City News

Projects often spark curiosity and suspicion

Charlotte was named in honor of Queen Charlotte, wife of George III, in hopes that this humble community would find favor with the king.

Seven years later, the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence severed all ties with King George and the once devoted community acted its part of rebellious teenager, becoming an entity unto itself.

Like children, cities grow up and evolve, adapting themselves for the times. Zoning ordinances attempt to keep order in the scramble to build the next “destination location,” but even with these laws, neighbors still look on a new building project with a blend of curiosity and suspicion.

Right now, Dilworth neighbors worry about Carolinas HealthCare System's purchase of a swath on East Boulevard that appears to be a prelude to redevelopment. Fortunately, the rezoning process allows for plenty of neighborhood interaction as parcels are adapted to new uses.

But what if a property is not changing its purpose? What if it is just a small house on a large parcel?

Neighbors in Myers Park have grappled with this for years, but the trend to purchase and tear down is migrating to other parts of the Central District. Neighbors in Commonwealth-Morningside, Plaza Midwood, Chantilly and Elizabeth notice the trend.

If the proposed new residence does not violate building codes or setback rules, then who is to say it is inappropriate for the neighborhood? Criticism comes from all corners.

I will never forget the angry, elderly man shaking his fist at me during a neighborhood meeting 10 years ago. He complained about his property taxes increasing because all the “yuppies (were) fancying up their houses.”

At first, I was dismayed: most people would be overjoyed to see their property appreciate at 10-15 percent per year. But since he was retired, living on meager savings, and had no intention of selling his house, I could see how the ever-increasing tax bill presented a problem.

But, time doesn't stop. Evolution dictates: Grow and adapt, or wither and die. And so the trend continues.

In March, an adorable 980-square-foot cottage sold in Plaza Midwood for $228,000. Realtors would have called it a “jewel box,” code for “really tiny, but oh-so-cute.”

A week later, all but two walls of the cottage were in a Dumpster on the front lawn. In its place, a 2,400-square-foot home has been built in a craftsmen style consistent with surrounding homes.

The new house offers curb appeal and nearly two and half times the space and amenities. Consequently, the $524,500 price tag was commensurate.

Is this progress? Perhaps, but one thing is for sure: How we balance competing demands will determine our city's evolution.