CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- From his office on the eight floor of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center, Charlotte's new planning director Taiwo Jaiyeoba looks out over the cranes that signify Charlotte's building boom.
Jaiyeoba -- a self-described planning geek who sometimes rides the train or buses for fun -- started his job in January, after working as a consultant and planner from cities in Botswana to Sacramento, Calif., and Atlanta. A native of Nigeria who came to the U.S. in 1996, he's now charged with planning how to handle Charlotte's growth, as well as rewriting the city's outdated rules about zoning and land use.
His vision could shape how Charlotte grows for a generation or more, and his appointment comes as the city wrestles with increased traffic, how to fund $6 billion or more of transit needs and a boom that's led to enormous growth but also caused rent and home prices to soar.
Jaiyeoba, 49, is the first permanent planning director Charlotte's had since former planning director Debra Campbell was named assistant city manager in September 2014. Jaiyeoba and his wife have seven daughters, and the family relocated to Charlotte in 2015. In an interview with the Observer, Jaiyeoba explained why he fell in love with city planning.
"Once the planning bug bites you, it leaves its effect on you permanently," said Jaiyeoba. "All of a sudden you realize you can affect communities."
The biggest task on Jaiyeoba's agenda: Rewriting the city's approximately 1,000-pages worth of zoning codes, along with the half-dozen other ordinances that govern what can be built where, what kind of sidewalks are required, tree protections and more. The resulting document, called a unified development ordinance, is expected to be ready for Charlotte City Council to adopt in June 2020, the culmination of a process that started in 2013.
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Here's Jaiyeoba's take on some of the biggest issues facing Charlotte, and the role planning will play in them -- along with why his love of neighborhoods ties back to "Sesame Street":
Planning Charlotte's growth
"I'm a big-picture person," said Jaiyeoba. "Planning touches everything. Everything ... . You can't just look at this building. How does it affect everything around it?"
Jaiyeoba said one of his priorities will be community involvement in updating the city's development regulations, starting with a summit on March 24 and a series of meetings to gather input and bounce ideas off people.