The Greensboro Planning Department is proposing an ordinance to impose landscaping requirements on property in the Central Business (CB) District, what most people call downtown Greensboro.

Since buildings in the CB zoning district are built lot line to lot line, there isn’t any room for landscaping, but the proposed ordinance will require new buildings or building additions in the CB zoning district to plant street trees in adherence with the city’s precise and lengthy regulations.

This could over time increase the number of trees in downtown Greensboro, but it will immediately make development downtown more expensive and cumbersome.  It will create a whole new stack of forms that have to be filled out and boxes that have to be checked before anyone can begin a downtown development project, and more red tape before anyone can get approval to open a new downtown building for business.  And it adds expense to any new downtown development.

Greensboro Planning Department Urban Designer Elizabeth Link sent the proposed ordinance to about 20 people asking for feedback.  One of those was President of Downtown Greensboro Inc. (DGI) Zack Matheny, who noted in his reply the lack of downtown developers and major property owners on the list of those being asked for feedback.

The city constantly talks about the importance of input from “stakeholders,” but in this case it appears the city considers the stakeholders to be mainly the heads of nonprofit organizations and not companies involved in downtown development or major property owners downtown.

Matheny in his reply stated, “To arbitrarily place further burden on a potential project does not seem appropriate.  What would seem appropriate is to work with the development to determine how the city, DGI, Greensboro Beautiful can complement future infill and not hinder.”

Matheny also states that to ask private developers to replace the street canopy “while the city is getting ready to completely redo the tree canopy along Elm Street, Davie Street, Bellemeade, Greene and Church seems counter productive.”

Matheny is referring to the major downtown streetscaping project that is supposed to get underway soon that will be paid for with 2016 bond money.

It is worth noting that the downtown streetscape project is supposed to be getting underway five years after the voters indicated their approval of the project by voting in favor of the bonds.