South Charlotte

City Council District 7 meeting focuses on zoning, schools

More than 60 residents spent a Saturday morning at Providence High School recently to discuss how to more effectively manage growth in Charlotte’s City Council District 7, which includes Ballantyne.

City Councilman Ed Driggs, who represents the district, hosted the Sept. 20 meeting and invited city staff members to speak with residents about the planning process.

“Considering it was a beautiful Saturday, it’s not bad,” Driggs said of attendance. “I was not unhappy with turnout.”

Several city representatives – including some from the city’s planning and transportation departments – attended the meeting to discuss with residents such topics as the zoning and traffic planning.

Carol Manz, a resident of Piper Glen Estates, said she attended because she wanted to educate herself as a resident on the development process. One of her main concerns is traffic issues throughout south Charlotte, including Rea Road, she said.

She also wanted to learn more about proposed plans to extend the Four Mile Creek Greenway through her neighborhood. She’s concerned that the greenway being in people’s backyards will have a negative impact.

Manz said she was pleased with the helpful feedback she received, especially from Planning Director Debra Campbell.

“She said that when you buy a house, you need to understand what the zoning is,” said Manz. “Basically, people who bought there should have known that there were easements there for greenways.”

Christine Hamlett, planning specialist for Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools, said she was impressed with the turnout and all of the questions she received about how the school district calculates student enrollment.

But resident Shallen Gordon said she was displeased with the information she received about school planning.

“I’m disappointed that the school plans seem to find portables an acceptable way to handle overcrowding,” she said.

Driggs said he also noticed a lot of conversation around student enrollment estimates. He said at one point, staff members described their process for estimating student numbers from a development proposal. That led to a more general discussion about how the schools predict the number of students they will have.

Driggs said at one point someone from the audience stood up and showed data that indicated that student enrollment estimates don’t always materialize. Instead, the resident said, enrollment ends up being much higher than projected.

“A weakness in the process of estimating how many students will be generated was exposed,” Driggs said. “It reinforces the fact that people are apprehensive about the impact on schools as development occurs.”

City Planner Solomon Fortune said he fielded several questions about upcoming zoning hearings in south Charlotte, including a proposed apartment complex on a property zoned for retail space that has some Ballantyne residents concerned about its impact on traffic and schools. That project’s zoning hearing is Nov. 17.

Manz said gaining more control over development in the area takes more than just a Saturday morning meeting. That’s just the start, she said.

She encouraged residents who have concerns about development to contact their city representatives and city staff members.

“It’s up to us as citizens to share our thoughts and opinions,” said Gordon.

Driggs said he hopes residents who learned something during Saturday’s meeting will go back to their neighborhoods and share that information. From there, he hopes residents are more inspired to get involved with local government.

“I encourage residents to talk to me, talk to staff, make a noise,” he said. “It does make a difference.”