8.0 Key Issues
A number of key issues define the challenge for Huntersville as the town looks to promote commercial development that reflects the integration of land use and transportation planning.
The extent to which the Town is successful in addressing these key issues will define the form and function of commercial development over the next 20 years.
Continued promotion of a “mixed-use” land development pattern. 74% of residents surveyed either agreed, or strongly agreed with the statement that the Town should “Encourage mixed-use centers (i.e. residential, commercial and employment) over ‘strip’ commercial areas.” Since adoption of the Town’s new Zoning and Subdivision Ordinances in 1996, Huntersville has been largely successful in avoiding strip commercial development within its borders. Continued adherence to the principles in these ordinances will enable the Town to continue this practice and build upon the successes already achieved (see Figure CD-5).
Aerial photo of Birkdale Village illustrating mixed uses, buildings addressing the street, and open space:
Focusing future development within mixed-use “nodes.” In the long-range land use and transportation plans adopted since 2004, the Town has embraced a “node-centric” mixed-use development pattern. Generally, this pattern of development calls for higher-intensity development at the center (or core) of the node, with decreasing intensity at its outer boundaries. A good example of this node pattern of development is found in the Beatties Ford Road Corridor Small Area Plan, where the plan calls for three mixed-use nodes: southern, central and northern (Map CD-2).
Node-Centric Pattern of Development
Adherence to this node-centric pattern of development will be essential in reinforcing the mixed-use development pattern desired by Huntersville residents, and called for by the Town’s land development regulations. Rezoning of future nodes. Consistent with the land development pattern outlined above, it is essential that future nodes should not be rezoned for mixed-use purposes unless:
- A small area plan is prepared first allowing ample public input.
- Development is truly of a mixed-use nature with commercial, residential, office and perhaps civic uses and not solely for commercial development.
- The node is small in size with commercial serving local needs. Commercial floor area should generally not exceed 40,000 square feet as there are numerous areas in close proximity to serve more regional shopping needs (i.e. 70,000 square feet plus shopping areas).
- Rezoning should not occur until the infrastructure is available to support the mixed use. It is not intended for rezoning to be speculative, but instead occur to serve an existing need.
Reconcile “local” and “regional” functions of road corridors containing commercial development. Virtually every major road corridor within Huntersville is state maintained (Map CD-3). Roads such as NC 73, NC 115, U.S. 21 and Gilead Road serve a regional transportation function and are also the location for much of the Town’s commercial development. The continuing challenge for managing each of these roads is how best to reconcile the regional function of these roads to move traffic, with the role of accommodating local transportation needs, particularly related to commercial activity.
Ongoing cooperation between the Town, State and Federal government will be required to ensure that both of these legitimate roles are addressed. Further, appropriate road design techniques, such as strategically placed vehicular access and interconnecting streets with surrounding properties, are essential in order to maximize the efficiency of existing road systems, where funding for future improvements is limited.
Map CD-2 - Mixed-Use Nodes
Identifying adequate sources for long-term maintenance and capital costs. The absence of direct control over the vast majority of existing and planned State roads within Huntersville represents a challenge to meet and manage local transportation demands. The projected growth of Huntersville by 32,000 residents between 2010 and 2030 will only exacerbate the need for local transportation improvement funding for both maintenance of existing transportation facilities and the construction of new ones. The absence of adequate funding sources for these improvements will require innovative approaches to ensure that corridors are adequate to meet traffic demand.
Traffic Impact Analysis Ordinance (TIAO)
The Town’s Traffic Impact Analysis Ordinance (TIAO), which requires the mitigation of development related traffic impacts, offers one alternative for funding, but is not likely to fully address the need for funding existing or planned future roads. Other examples of innovative funding strategies are joint public/private partnerships for the widening of NC 73 from US 21 to NC 115 and between Huntersville, Mecklenburg County and private developers for road and rail improvements associated with the Bryton development located at the intersection of NC 115 and Alexanderana Road.
- Town (Black)
- State (Red) Maintained Roads
Complete Streets. In June of 2009, the NCDOT Board of Transportation adopted a policy which embraces “Complete Streets” as the model for state roads. Complete streets are streets which adequately address the needs of all modes of transportation including autos, bicycles, pedestrians and mass transit and which reinforce the desired land development pattern along them. While many of the principles represented by the Complete Streets concept are reflected in the Town’s land development codes, continued adherence to this policy will be essential during the next 20 years.
At their most basic level, roads serving commercial development must be designed to accommodate multi-modal transportation needs (see Figure CD-6). However, this basic function needs to be balanced against the need to build roads designed in a manner which reflects the community’s character and reinforce the desired land use pattern. Landscaping, lighting and signage are all important elements of a successful commercial development. Beyond simply aesthetic benefits, the sum total of these features can have a beneficial effect on traffic safety, as well as “place-making.”
The Town’s efforts in this regard since 1995 are notable and should serve as the model for future commercial development.
Office buildings in proximity to restaurants and shopping with pedestrian access provided over a creek/greenway: