Charlotte City Council members entered the fray this week in an ongoing debate over a proposed low-income resident apartment project that has some south Charlotte neighborhoods up in arms.
Critics and proponents of a proposed 70-unit apartment building planned for Weddington Road gathered Monday, Dec. 16, in front of council members to discuss the controversial project. Council could vote on the proposal as soon as January.
Charlotte’s The Housing Partnership wishes to build the Weddington Road project for households of three making $35,160 per year and houses of two making $31,260 per year, The Housing Partnership president Julie Porter said in September. The partnership argues the apartment building has been a need in south Charlotte for years, and that the location on Weddington Road is perfect because it is close to a number of employment opportunities, including two shopping centers, a grocery store and an additional grocery store opening in the near future.
“We are propelled by the market in the community,” Porter said Monday night, adding that the area is perfect for “police, senior caregivers, medical personnel and retail workers.”
“We know that this is going to become extremely popular from workers already in the area,” Porter said. “… (It’s) a tremendous opportunity to add amenities to our residents.”
Neighbors, including some from Willowmere, Knottingham Estates,
Matthews Ridge, Providence Plantation, Providence Hills, Deerfield Creek and Weddington Meadows, argue the project is a good idea – assuming it’s built somewhere else. Critics say the Weddington Road location is already a traffic nightmare, there is no public transportation stops for miles and the groundwork just isn’t in place to handle the roughly 240 tenants who would live at the spot.
“We don’t feel that infrastructure in the Weddington Road area is sufficient to support this development,” said Michael Kelly, president of the Willowmere Homeowners’ Association and a vocal opponent to the project. “… This rezoning is truly an effort to force a square peg through a round
The disagreement over the proposed project is multi-faceted, but comes down to a few key points.
Residents argue the project will make an already bad traffic situation even worse, with the entrance to the apartment building lining up with the lower lot of Socrates Academy – which already sees traffic line up during the morning and evening pick-up times.
“With a driveway directly across of our lower lot, there is an enormous potential for head-on collisions that endangers the lives of the students and parents at Socrates Academy,” Kristen Priganc, school principal, said. Priganc also is worried about a school bus making a stop on Weddington Road in front of the apartments, which would cause even more delays on Weddington Road, and tenants and guests of the apartments using Socrates Academy’s parking areas if there isn’t enough parking at the building.
The number of students produced by the apartment also is questioned by critics of the proposal, after Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools estimates said the project would add 11 students to McKee Road Elementary, one student to Jay M. Robinson Middle and one student to Providence High. The developer, in a separate study, said the project could add 45 students total to local schools. Some residents have suggested the numbers would be higher, and at least reach 70.
The land currently is zoned for a daycare that could serve 425 children – something developers say would cause a much worse traffic situation than the 70-unit apartment building. The land is currently vacant.
Charlotte planning staff have recommended approving the project. Even though it is inconsistent with the city’s zoning plans for the area, it helps the city offer “a range of housing types for a variety of people,” Tammy Keplinger, the city’s rezoning planning manager, said Monday.
Council members had some questions about stormwater runoff associated with the site, but otherwise little discussion was had around the dais Monday night about the project.
The city’s next zoning meeting is scheduled for Jan. 21, a Tuesday. Council could vote on the project at that meeting unless the developer requests more time to discuss the project and work with area residents on their concerns.