You don’t need force powers to predict some of the biggest storylines of 2020. Several seeds were planted over the course of 2019 that will begin to bear fruit this year.
The Charlotte Area Transit System has laid a lot of groundwork on fine-tuning a regional transit plan.
The LYNX Silver Line, originally slated to be a Matthews-to-Uptown Charlotte route, could be extended to span from Indian Trail to Belmont. This represents 26 miles across three counties.
Plans are also in place to extend the LYNX Blue Line beyond its I-485/South Boulevard stop to Carolina Place Mall in Pineville, where it will shift east to the Ballantyne Corporate Park.
Charlotte has contracted out pre-development work for the Silver Line to determine the scope and cost of the project. CATS will engage the public more in 2020 to build consensus for its regional transit plan.
Fans of DaBaby have taken to social media in recent days to ask why the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department is hassling their favorite rapper when they could be focused on homicides. But police aren’t mind readers.
City and county leaders recognize this and are trying to be proactive in stopping violence.
The county is leaning on its public health department for recommendations to attack the root cause.
Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles also announced she was directing staff to identify neighborhoods most affected by violence. She said the city, county and courts will use the data to provide community-focused services to those areas.
Police have investigated more than 100 homicides in 2019 compared to 57 in 2018.
After the state granted Matthews, Mint Hill, Cornelius and Huntersville the authority to open and operate charter schools in 2018, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools penalized the four towns by putting a higher priority on school construction in Charlotte, Davidson and Pineville.
In October, Cornelius convinced CMS that it wouldn’t open charter schools, prompting the school district to add the town to the priority list. I expect Matthews and Mint Hill to follow suit.
Matthews Mayor John Higdon campaigned on repairing relations with CMS. This is the logical next step. They have the votes to do it. As for Mint Hill, I never sensed leaders were committed to opening a charter school.
Quarter-cent sales tax
I wouldn’t be surprised if leaders continue to look for the best use for a quarter-cent sales tax hike.
Mecklenburg County commissioners have given voters opportunities in 2014 and 2019 to support varying ratios involving the arts and teacher pay. Voters rejected both attempts.
But city and county voters have approved every other bond referendum put before them over the past 10 years (I’m not including town bonds like Mint Hill in this). Voters have been receptive to housing, neighborhood improvements, transportation and construction for schools and community colleges. These successful votes involve capital projects.
It makes sense to use the quarter-cent on building out the regional transit system.
Mint Hill planning
During the Mint Hill Women’s Club election forum in October, commissioner candidates Jessi Healey and Tony Long mentioned that outdated plans were the biggest obstacle for positive growth in Mint Hill.
Mayoral candidate Brad Simmons later referenced such plans and the need to get people in the room to discuss them.
Simmons and Long were elected in November and have extensive planning board experience. Mint Hill’s Unified Development Ordinance, which is a guide for how the town should grow, was approved in 2011.
Considering the new faces on the commission and population growth over the past decade, it would not surprise me if the board began public outreach for a UDO revision.
The city is still buzzing after Major League Soccer confirmed Charlotte would get a franchise, starting in spring 2021.
I’m most excited about the community pride the MLS team will bring to the city, as well as our youth having more role models to look up to.
I expect the Charlotte City Council will have public discussions about rezoning the former site of Eastland Mall for the team’s headquarters and practice facilities, as well as details about the nature of the public-private partnership.
Then there will be announcements about the name, branding and personnel.
Republican National Convention
All eyes will be on Charlotte in August as the Republican National Convention convenes to award the party nomination to President Donald Trump. What will he say? What will he tweet? Gulp.
People are hoping the potential for controversy or drama is restricted to the stage. What makes a lot of people nervous is how Trump supporters will react to Trump protesters and vice versa – all under the watchful eyes of the national media.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department will work to ensure the convention area is safe and secure. I think a lot of locals will avoid Uptown due to the traffic, as well as the potential for protests and anti-protests.
Northwood Office spent this past year holding a series of community meetings to engage the public on its Ballantyne Reimagined concept.
The company plans to convert the neighborhood into a more urban, walkable community – similar to a town square. Yep, it’s another live-work-play concept that’ll feature elevated dining and shopping options.
Northwood will have to rezone the 454-acre site from business park and office space uses to mixed-use development.
I’m most curious to see what the housing mix will look like. Officials said during a community meeting in August that the first couple of phases were likely going to be rentals.
Cam Newton, who has been dealing with nagging injuries for the past couple of seasons, is approaching a contract year, leaving the Carolina Panthers with a crucial decision, much like the Charlotte Hornets had last season.
Should they cut or trade the face of the franchise? Or do they let him ride out these injuries and lead the team?
Newton, 30, played in just two games in 2019 due to a foot injury. The Panthers had a 5-11 record this season.
The Panthers have already released coach Ron Rivera. Will the new coach want a fresh start? The NFL Draft in April should provide some clues.