City News

Buffer petition upsets neighbors

For Brad Fleming, the parcel of thick woods behind his home near Freedom Park offers a tranquil background for his home and a safe buffer for the stream named Dairy Branch that runs through the woods.

For Brian Pace, who lives two doors away from Fleming and owns the wooded property on Idlewood Circle, selling the chunk of land to a friend and building a house on it offers a better alternative to what a random developer could do to it.

Now, the Mecklenburg County Water Quality Department soon will decide whether the stream buffers that Pace has proposed for the property are allowed.

The situation arose after Fleming received a notice in mid-June from the Water Quality Department stating that Pace had petitioned to reduce the buffer in the area from 100 feet to 50 feet. The county has set buffers for many locations in the area to help limit unhealthy runoff into streams.

Fleming informed neighbors of the plan, many of whom flooded the department with requests to deny the plan. Because of the response, the department pushed back the deadline for residents to submit comments to July 14, with a decision from the department coming sometime after that date.

“It's fairly obvious that I don't want a house in my backyard,” Fleming said. “If there's an opportunity to influence the decision, I'm going to do it.”

Currently, the property has no buffer because it was “grandfathered” in before the ordinance. Because Pace wants to subdivide the property into two approximately half-acre lots, it would automatically be subjected to the area's 100-foot buffer rule. Pace said the single-family home he's proposing for the lot serves as the best solution, and that many of the residents who initially expressed concern were misinformed of his plans.

“Without any restrictions, it didn't have any protection,” said Pace, who has offered to sell one of the subdivided lots to Fleming.

Water Quality Department Program Manager Rusty Rozzelle said he's received around 70 comments from nearby residents.

“A lot of people are very concerned about it,” he said.