A plan to build about 100 apartments for lower-income residents drew opposition from neighbors who say the development would crowd local schools and risk more traffic in a fast-growing area.
At a hearing Monday, Charlotte City Council members wrestled with how to balance competing demands for more affordable housing and residents who say the roads and schools are already overburdened. City Council will vote on the plan at a future meeting.
“Adding additional density now creates a bigger choke point on a state roadway that can’t handle the current traffic,” said Steven Swicegood, of the Mountain Island Neighborhoods Organization. About two dozen residents stood with “Vote No” signs in the audience.
The rezoning plan was filed by Rea Ventures, an Atlanta-based developer focused on affordable housing. Neighbors say they’re not upset by the idea of affordable housing itself, but rather by the density and lack of information about the development. The site is located off Brookshire Boulevard near Interstate 485, at 3230 Mt. Holly-Huntersville Road.
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Largely vacant or developed with single-family houses now, the plan would change the zoning from three residential units an acre to 12 units an acre. That would allow a maximum of roughly 100 dwelling units on the 8.6-acre site.
Part of the controversy hinges on arcana inherent in the zoning process.
Rea Ventures filed a “conventional” rezoning plan, instead of a “conditional” plan, which is a more typical filing. A conditional plan requires a binding site plan and more meetings, while a conventional plan does not. A conditional plan is far more detailed, more expensive to file and takes longer to approve. It would also commit the developers to a specific plan for the site, when they only have about a one-in-four chance of securing tax credits needed for the development.
For Rea Ventures to win state tax credits for affordable housing, they need zoning in place soon, attorney Collin Brown said. That’s why they filed a conventional rezoning instead of the more detailed conditional variant. But neighbors are worried that without a detailed plan they’re required to commit to, future developers could build something else on the site.
The lack of detail left some council members frustrated.
“We’re not getting all the facts to make a fully educated, informed decision,” said council member Matt Newton.
Neighbors said the schools nearby are already overcrowded. Jodi McKay, who lives nearby and teaches at Mountain Island Lake Academy, said the school has about twice as many students as it was designed to handle.
“We have more students in trailers than in building space,” said McKay.
After her testimony, council members said they were especially worried about the potential impact on schools such as Mountain Island Lake Academy.
“If that doesn’t give you a little bit of goosebumps as to what needs to happen, nothing will,” council member Tariq Bokhari said. “That has to weigh into our decision.”
But the possibility of building more affordable housing also resonated with council members.
“We know there’s a yearning and appetite for affordable housing,” said council member Justin Harlow. “It perks our ears up.”