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Ballantyne road closures planned for visit by “dignitary” during DNC

Restrictions for Ballantyne fuel speculation Obama will stay in area

CHARLOTTE, N.C. Charlotte-Mecklenburg police on Friday unveiled a series of road closures and other restrictions in Ballantyne during the Democratic National Convention, increasing speculation that President Barack Obama may be staying in the area that week.

Some people who live and work in Ballantyne say the restrictions are likely to bring congestion around some businesses, but will largely avoid residential areas.

The closures would run from Sept. 3-7, including closing a portion of westbound Ballantyne Commons Parkway between Johnston and North Community House roads, police said. That’s right around the area of the Ballantyne Hotel and Lodge, where some have suspected Obama would stay during the DNC.

Earlier this week, Police Chief Rodney Monroe said additional road closures forthcoming were related to the president’s visit.

On Friday, police spokesman Robert Tufano said the new closures came after the Secret Service advised the department that a “dignitary” would be in the area that week. He deferred additional questions to the federal agency.

But the Secret Service is staying mum. “We’re not going to comment on this,” agency spokesman Max Milien told the Observer.

The announcement of the Ballantyne-area road restrictions comes a little more than two weeks after federal and local authorities unveiled an extensive list of street closures, checkpoints and other security measures for uptown Charlotte, where DNC activities will be held Sept. 4-6.

The CMPD plan for Ballantyne doesn’t mention any checkpoints. But it says guests and employees of certain businesses, including the Ballantyne Corporate Park and the Ballantyne Country Club, will only be allowed to use certain entrances and exits at various times.

At the Ballantyne Hotel, guests, employees and other visitors will need to use entrances off Johnston Road from 9 a.m. Labor Day until about noon Sept. 7.

It’s been speculated for weeks that Obama might stay at the resort, which is booked solid during the week of the DNC. The site has two Presidential Suites, which can rent for as much as $2,000 a night. It is also located near a helipad, which would allow the president to fly in and out.

The Observer checked with the manager’s office at the hotel and was referred to a media specialist with The Bissell Companies, a major force behind the development of Ballantyne. That specialist said only: “We can’t be a source on this matter.”

Later Friday, Bissell emailed to add this quote from Joe Hallow, president of Bissell Hotels: “It’s an exciting time for Charlotte and the region.”

Business, residents affected

Some say the planned closures could cause more headaches for Ballantyne-area businesses than residents during the DNC.

Ray Eschert, president of the Ballantyne Breakfast Club, a community group that advocates for the area, said the planned closures likely wouldn’t cause as many problems for residents because there are alternate routes for people who need to get in and out.

For example, he said the closures didn’t appear to impact traffic traveling north and south on Johnston Road, a heavily traveled road in the area.

“If you consider what is happening uptown, I guess we can afford a minor inconvenience out here,” Eschert said.

Amanda Schuss, head of the Ballantyne chapter of the Charlotte Chamber, said her guess is that it’s the president who’ll be visiting the hotel, based in part on rumors that the Secret Service has been spotted there recently.

“It looks as though local traffic is allowed for access into the corporate park, so hopefully it won’t be a tremendous nuisance. My opinion is that I would rather have our president safe than me get to work on time for a day or two,” she said.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board member Tim Morgan, who lives in Ballantyne, said district officials are still trying to assess the potential impact of the road closures on families. He said the district is working with CMPD to ensure school buses can travel in the area.

But Morgan said he is particularly concerned about families who use Ballantyne Commons Parkway to take students to school. He said he hopes to work with the school district’s communications staff to tell parents to consider alternate routes getting to and from school.

Brock Ross, the assistant manager of Skillets restaurant on North Community House Road, said he is concerned what the closures might do to business. He’d been hoping it would be a good week for the restaurant.

“It’s going to be hard for staff to get to and from work, and for the customers. It might not be a good week for sure,” he said, declining to speculate who the dignitary might be.

However, if it is the president, he’d like to suggest the Spanish Frittata on the breakfast menu.

Bethea: 704-358-6013 Twitter: @AprilBethea
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