Developers who want to reopen a closed day care building near SouthPark Mall say the project could help improve a dangerous stretch of road in south Charlotte. But opponents argue transportation officials don’t plan to fix Sharon Road any time soon.
Brian Crutchfield wants to reopen a vacant day care on nearly 1 acre in SouthPark, at 5301 Sharon Road, and expand the building to a total of 7,000 square feet. If approved, the day care couldn’t serve any more then 125 children, but could see around 160 more vehicles a day drive through the area than what would be seen if the day care was open under current zoning. The day care was in operation for nearly 40 years, according to the developer’s agent, John Carmichael, but must now be rezoned under new rules to open as a day care after being closed for a year.
The main question Charlotte City Council members were concerned with during the public hearing Monday, July 15, is if the project could contribute to improving what many deem a dangerous road. The project is set inside a curve on Sharon Road, near Sharon Towers, and if approved would set aside property for right of way usage if the road is straightened by the Charlotte Department of Transportation.
“Traveling that road for decades… it is dangerous, it’s very dangerous,” said Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Cannon. “… we ought to seek any calming devices that we can … that road really, really needs to be reconfigured, it’s really bad and anybody who travels it will tell you that.”
Some area residents agree, and say they’re concerned an increase in vehicles in the area will make a bad situation worse. One resident, speaking at Monday’s public hearing, said it would be nice if the road was straightened as part of the project, but he doesn’t believe transportation officials plan to work on Sharon in the near future.
“If the road can get straightened out, it may be OK,” the man said. “But I spoke to CDOT (recently) about straightening out the road … and was told no way, it’s not on the agenda, it won’t be done.”
Another resident, who lives at the corner of Sharon and Rutherford roads, said the added traffic would be troublesome.
“The road is narrow and when the cars zip around those corners, they don’t always stay in their lines,” she said. “So, adding more traffic here might not be a good idea. … The traffic’s a real concern and it could be some deadly consequences, and that’s what we’re worried about.”
The developer’s agent argued that the traffic would be spread out throughout the day, instead of at two peak periods like at a school – though traffic would still be focused mainly in the morning and evenings. The site would be reconfigured with an entrance-only and exit-only road wrapping through the property, and Carmichael said the exit could be right-turn-only if council requires it.
Councilman Andy Dulin, who represents the area, said the plan was “pretty good” so far but he hopes the two sides will continue to work together before the city is scheduled to vote in September to approve the project.
As for Sharon, Dulin said he’ll talk with CDOT about the road’s priority. “There’s a clear need to do two things,” he said. “Straighten (Sharon) out and slow folks down some.”
Carmichael said there had been 15 wrecks in the area in five years. Eleven of those involved cars running off the road.
In addition to saving room for an improvement to Sharon, the developer plans to improve the aesthetics of the day care and move parking, as well as add a 6-foot sidewalk and 8-foot planting strip.
• Also Monday, council members voted unanimously in favor of the new Elevation Church site in Ballantyne.
The site will include a 1,600-seat worship center for the mega-church, as well as a 200,000-square-feet, 60-feet-high office building, on 21 acres at the corner of Lancaster Highway and Johnston Road. The church has committed to some $400,000 in road improvements that will include pedestrian signals and high-visibility crosswalks in the area as well as expanding the storage on turn lanes.