The Charlotte City Council on Monday night rejected a rezoning request to build a Walgreens drug store and office building in Dilworth, delighting neighbors who had waged an aggressive campaign against the project.
Developer Lincoln Harris’s rezoning lost 9-3, with only Warren Cooksey, Andy Dulin and David Howard supporting it. Mayor Anthony Foxx, who was allowed to vote because the rezoning was formally contested by neighboring property owners, , sided with the neighbors and voted no.
The developer wanted to build a Walgreens and a two-story office building on two acres at East Morehead Street and Kenilworth Avenue. Lincoln Harris would have had to demolish several buildings, some of which were built at the turn of the century.
A Tudor-style apartment building on the corner, an adjacent white house and three houses on Kenilworth were among the structures that would have been torn down. Those properties are all owned by Edward Springs and his company, Edward H. Springs Interiors.
The lopsided decision in favor of the neighborhood was unusual in Charlotte, where developers have been able to remake much of the city with council support. Two years ago, for instance, Dilworth residents were unsuccessful in trying to limit the size of a Charlotte Housing Authority redevelopment off South Boulevard.
Lincoln Harris had made a number of cosmetic changes to its Walgreens proposal to try to win council approval. Over the weekend, the developer appeared to make a last-minute attempt to sway council members.
Lincoln Harris: Property won’t stay same
In an email to council member Patsy Kinsey, whose central Charlotte district includes the area, a Lincoln Harris executive said the developer had an alternative plan for site that would contain “none of the softened commercial edges” in its Walgreens plan.
“I have come to the conclusion, based upon a number of discussions, these … neighbors were told by a core group of opponents that if the Lincoln Harris petition were to be denied, we will simply ‘go away’ and the property will remain the same,” wrote Alex Kelly, Lincoln Harris vice president. “This email is to confirm that this statement is completely false.”
The email then suggested Lincoln Harris’ backup development plan would have more impact on neighbors, and that it would be in Dilworth’s best interest for council to approve the original rezoning request.
“This is a serious decision ... which could have a detrimental effect on others’ property values,” Kelly wrote.
Kelly couldn’t be reached for comment Monday.
The email said that the alternative development plan of office buildings would have “no development concessions offered to the neighborhood. All of the negotiated concessions will go away.”
Dilworth resident John Gresham, who lives on Kingston Avenue about six blocks from the site, said Lincoln Harris had earlier said it wouldn’t pursue another project if the drug store fell through.
His biggest concern was that the proposed drug store would include drive-thru window, he said, and traffic could have backed up on to Morehead Street.
“People would be coming through the neighborhood,” he said.
Gresham and other neighbors celebrated in the foyer of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center after the vote.
The Charlotte Department of Transportation had found the development would bring some new traffic, but not enough to clog traffic in the historic neighborhood.
The zoning committee of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission had voted unanimously in favor of the project.
Independence parcels purchased
In other action, council members voted to spend $2.55 million to purchase two properties along Independence Boulevard across from Bojangles’ Coliseum.
The city is buying a closed hotel and IHOP restaurant, along with the Charlotte Hotel Inn, which has been the source of a number of police calls. Mecklenburg County is contributing $730,000 toward the deal.
It’s unclear what the city might do with the land. It may tear the buildings down and turn the area into a park. The city bought the land to bolster the Commonwealth neighborhood just north of the site.
Council members had discussed the purchase in closed session, and then voted in open session to move forward.
Council members also unanimously approved trying to land the 2017 National League of Cities convention. Securing the convention could require incentives of between $1 million and $1.3 million.