East Charlotte apartments are declared unsafe

The 96 ground-floor units of the Cavalier Apartments in east Charlotte are too damaged by flooding to be inhabitable, Mecklenburg County inspectors have determined.

County officials, calling the units “dangerous,” will allow residents in the first-floor apartments to return until 5 p.m. Sunday to retrieve and clean belongings. But they won't be allowed to sleep or live there, and power will not be restored to the apartments.

Also Friday, N.C. Gov. Mike Easley declared Cabarrus and Mecklenburg counties state disaster areas, making residents and businesses eligible to apply for state money to help with repairs from flooding caused by remnants of Tropical Storm Fay.

In Concord and Kannapolis, early property damage estimates have approached $3 million, a figure that is expected to sharply rise. If the county ends up receiving state or federal aid, the state will set up a disaster assistance center in Cabarrus County in the next few weeks where qualified property owners may apply for grants or loans.

To qualify for assistance, privately owned structures that were damaged must be uninsured or underinsured, according to the county.

Details about how to get aid should be available next week. On Thursday, Easley visited flooded areas of Concord, and said, “We're going to do everything we can to make every-thing whole.”

In Charlotte, Wednesday's rain causing severe flooding in low-lying areas along Briar Creek, which cuts between the Cavalier and Doral complexes off Monroe Road. Flooding then spread southward along the creek, including areas of the Eastover neighborhood near the Mint Museum.

Earlier this year, the county bought the 192-unit Cavalier complex for $9.6 million, $5.4 million of that from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The purchase was part of a county program to buy floodplain properties.

Even before this week, the county had planned to relocate the residents, demolish the building and convert the land to a greenway or park. A management company and a relocation firm have been working with the county to help find residents new places to live, and relocation packages are being assembled for people who lived on the first floor.

The upstairs units will be safe to live in once power comes back. But county officials aren't sure when that will be, and even when power is restored, air conditioners will remain inoperable.