Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Schools, flooding and an Elizabeth rezoning

From Under the Water Tower comes a heads up on a rezoning in the Elizabeth neighborhood. Deadline is Wednesday, Sept. 2, to email comments to neighborhood organizers about the rezoning request along Seventh Street. The public hearing is Sept. 21.

The developer is seeking rezoning from R-22 to MUDD (mixed use development) to build up to 390 residential units along Weddington Avenue and Seventh Street, near the historic Palmer Building on Firefighter Place and near Lupie's Cafe.

The neighborhood had a meeting seeking comments about the rezoning on Aug. 27 and is sharing those comments with the developer, Winter Elizabeth of Atlanta, according to the Elizabeth Community Association. You can see some site-plan details at the neighborhood site.

The rezoning doesn't directly affect Merry Oaks, but it raises a couple of thoughts with broader community impact:
1. The comments in a PDF from Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools officials at the Rezoning.org site note that "adequacy of existing school capacity in this area is a significant problem." The officials estimate the development, when completed, could add 118 students to Eastover Elementary School, 80 students to Alexander Graham Middle School and 93 students to Myers Park High School. Those kinds of numbers are important to keep in mind when considering redrawing school boundaries: There is talk of moving some people out of the feeder zone for Myers Park High to East Mecklenburg High. Numbers like these might add more weight to that concept. The numbers also highlight how school quality affects development and real estate. If school performance for the Garinger High School district were stronger, would demand for development and housing in that district in east-central Charlotte be stronger? Would growth and development be more evenly spaced across the county?

2. The comments in a PDF from stormwater services at the rezoning site appear to be minimal. Given the density proposed in this development under MUDD zoning, and given its proximity to Briar Creek, it seems deep consideration should be given to the effects of flood zones downstream. In the long run, that consideration could save Mecklenburg County money and save homeowners the hassle of unexpected flooding. The county has spent millions buying homes in floodplains along Briar Creek in recent years. Should dense MUDD zoning get further examination? Can dense urban design have features that absorb and slow stormwater runoff to avoid urban flooding?

Further links:
Background from the Charlotte Business Journal in 2008.
Planning documents for growth in "Centers, Corridors and Wedges" from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Department.
FEMA floodplain maps.

Image credits: Google maps (top) and FEMA maps (middle).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is a really great post!

I think issue 1 about development and schools is a good one to think about. For Charlotte I think you have to put it in perspective and consider the decades of bus-ing prior to neighborhood school districts. The current state of Charlotte’s disproportionate development was established in a context much different than today.

During the decades of bus-ing higher-end development clustered in the south even as students were bussed across the county. I wasn’t around in those days, so I don’t what effect this had on development in those areas near the better schools far away from the affluent neighborhoods, like West Charlotte for instance. As for future development being more evenly spaced across the county, I think there are a multitude of factors for rising real estate values, of which, school districts are only a small piece.

On issue 2 and flood plains, I think this particular project, and development in general that is near, but not in an (urban) flood plain may actually be more appropriate and more environmentally friendly than development further away. The run-off from the project doesn’t have very far to go before it is picked up by the stream, and doesn’t have the opportunity to compound existing erosion problems or create new ones. I might be off base with that, but I know that current regulations don’t require you to detain water if you are adjacent to a floodplain, and I assume that is the rationale. I am sure this project, like any other will be required to consider their run-off. I don’t see any reason why it should be require to do any more than is normally required.
-Plaza Midwood resident