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South Charlotte affordable housing rezoning faces opposition

By Elisabeth Arriero
earriero@charlotteobserver.com
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/10/09/11/34/13msSL.Em.138.jpeg|210
    - COURTESY OF THE CHARLOTTE-MECKLENBURG HOUSING PARTNERSHIP
    A rendering of the affordable apartment project that the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Partnership wants to build on Weddington Road.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/10/09/11/34/GS0O7.Em.138.jpeg|237
    - PHOTO COURTESY OF MIKE KELLEY
    Because of the large crowd in attendance, an informational meeting for a proposed low-income housing project on Weddington Road was relocated from the Willowmere neighborhood clubhouse to the tennis courts.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/10/09/11/34/19PwEQ.Em.138.jpeg|421
    - Photo courtesy of Mike Kelley
    More than 400 people attended the recent meeting about the proposed affordable housing project on Weddington Road in south Charlotte. The meeting was hosted by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Partnership.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/10/09/11/34/11iBDp.Em.138.jpeg|74
    - COURTESY OF THE CHARLOTTE-MECKLENBURG HOUSING PARTNERSHIP
    A rendering of the affordable apartment project that the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Partnership wants to build on Weddington Road.

Residents in Willowmere and nearby neighborhoods are concerned about a proposed affordable apartment project on Weddington Road, contending that the development is too dense for the area and will exacerbate traffic problems.

But officials with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Partnership, which proposed the project, said the development is needed in south Charlotte and will be a better fit than the day care center currently zoned for the property.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Partnership recently applied for a rezoning on the 7.23-acre plot of land on the west side of Weddington Road, between Simfield Church Road and Portstewart Lane.

Owned by Bank of America, the land was zoned in 2010 for a child care center.

But that project was never completed and now the housing partnership wants to build a three-story, 70-unit apartment that targets households of three that make up to $35,160 a year and households of two that make up to $31,260 a year.

Rents are projected to range from $700 to $965, although those rates will depend on income level.

“We’re trying to ensure these people have a place that’s very comfortable, attractive to live and is affordable for their income,” said Julie Porter, president of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Housing Partnership.

The Housing Partnership is the largest private, nonprofit affordable housing developer in the Charlotte region.

During a recent presentation by the Housing Partnership in Willowmere, more than 400 concerned residents from dozens of surrounding neighborhoods came out.

The meeting had to be relocated from the community clubhouse to the tennis courts to accommodate the crowd.

Residents said the project’s density would make it incompatible with surrounding development.

“I would have to look at a three-story building that sits on the crest of the hill behind my house,” said Christy Lewis, a Willowmere homeowner whose property is adjacent to the proposed development. “I’m concerned about my neighborhood.”

Residents are also concerned about the project’s impact on traffic, noting that nearby Socrates Academy recently expanded its campus to include a middle school. The charter school plans to add a high school at some point as well.

“There are no apartments around here. This is not a good fit for the area,” said Gavin Sutcliffe, president of the Willowmere Community Association Inc.

Opponents have organized a Facebook page called “Weddington Rd Rezone Committee” and have started a protest petition, which has collected more than 1,500 signatures.

But Porter said the project is needed because there are a lot of people with lower-wage jobs – such as teachers and police officers – who work in the area but who can’t afford to live there.

“A lot of people have jobs that you wouldn’t consider a high wage position but they still have the same values and want a place that’s comfortable that they can call home,” said Porter.

She also said it’s misleading for residents to compare the Weddington Road project to the proposed public housing project in Ballantyne that city council struck down in 2010.

While that project had been proposed by the Housing Authority and would have been considered public housing, the project on Weddington Road is tax credit housing, which means the developer only receives special financing incentives to allow them to charge a lower rent.

The development would not be subsidized housing and is not designed for Section 8 voucher holders.

“People drive by our properties every single day and they don’t know it’s workforce housing because it’s the same quality as marketplace value properties in the area,” said Porter.

She added that all residents who live at the Weddington Road apartments will go through a criminal background check, rental history check and credit check. They will also be required to be employed.

Porter added that anyone convicted of a misdemeanor in the last three years will not be allowed to live at the apartments, nor will anyone who has been convicted of a felony in the last 10 years.

As for traffic impact concerns, Porter said the apartments will likely see fewer car trips than the day care center currently zoned for the property.

She noted that the day care center is zoned to have up to 425 children, which translates to up to 1,900 trips a day. Many of those trips are during peak traffic hours as well, she said.

The apartment project would have about 500 trips a day and about 80 during peak traffic hours.

Porter said the Housing Partnership filed its rezoning petition on Sept. 23. The organization will likely hold another community meeting in November, with Charlotte City Council expected to vote on the project in January.

She said a vote for the project will likely require a super majority since the project is probably going to have a protest petition.

At least nine of 11 council members and the mayor must vote in the affirmative when there is a protest petition, said city planner Sonja Sanders.

“The way I look at these things, the community is worried and they’re worried because they have a perception of workforce housing that is incorrect,” she said. “They have this view of what it looks like and what they just don’t realize is that these apartment buildings are as good or better as market rate apartments.”

Arriero: 704-358-5945; Twitter: @earriero Carol Gifford is a freelance writer for South Charlotte News. Have a story idea for Carol? Email her at bloomgiff@comcast.net.
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