A historic property in Plaza Midwood faces an uncertain future after Charlotte City Council denied a plan Monday that would have allowed 19 townhouses and a swim club on the Van Landingham Estate.
“I’ve got to get something done quickly,” said Billy Maddalon, the estate’s owner. Maddalon also owns and operates the Morehead Inn in Dilworth. He has said the VanLandingham property is too expensive to maintain and loses money. His plan would have sold 1.5 acres of the 5-acre site to a townhouse developer and leased part of the grounds to a swim club, shoring up the estate’s finances.
“Now that it’s failed, nobody knows where to go or what to do,” Maddalon said. “Obviously, the community is concerned about ‘What now?” And with good reason.”
The defeat of the rezoning petition on an 8-4 vote at this week’s City Council meeting came as a surprise to Maddalon and local neighborhood association leaders, who had voiced their support for the plan. While other nearby residents protested because they were worried about increased traffic, Maddalon had agreed to lease off-site parking for the swim club and gotten approval from the city’s advisory Zoning Committee.
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Maddalon – who served on City Council to fill in for district representative Patsy Kinsey while she was interim mayor – said the 14-month process sapped his funds and left him with no clear reason why his project was turned down.
“We ran the longest gauntlet you can run,” said Maddalon. “I’m mad as hell. We’ve got $130,000 gone.”
He said developers have approached him about the property. But Maddalon hasn’t decided on his next move. It’s unclear whether he could submit a different version of the rezoning to City Council. Usually, when a rezoning is denied, the property must wait two years before resubmitting, unless there are “substantial” changes made to the petition. If he resubmitted the townhouse plans without the swimming pool – which spurred most of the opposition from council – Maddalon might succeed.
But many of the council members will be new after the November election, and Maddalon doesn’t know whether he wants the headache and expense.
“We can’t go six more months through this process again, particularly with a brand new City Council coming on board,” said Maddalon. “I don’t know if I have the money for it, and the time.”
Maddalon said he was upset by the process. About an hour before the vote, Maddalon said a city attorney called his lawyer to ask if he would agree to defer the scheduled vote to allow the townhouse and pool to be voted on separately. Maddalon said no, because the pool was part of the plan historic and zoning committees had already approved, and he had already raised about $500,000 from prospective members to finance its construction.
“I said, ‘This is not fair,’” said Maddalon.
Kinsey, a friend of Maddalon’s family and political ally, has confirmed the account. She said the offer was made so soon to the meeting because it wasn’t clear until late Monday afternoon that Maddalon’s plan didn’t have the votes to pass.
“There were other council members that were in on that trying to separate (the townhouses and the pool),” she said. “We were trying desperately to find some way to make it work.”
The swim club has sold about 300 memberships for as much as $2,000. According to a message sent to members from the board of governors, the organization is planning to do a final accounting and refund members.
“To say we’re disappointed by Council’s vote is an understatement. A more accurate statement at this juncture is –’We were shocked!’” the board of governors wrote.
Maddalon said he was surprised Kinsey brought up his friendship in the meeting, and that she told the crowd his grandmother taught her Sunday school.
“This isn’t personal. This is about her role as a council member. It’s not about the fact that we’re buddy-buddy,” said Maddalon. “It now appears to be a big waste of money and everybody’s time.”