Planning Philosophy Fundamentals

In November, 1996 the Town of Huntersville discarded its old zoning ordinance and replaced it with a new ordinance modeled upon the principles of traditional town planning. The following sections will give you an overview of the ordinance, Huntersville's regional context, and the factors which will shape the Town's growth into the next century.

BUILDING COMMUNITY

The Town’s decision-makers view each new development proposal in a larger context rather than as a stand-alone, isolated "pod" that bears no relationship to its neighbors.

Each new park, house, school, store, and road-in its small way-incrementally--helps to build our community. This perspective requires the Town's decision-makers to view each new development proposal in a larger context rather than as a stand-alone, isolated "pod" that bears no relationship to its neighbors.

The suburban sprawl model will not be the guiding principle of Huntersville's growth. While this model does provide some short-term advantages, it produces many more long-term inefficiencies related to infrastructure maintenance, environmental degradation, and loss of community character. Huntersville's adoption of traditional town planning principles is therefore grounded in economics as well as aesthetics.

GUIDING GROWTH

Growth---a great deal of it---is coming to Huntersville as landowners continue to sell properties to developers in this vibrant market. Therefore, the Town must be proactive in its approach to guiding this development in a sustainable and efficient manner. The Town's sphere of influence covers 64 square miles; some estimates place Huntersville's ultimate population well over 100,000.

The following are some of the philosophies that will guide the growth of Huntersville into the next century and which are embodied in our existing zoning and subdivision regulations. Huntersville's planning policies embrace a number of fundamental concepts.

HIGH DENSITY DEVELOPMENT

Huntersville will generally concentrate higher-density development where existing highways and future rail lines are located. Rural areas-many of which lie in state-protected watersheds--should experience less development, more open space preservation, and the establishment of small, walkable village centers as an alternative to wall-to-wall subdivisions. The Town must always respect the rights of individual property owners to develop their land, but to do so in accordance with growth policies established by the Town's elected officials.

Huntersville will work to design communities that are transit-supportive wherever possible. The Town cannot rely solely on the private automobile forever and must constantly study the important link between land use and transportation. It is impossible to build one's way out of congestion by constructing more and more roads while ignoring land use patterns. Other transportation alternatives will be pursued (buses, rail service, paratransit) that can be used to mitigate congestion and offer alternatives to residents that are unable to depend on the private automobile.

It is not unreasonable to declare that Huntersville should be a distinct and beautiful community, as well as an efficiently-run and responsive municipal operation. For example, while the Town does not regulate architectural style, the community has every right to demand the highest level of excellence in building design, streetscapes, pedestrian amenities, preservation of special places, and enhancement of community distinctiveness.

PEDESTRIANS & AUTOMOBILES

Streets are the fundamental building blocks of the community and will be inviting public places that respect the pedestrian and accommodate the automobile. Streets in Huntersville are required to connect to one another. Doing so assists in the dispersion of traffic and fosters pedestrianism. Connected streets provide numerous avenues for emergency access.

Through streets do not have to be dangerous high-speed raceways, traffic calming measures can be implemented to achieve the same design speeds found along cul-de-sacs. There is no evidence to support the assertion that connecting streets increases crime and lowers property values. Careful and conscientious design is the key.

SUBURBAN SPRAWL

"Sprawl" is the term used to characterize the predominant pattern of development that has occurred over the last five decades in the United States. This pattern is typically marked by the following characteristics:

  • Development at very low land-consuming densities
  • Eradication of farmland and other open spaces that define the character of a community
  • Expensive extensions of water, sewer and road systems to serve far-flung development
  • Expensive reliance on the automobile as the only viable transportation option
  • Houses arranged around cul-de-sacs rather than interconnected streets
  • Look-alike strip malls as opposed to traditional village centers
  • Minimal pedestrian amenities
  • Urban traffic volumes in non-urban settings as suburb-to-suburb commutes become more prevalent
  • Zoning codes that mandate rigid separation of land uses

In November, 1996 the Town of Huntersville adopted new ordinances to guide the development of our community. These ordinances reflect the Town's new focus: coordinating growth based upon the time-honored principles of traditional town planning. Simply put, the elected officials and the committee that prepared the new regulations determined that Huntersville would not be consumed by the same suburban sprawl that has already engulfed large portions of the Charlotte region. The Towns of Cornelius and Davidson have adopted similar policies; together, the three towns cover 100 square miles of Mecklenburg County. This large area will, over time, evolve in a manner substantially different from the pattern that dominates the rest of the Charlotte metropolitan region.

Of great concern to the individuals who drafted Huntersville's new growth policies was the fact that suburban sprawl oftentimes eradicates a town's uniqueness by establishing conventional building patterns that disrespect the existing fabric of the community. Huntersville has, until very recently, been a small rural town with a modest central business district, numerous working farms, and extensive woodlands. Certainly no one expects Huntersville to remain this way forever--but there are steps that can be taken to accommodate new development that respects the values and characteristics that are unique to Huntersville.

The irony of most suburban development is that it often promises "life in the country" but typically delivers a finished product that, when combined with other suburban development, eliminates the "country" characteristics that drew new residents and businesses in the first place.