City of Charlotte bonds get vote of support

Charlotte voters Tuesday overwhelmingly approved three bonds totaling $146 million, allowing the city to make improvements to neighborhoods, build affordable housing and make transportation improvements.

City Council began preparing for the vote more than two years ago, when it began debating a nearly $1 billion capital spending program.

Council members couldn’t agree on a program until 2013, when they removed the controversial streetcar from the list of bond projects. That allowed council members to reach consensus that summer, and they then voted to increase property taxes by 7.25 percent to pay for the projects.

The language in Tuesday’s referendum said that a vote in favor of the bonds would not raise taxes.

With almost all precincts reporting, city voters approved the three bonds by wide margins, as they have historically done in previous elections.

The city also plans to ask voters to approve bonds in 2016, 2018 and 2020 as part of the spending program.

• The largest of the three bonds is for transportation, with $111 million in spending.

Some of the projects slated for the money include sidewalks, traffic signal improvements and repairing and replacing bridges. About $5 million will go to planning the “Cross Charlotte Multi-Use Trail,” a plan to connect the city’s greenways throughout the county.

The city also plans to make a number of improvements in northeast Charlotte. They include a new bridge over Interstate 85 from Research Drive to J.W. Clay Boulevard and another bridge over I-85 from IBM Drive to Ikea and University Pointe Boulevards.

• The city has earmarked $20 million for neighborhood improvements. The city plans to use the money for sidewalks, streetscapes and curbs. The money will be spent in these areas: neighborhoods around the old Eastland Mall; Whitehall/Arysley; West Trade Street; Beatties Ford Road and Prosperity Village.

• The city plans to spend $15 million for affordable housing. The money would be dedicated to the city’s Housing Trust Fund, which is used to build housing for moderate income workers as well as those who are chronically homeless.

The city of Charlotte is not allowed to advocate for or against the bonds. The Charlotte Chamber ran the pro-bonds campaign, as it has done in the past.

Some city officials were worried that a proposal to increase the sales tax by a quarter-cent might confuse voters, making it more difficult for the bonds to pass.

“There was concern about confusion as well as how much was on the ballot this year,” said Natalie English of the Charlotte Chamber. “But we had a lot of folks working in the community. This is an indication of Charlotte being willing to invest in the community.”