The Charlotte City Council voted unanimously last week to approve construction on one of the last undeveloped properties in the SouthPark area.
The 7.6-acre site is owned by Charlotte-based development company Crescent Resources, formerly owned by Duke Energy, and is next to Piedmont Town Center, a mixed-use retail development off Fairview Road that includes shops, restaurants, office space, residences and a parking deck.
Crescent plans to build a single five- or six-story apartment building with 350 residential units and possibly a bottom floor of offices to rent. The developer will build an access road as well as a water-retention pond between the apartment building and the forested area that backs up to the Picardy neighborhood. The pond will collect runoff and prevent flooding.
"We look forward to continuing to work with the neighbors as we develop the property," said Crescent Regional Director Ben Collins in a statement.
Collins said no start date has been set for construction.
Crescent is required to maintain a 75-foot buffer between development and the properties along Wintercrest Lane, but some residents argue the buffer isn't sufficient. They fear the development will have a negative effect on home values and quality of living.
Several residents said the forested area, which afforded them privacy, was the primary reason they moved to Picardy.
Dr. Elliot Cauble, an internal medicine resident at Carolinas Medical Center, and his mother, Glenda Cauble, an art teacher at Ridge Road Middle School who has lived in her home that backs up to the forest for 27 years, led the opposition.
Elliot and Glenda Cauble attended the April 25 City Council meeting with their neighbors Rev. Trevor Smith and his wife, Joany.
The city's zoning committee approved Crescent's petition for the apartments in a 7-0 vote at a March 30 meeting, and the City Council approved it unanimously at its April 25 meeting.
Because of the protest petition, Crescent's request had to be approved by at least a three-quarters majority; if it wasn't, the plan would have been killed for two years - enough time, Cauble had hoped, for residents and Crescent representatives to compromise.
In 2008, plans for the site were pulled. At the time, Crescent plans called for a 170-foot-tall office building on Carnegie Boulevard west of Piedmont Row Drive.
This time, Crescent moved forward with a residential plan.
The Caubles said a botanist at UNC Charlotte viewed the forested area and confirmed that some trees from at least five species on the site - swamp chestnut oak, tulip poplar, sweet gum, American beech and white oak - are more than 100 years old.
Even if Crescent had to remove some trees for the apartments, the Caubles had hoped Crescent would leave more than a 75-foot buffer to save some of the older mature trees and provide more privacy for Wintercrest Lane residents.
Collins said the company plans to bring an arborist to the site to see if there are any significant trees around the retention pond that could be saved.
The city has no formal regulations prohibiting the cutting of these trees.
"I've just come out with a really bad taste in my mouth for this whole thing," said Elliot Cauble.