Proposed affordable housing and senior developments draw debate at zoning meeting

Charlotte City Council members faced a classic development conundrum at Monday’s zoning meeting: how to allow dense development to meet a shortage of housing for vulnerable populations while responding to opposition from some neighbors.

A proposal to build an 85-unit, age-restricted facility was met with community resistance at Monday’s public hearing. Developer Laurel Street Residential hopes to build two buildings, one at three stories tall and the other at four, along Mallard Creek Road just past the intersection with Prosperity Church Road.

The proposal, however, did not fit with the 2015 Prosperity Hucks Area Plan, adopted by city council, which seeks to help shape development in a northern region of Charlotte. The plan calls for lower density development in that area, and concentrates development in an activity center close to I-485.

Some council members raised concerns about the development’s deviation from the plan.

“That does raise concerns for me, not just for this development but what happens to development that comes in the future?” council member Dimple Ajmera asked in the meeting. “Are we setting a new precedent for this neighborhood?”

Around 10 percent of Mecklenburg County’s population is over the age of 65, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Laurel Street said it wants to meet that need.

Laurel Street president and CEO Dionne Nelson said the company needs the density to make the project work financially. She told the council that the project is not seeking any tax credits or city funding.

“Part of Charlotte’s affordability issue is land costs,” Nelson said to the crowd.

The council also held a public hearing for a proposal from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Partnership and Mayfield Memorial Missionary Baptist Church for an affordable housing development on a property owned by the church on West Sugar Creek Road.

The proposed rezoning petition allows for up to 50 units, consisting of both townhomes and garden-style apartments in the Hidden Valley neighborhood in north Charlotte. The community would cater to a mix of incomes — 26 percent of the units would be reserved for those making less than 30 percent of the area median income, 14 percent for those earning less than 50 percent, half for those making less than 60 percent, and five units for those earning up to 80 percent.

The development would still depend on the site earning state tax credits; the Housing Partnership and church are in the process of applying for Housing Trust Fund money.

While the crowd was filled with church members and supporters of the project, some community members also voiced opposition, bringing up the neighborhood’s history of crime and drug problems and a concern that new apartments could bring that back.

But several council members pointed out that the project was an opportunity to prevent the displacement that occurred in other communities that have seen a flurry of development and skyrocketing prices.

“If we don’t take intentional steps, Hidden Valley will not have the black and brown faces that it has now,” council member Braxton Winston said to the crowd.

City Council members will vote on the rezoning petitions at a future meeting.

Danielle Chemtob covers economic growth and development for the Observer. She’s a 2018 graduate of the journalism school at UNC-Chapel Hill and a California transplant.