Atlanta Journal-Constitution weighed in last weekend on the Charlotte-Atlanta rivalry with a piece by former Observer reporter Dan Chapman: Rivalry to be economic King of South heats up.
Read it, then read the comments. Then tell me whether you don't suspect that a lot of the talk about how well (!!) Charlotte has dealt with growth and transportation comes from Atlanta types hoping to goad their legislature with some jealousy. The story says the Georgia leg won't let Atlanta or other metro regions impose sales taxes for roads, and won't even let MARTA use its own money to fill budget holes.
Is Charlotte doing things better than Atlanta? Depends on what you look at. Definitely we're doing better at tying land use to transit – at requiring transit-oriented development along our light rail line. Atlanta didn't do that during MARTA's earliest decades and results show.
Is Charlotte doing any better at controlling sprawl? That's a tough question. I think some of the counties and smaller towns in the region (Cabarrus County, Davidson, Belmont, etc.) are, indeed, doing better. Further, N.C. annexation laws have left Charlotte in a healthier situation and have allowed the city limits to expand, instead of being hemmed in like the actual city of Atlanta itself.
Yet Charlotte and Mecklenburg have done virtually nothing to preserve farms or any section of the county from suburban-style development, other than a few county parkland purchases. Eventually every square foot of the county will be developed except for those parts purchased for parkland or privately donated to land conservation groups such as the Catawba Lands Conservancy. No serious farmland or forestland protection measures have been taken by local governments other than Davidson.
Atlanta is definitely bigger. Is it better? I think that depends on what you're looking for and how closely you look.