City approves Kuykendall rezoning despite protest, lawsuit threat

Charlotte City Council voted nearly unanimously this week to rezone land at the corner of Kuykendall and Providence roads to make way for a 134-unit retirement center against a protest from some local residents and an email suggesting the city may face a lawsuit over the decision.

Hawthorne Retirement’s Charlotte Retirement Residence, at 120,000 square feet and three stories, will be built at the northeast corner of the intersection. A group of area homeowners have suggested the project will add to the traffic problems along Providence Road and doesn’t fit the community. The project is inconsistent with the city’s South District Plan, a document that suggests what types of project should be developed on different pieces of land in south Charlotte, though the city’s zoning committee recommended approving the development because it is in “the public’s interest.”

Councilman Ed Driggs, who represents the area, made the motion to approve the project at the Monday, June 23, council meeting.

“My conclusion was, for one, an independent living facility involves elderly people who are generally pretty peaceful neighbors,” Driggs said after listing critics’ concerns. “The traffic impact as measured by the staff was essentially beneficial to the extent that peak hour traffic was mitigated and total trips were reduced (compared to what the property could be developed as), so on balance I didn’t find that there was a reason to disagree with the staff’s recommendation in a 6-1 vote.”

The one dissenting vote on the zoning committee felt the building was too big and didn’t fit into the local community, according to the zoning committee recommendation memo. There also were concerns about the removal of some of the trees on the lot.

The environmental impact of the project was one of the biggest issues raised by local critics of the plan, who said the project also would tower above their nearby homes and add to congestion on Providence Road. The developer has pledged to reserve 3 acres as an undisturbed tree save area, which will sit between the development and many of the nearby homes, while deliveries to the site will be limited to non-peak traffic hours to help with congestion.

An attorney who said he represented one of the area homeowners wrote council members prior to Monday’s meeting to say the city may face a lawsuit if it approved the rezoning, calling it “illegal spot zoning,” according to city attorney Bob Hagemann.

“We are prepared to defend this decision,” Hagemann said when asked about the lawsuit issue by Councilman David Howard, who was the only council member to vote against the project. “I would suggest that you make this decision based on your best policy judgment and not out of fear of legal action.”

This project will join other recently approved senior living communities in south Charlotte, including Brightmore of South Charlotte on Providence Road West and Singh Development’s Waltonwood Cotswold and Waltonwood Providence.

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Mike Parks

About Mike Parks

Mike Parks has served as managing editor of the Carolina Weekly Newspaper Group since March 2012, having previously served as editor of the group’s South Charlotte Weekly since 2010. Mike graduated with a degree in political science from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, and previously worked for Time Warner Cable News in Charlotte before joining the papers.
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  1. The city council recently approved a massive multi-use facility on 90 acres on providence road just 1/8 mile from a huge 15 acre retirement community. The retirement center with189 beds and over 200 employees will be combined Waverly, a complex with 561 home sites, 150 hotel rooms and 560,000 sf of commercial space. Their approach to managing the traffic impact is 1 new lane northbound on Providence and a new streetlight. Does that sound like good planning?

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