Thursday, October 08, 2009

Ahem, Charlotte: REDUCE, reuse, recycle?

Got an interesting e-mail from local architect Stephen Overcash of Overcash-Demmitt Architects, responding to my Saturday op-ed on Charlotte and recycling. He points out that there are other ways in which, in his opinion, the city's operations could be far "greener." Take, for instance, the dozens of very large paper plans you have to submit multiple times for every rezoning.

His note:

Hi, Mary:I enjoyed your article last weekend about the City of Charlotte not really being very green and I agree. I am an architect and am appalled at all the waste in the governmental system. There was a discussion over a year ago if the City should hire a Green Guru to help make recommendations, but the Mayor stated that he thought it wouldn't be prudent to incur that expense in the midst of a downturn in the economy. First of all, a good Guru will save the taxpayer his salary many times over in reduced costs. Second, I think with all the professionals that are unemployed, it would be a good time to "get a bargain."

I agree that we need better receptacles for recycling, but out of the three: reduce, reuse and recycle....recycling is a good, but distant third choice. The City of Charlotte should be striving to reduce.....

One example of my frustration: Every time I apply for a rezoning, I am told to submit 26 full-size sheets (sometimes the submittal is 2-3 sheets). Supposedly these are distributed around the various agencies that review them, but we only get comments from about 8 agencies. When I have repeatedly asked the Planning Department (and Debra Campbell directly), I am given some version of an answer that "that's the way it is," "that's the way it's always been done," etc.

When I asked her where the additional 20 sets go, she informed me that many departments, such as DOT, have several reviewers and they all need their own set. Planning is not amenable to a couple of sets to share and a PDF to review on the screen ... or better yet, just an electronic file where I don't have to drive the hard sets down. Once we receive comments, they request another 26 sets, for the second review. Once we are approved, they request a final 15 sets. Where is all this paper going? Why can't the City come into the 20th Century and only request an electronic file that would save storage space, additional files, air conditioning, on and on? (I pray that all the old sets of drawings are at least being recycled behind the scenes, but have been afraid to ask.)

I appreciate your articles trying to keep a little pressure on the Government.

Disgusted in Charlotte,

Stephen Overcash


Anonymous said...

Being lectured by the government about our wastefulness is the very definition of irony.

Anonymous said...

Local government depts. have tried to implement a procedure for engineers, architects, and developers to submit their drawings, calculations, and plans in a digital format, and it has been the architecture/development/engineering community that has always fought it...every time.

Anonymous said...

It's not just this type of issue that spotlights Charlotte. What about all the buildings that are torn down on a regular basis, leaving gobs of refuse for the landfills when with a little imagination, those buildings could have been revamped, using green technology and in many instances, saving a little piece of history-example, The Coffee Cup? No, Charlotte wants to be the next Atlanta, sprawl everywhere and oh my gosh, no way could we use an OLD building, we have to have a NEW one. It will never change in this city because no one here cares enough to see the changes through.

Anonymous said...

RE: Anonymous 11:38
If that's true, why not begin by setting up the option to submit electronically? We don't have to do a sudden switch from hard copy to soft copy, but it would be nice to at least get the ball rolling. Surely there are some engineers, etc who would appreciate the option.

Anonymous said...

I have also filed for multiple rezonings and have always been appalled at how much paper is wasted. We have multiple rounds of comments and revisions, from every department, not just one round. Every revision requires a re-printing of full-size architectural drawings - 26 copies. Nevermind how expensive it is to print these things over and over, but it is a massive waste. To make things worse, city staff frequently confuses versions of drawings submitted, and makes comments on or approves the wrong set.

There is absolutely no reason it cannot be handled electronically until the final stage, when a final set would be printed and stamped. Just typical government ineptitude and laziness.

Rebecca said...

GOOD LORD. That is unbelievable and defies logic. Not only is the paper itself wasteful, but why in the world are 26 people looking at everything? Who are they? What expertise do they have? Why are we paying them? I think when it comes to Government, the REDUCE portion of the triumverate is in order. Sure makes me feel even happier about the property taxes they extort from me...

Anonymous said...

Yes Mary, we should REDUCE government.

Oh wait, that's not what you're saying. Ever.

Anonymous said...

Still waiting for Mary's comment about Obama setting the thermostat in the White House to "you could grow orchids in there" levels.


Yoo hoo, Maaaarreeeeee....?

Anonymous said...

"Everything government touches turns to crap" Ringo Starr

WashuOtaku said...

The guy mentions how having a green guru would save money many times over; I doubt that. Typically I haven't seen much saving when we strive to make things "GREEN" and even the green guru can't stop buracracy. I doubt even he can stop the 23 page book that probably copied over and over again by the time the last person signs-off on it.

As for some of the comments about using reusing old buildings, it sounds nice but a lot of those old buildings are breaking codes now that didn't exist when built. A restoration job typically cost a lot more than tearing the whole thing down and build a new building. Sounds bad but true, otherwise if nobody put in all the costs to fix the old place to modern standards, then it has to be exampt of those codes with the Fire Department on speed dail.

consultant said...

"No, Charlotte wants to be the next Atlanta,.."

If you let Atlanta developers into your city, you will become the next Atlanta. Guaranteed.

Or at least if and when this current deep recession goes away.

But if we do come back, watch out. The Atlanta developers have torn this city up and down, from side to side. The last bits of fake money are being put into the ground right now. Towers in midtown and parts of Buckhead are being completed, with NO tenants on the horizon. One developer of a mega project wanted DeKalb County to forgive his taxes for 50 YEARS, just so he could stay in business. His argument (threat), if I fail, you'll have this huge unfinished project on your hands.

Charlotte, watch out.

Anonymous said...

If that is the only government waste you are worried about, God help us all!

dumbfounded said...

"If you let Atlanta developers into your city, you will become the next Atlanta. Guaranteed. "

What do you mean "If"? When has ANY developer every been made unwelcome in Charlotte?? They should all be given their own official "CLT Rubber Stamp (R)". That will cut down on waste. Whats the use of printing all those copies when everything gets approved anyway?

J said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Is this really a big surprise that gov't is wasteful and inefficient???

J said...

Here's how hiring a Green Guru in Charlotte would play out:

Guru is hired at $500,000 a year, with a 20% bonus that kicks in if the guru shows up for work at least 100 days during the year. There's no way we could get anyone with any talent for less than that.

Then, the guru will hire a consultant to do a 7-year study of our green practices - at a cost of $21 million - and present a list of recommendations.

Next, the guru will appear before City council during a budget meeting and proclaim that he needs a new permanent department, staffed by 100 people, with an annual budget of $125 million, to implement the consultant's ideas plus whatever other great ideas that could arise on any given day.

The council will agree, and to avoid the revolt that would come from a property tax increase, will increase the hotel and prepared food taxes 25% and tell the citizens their taxes weren't raised.

Six months later, the city manager reports the new taxes have only raised 5% of the revenue they were intended to raise. Apparently, the higher taxes have driven conventions away and caused locals to make their own burgers at home. Council is shocked! All other city departments are asked to immediately reduce their budgets by 50%.

At the end of the year, the guru appears before the council to report $100,000 in savings from the new initiatives. There would be much more, but the Green Department was not given the promised revenue from the council, limiting the department's effectivenesss.

The guru is praised for doing so well with so little and is given a 25% raise.

The Observer writes an editorial about local government waste, and endorses the creation of a new government department to deal with the waste.

Anonymous said...

J: Best. Post. Ever.

WashuOtaku said...

I would like to nominate J for the job of Green Guru. ^_^

Anonymous said...

I second that!

Anonymous said...

@overcash /agree

Anonymous said...

Someone mentioned DC's traffic.
It has more traffic than Charlotte because it has more jobs than Charlotte. A more diverse employer-base and a recession-proof industry called...the Federal Government, which all of us are making that way.

Wachovia and Bank of America are struggling. Reality 101
And laying off or have done so.

Has the federal gov laid off?

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