University City

Residents worry about proposed Blue Line path

Light-rail cars sit at the end of the line Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012 at the 9th Street Trolley stop.  TODD SUMLIN -
Light-rail cars sit at the end of the line Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012 at the 9th Street Trolley stop. TODD SUMLIN -

Residents who live along the proposed path of the Blue Line Extension, which will connect University City to Charlotte’s light rail system, are worried that it will harm them.

The extension will have stops at Sugar Creek Road, Old Concord Road, Tom Hunter Road, University City Boulevard, McCullough Drive and UNC Charlotte. Businesses and neighborhoods along the stops will be subject to having parts of their private property acquired by the city of Charlotte, in exchange for financial compensation at a determined fair market value.

The extension project is in the real estate acquisition phase now, and the city is approaching affected residents about the property acquisitions. An appraisal will be done on the affected portion of property, and the city will offer a settlement to the owner.

Eminent domain lawyer Stanley Abrams said about 300 residents in University City will be directly affected by the extension. He said most people will just take whatever money the city offers them, but he doesn’t recommend it.

“The city usually will undersell, because the homeowner doesn’t know how much they could possibly be affected,” he said. “They should never accept a first offer.”

When the city buys a piece of private property, more than the property will change, Abrams said.

“What most people don’t realize is that it’s not just a piece of their property that’s being taken away, but it’s also what happens during and after construction that can affect them,” he said. “The access they once had to their home may be compromised. They may have to live with months of noise and construction, and even noise and disturbances after construction.

“If they want to move, they may have hard time selling their home because of the city’s project,” he said. “All of these things will affect a homeowner’s life, and they need to be compensated for that.”

Dianne Mitzel is a business owner in University City. She was born and raised in Charlotte, and the property her business sits on, off Sugar Creek Road, has been in her family for more than 70 years. She said she can remember when her grandparents’ home sat on the property, and she would ride her bike up and down the street as a little girl.

The Blue Line Extension will cross her property overhead. The city plans on building a bridge and a barricade wall on the street, according to Mitzel. She said that would cut off the visibility and access to the tenants in her building.

“It would devastate us,” she said. “We’d be like trolls under the bridge. Most of the business (the tenants) get is from people driving by, and they might have to close and relocate if they lose traffic.”

Mitzel said the tenants have become like family to her, and she doesn’t want to see them leave.

“They get a good deal on rent with us, because they’ve been there for so long,” she said. “It might be hard for them to relocate, and I don’t want them to lose their businesses.”

Her daughter, Angie Mundy, said she feels as though the city has been dismissive of their concerns.

“One day, they just came out and starting drilling on our property without telling us first,” Mundy said. “There’s been a lack of consideration on (the city’s) part. It’s like they’re saying, ‘We’re going to do what we’re going to do, and we don’t care how you feel.’ ”

Jean Leier with the Charlotte Area Transit System said that although portions of many residents’ property will be affected, none will be asked to move. Only one neighborhood, Hampshire Hills near Eastway Drive and North Tryon Street, will sit directly against the Blue Line Extension.

“The real estate agent will contact the owners of the properties that are affected by the project and explain how their property will be impacted,” she said. “The agent will inform the owner that the city will be requesting an appraisal in order to determine the just compensation amount for the areas.

“The owner is encouraged to let the agent and the appraiser know their concerns about the project,” Leier said. “The real estate agent will also inform the project team about the owner’s specific concerns, and the concerns will be looked at one by one in order to see if there is anything that the project team can do to address them.”

She said hiring an attorney is a resident’s personal choice, but that if it occurs, the city will work with residents and their lawyer to come to a resolution.