitmire, CXN AdvisoryReporting intern: David Griffith