A decision to abandon a capital spending program for the city – at least for now – is already causing ripples in Charlotte’s Commonwealth Park neighborhood.
Residents there had hoped that the $926 million plan would allow the city to buy and demolish the Charlotte Inn motel on Independence Boulevard.
Drug activity and related crimes have pushed the community to call for city intervention.
“I feel like we’re in limbo right now with the capital improvement program being shot down,” said Jason Van Buren, a Commonwealth Park resident.”
Charlotte City Council voted 7-4 last month to kill capital spending that was to pay for police stations, affordable housing, sidewalks, bridges and road improvements.
The package included $72 million for east Charlotte.
The council also walked away from a smaller capital plan proposed at $660 million. Without either, the property tax rate stays at 43.7 cents for every $100 of taxable value.
In March, residents in Commonwealth Park started a petition asking the city to shut down the motel, which they described as their No. 1 safety concern.
“It persists as a nuisance to residents of Commonwealth Park neighborhood, given the transient clientele it attracts and the inconsiderate and often harmful behavior that comes along with it,” the petition said.
There were about 85 handwritten signatures on the petition, as well as about 560 names added online, Van Buren said.
Working on improvements
A report from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department says calls from citizens about problems at the motel increased more than 235 percent between 2010 and 2011.
CMPD, the city’s code enforcement division and other local offices have been working with the motel’s owners for more than a year to improve the property and reduce crime, said Lt. Robert Dance, commander of the Eastway Division.
Those efforts are ongoing, and the owners are cooperating, Dance said.
“The hotel, in general, has improved its appearance,” Dance said. “Do I feel like the root problem of drugs and disturbances and calls for service has improved? No, I don’t.”
Charlotte Inn majority owner Anup Desai said he believes crime has not been a problem for the last 60 days.
“Right now, there is not a single room that is a problem – not right now as we are speaking today,” he said.
He has offered the city the option of buying the property by Dec. 31 for part of a public park.
In the meantime, Desai is renovating the rooms in preparation for the Democratic National Convention.
Desai is also building a website so he can offer the rooms for rent.
“If the city doesn’t buy it, I’ll continue working on changing,” he said.
Too soon for a plan
City Manager Curt Walton said it is too soon after the vote on the capital plan to know what options the city has for addressing the calls for help in Commonwealth Park.
Mayor Anthony Foxx has said he would encourage the city council to create a new capital plan for a 2013 bond referendum.
“I hope we can move forward to purchase the hotel, but there currently is no plan in place without the recommended capital improvement plan,” Walton said in a July 6 email to the Observer. “We’ll have to look at other options, but there has not been time to do that yet.”