A fight over new townhouses that’s dragged on for almost a year is going to drag on a little longer.
Charlotte City Council on Monday night didn’t have the votes to approve or deny a controversial plan to build 24 new townhouses on Sharon Lane, just south of Providence Road. The proposal has stirred up bitter debate, which council member Kenny Smith, who represents the area, said has grown “emotionally charged.”
Simonini Homes and Saratoga Asset Management are behind the proposal. Neighbors say it’s too dense for the single-family area, even after the developers reduced the size of the planned project from 38 to 24 townhouses.
To make their point, neighbors gathered more than 1,200 signatures on a petition to City Council, showed up by the dozens at community meetings and city hearings, and emailed council members. In addition to worries about density, they’re also concerned about the prospect of attracting further development to the Foxcroft area.
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At Monday’s meeting, dozens of residents held signs reading “No Greed” and “Save Our Street.” Another group of residents held signs urging the projects’ approval, with “Yes Simonini” and “Vote Yes!”
But when it came time to vote, neither side could prevail. The reason: Council members Greg Phipps and Julie Eiselt were absent, meaning only nine members were present. Five – Smith, Al Austin, Patsy Kinsey, Vi Lyles and Dimple Ajmera – voted against the plan.
That’s a majority of nine, obviously. But a majority of the full council is required for a decision – six votes, not five. So even though Claire Fallon, LaWana Mayfield, Ed Driggs and James Mitchell were outvoted 5-4, the “no” decision didn’t stick.
City Council plans to vote on the proposal again Monday, when, if all council members are present, the decision could come down to which way Phipps or Eiselt votes.
The houses on the 6.3-acre site would average 3,400 square feet and sell for about $1 million, targeting baby boomers and retirees, the developers have said. City planning staff recommended the plan for approval.
Smith said he didn’t think the denser development was right for the area.
“I think Sharon Lane is still a single-family residential street,” said Smith.
Kinsey agreed with neighbors that the development would draw denser projects to the area.
“This just feels like to me the first domino to fall along Sharon Lane,” she said.
Fallon, however, said she supported the townhouses.
“I think it fits the community,” she said. “I think it’s a necessity for that community.”
South End townhouses approved
A separate plan in South End that would allow up to 16 townhouses on a three-quarter acre site next to a manufacturing plant on West Tremont Avenue won approval with a unanimous vote. The site is currently occupied by a disused industrial building.
The owners of Gas Fired Products, which has been on the site since 1949 and builds specialty heating and industrial equipment, opposed the development. The owner feared that the new neighbors would complain about the noise and other byproducts from the plant and eventually force costly changes or even a relocation.
The townhouses would be adjacent to the factory, and the developers have agreed to build a fence, install more noise-absorbing walls in some units and put language warning buyers about the factory in deeds.