Saturday, December 06, 2008

Merry Oaks art crawl: Shop really local

Merry Oaks is having its first ever neighborhood art sale on Saturday,
December 13, 2008, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. It's a great opportunity to visit and meet your artsy neighbors as well as support their efforts by shopping for the holidays truly locally.

A list of those participating with descriptions of their art and links when available:

Liz Primm Design and Vintage Fresh

3401 Draper Avenue 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Home accessories, fun kid's dress-up clothes, recycled fashions and handpainted furniture

Adrienne Dellinger and Greg Scott
Pots with Purpose
2109 Arnold Drive
Adrienne is studio manager for Charlotte's Clayworks, has studied at Penland and has fired pots and dug clay with the legendary Carolina potter Burlon Craig.

Meredith Hebden
the laughing earth
1911 Graybark Avenue
Meredith won a "Critic's Pick" as Best Local Artist from Creative Loafing's 2006 Best of Charlotte awards. She's also an amazing gardener.

Alex Clark and Rebecca Jones
3430 Draper Avenue

Lucy Hazelhurst

1833 Graybark Ave

Raed Al-rawi and Beth Brown

3540 Draper Ave

And yet another opportunity to support local artists, if you're reading this in time: The Plaza Central business district is hosting its Holiday in the Hood gallery Krawl or crawl from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 6.

Photo credit: Meredith Hebden, by Meredith Hebden, of the laughing earth

Note to neighbors and participants: If you have art websites, visuals or biographical information you'd like to share, let me know in the comments or through email, and I'll continue to update this post.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Art and branding on Central Avenue

As mentioned earlier, the Arts and Science Council has a call to visual artists for public art on Central Avenue near the Merry Oaks neighborhood. It specifically asks for art to help brand the area as an international corridor and is seeking murals for the area, encouraging entries from Latino or Asian artists.

Neighborhood advocate Nancy Pierce has been asked to serve on the review/selection committee, which meets Nov. 10. Before that meeting, she's seeking ideas and answers to some key questions. From her note to the neighborhood Google group:

&ldquo While I support public art, I am concerned that some art, in time, just adds to visual clutter. I am also unconvinced that we should welcome certain branding unless we first decide exactly how we want to be branded, in consultation with adjacent neighborhoods. In fact, there is no formal city initiative to brand Central as the International Corridor. Do we want this?

&ldquo What about the &lsquo green’ branding some of us have discussed, building on the greenway, bridge art, ped/bike/transit focus of Merry Oaks? Could public art work support that?”

Merry Oaks has a developing greenway along Briar Creek, and over the years it has attracted people interested in bikes and short commutes as well as a diverse group of artists among its residents. Nearby neighborhoods have similar personalities and a stake in the discussions as well. I suspect most people in the area are very proud of our diverse businesses and population.

Are they separate brands? Can both internationalism and a &ldquo green” brand be sustained?

This particular call for artists is Part II of a project. Part I involved a team of young professionals with the Knight Creative Communities Initiative, who commissioned ceramic artist Amy Sanders for a residency at Garinger High School challenging students to explore visual imagery appropriate to the international flavor of Central Avenue, according to the Arts and Science Council. Sanders created ceramic designs for trash receptacles.

For ideas on Part II, visit the Merry Oaks Google group to let Nancy know what you think, or leave a comment here.

Some background:
Carlos Herrera Burgos received a grant earlier for a mural as part of the international corridor idea, but had difficulties finding a place to display the work. It appears that the art was part of the Central Krawl in June at Pura Vida; I'm not sure where it is now.

Chapel Hill has some excellent murals, but the town is more condensed than Central Avenue, with alleys and tall brick walls. They're working on freshening them up and preserving them.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Visit Flickr for Elizabeth pumpkin wall pictures

Want more pictures of the pumpkin wall in Elizabeth?
Go visit Flickr, a photo sharing service. This particular search at the link is for the words "pumpkin wall," and you'll see a few walls that are in other places too as an added bonus.
Do not miss the shots by the photographer called Doxieone. She did a great job capturing the pumpkins at night.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Pumpkin wall lighting on Wednesday

The Elizabeth neighborhood is building its annual pumpkin wall, and the official lighting ceremony is Wednesday at 7 p.m. (-ish, I suspect).
More photos soon from the wall on Sunday. There were plenty of pumpkins yet to be carved on Sunday afternoon. Pumpkins are free, but you're welcome to carve your own at home and bring it to the wall.
Note: I did not see any pi pumpkins as of Sunday. That was my favorite pun in the past.
Where: 537 Lamar Street.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A great story about a Merry Oaks teacher

Kansas City sports writer Joe Posnanski writes a lovely tribute to Merry Oaks Elementary teacher and Elizabeth resident Lolo Pendergrast.

His tribute is not about her teaching abilities now, but rather her teaching abilities for a young reporter.

Joe says Lolo taught him this:
"...We shouldn’t shoot low, we shouldn’t settle for the ordinary, we shouldn’t be limited by ceilings in our imagination. I don’t know that I ever thanked Lolo for teaching me those lessons; and I’m sure if I did she scoffed at the very idea of that I would thank her for sharing of herself. That’s what I mean by the Lolos in our lives. They don’t want thanks. They don’t want anything, I guess, except someone willing to listen."

We're lucky to have teachers like Lolo at Merry Oaks, and we're lucky to have writers like Joe who share the stories.

Pumpkin wall update

Under the Water Tower has the scoop on the Elizabeth pumpkin wall. Go check it out.
More pictures here.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Where to find election information

So you're looking to study up before voting? Want to go beyond the TV commercials?

The Charlotte Observer's vote guide is here.

The Raleigh News and Observer's election coverage is here., the website for The Independent in The Triangle, has election information here.

The League of Women Voters has PDF documents covering state and local elections here.

The Mecklenburg Board of Elections has early voting information and other stuff here.

You can also check the links in the "Politics" sidebar about halfway down on the left of this blog.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

MONA potluck and pitfire tonight

Last-minute reminder:

Tonight, Saturday, Oct. 18, is the Merry Oaks Neighborhood Association's fall potluck and pitfire gathering. Bring a side dish and hang out and visit with your neighbors. See the Google group for more details.

Merry Oaks cleans up Briar Creek

Trash and litter are like laundry: There's always more to be done.

Merry Oaks residents cleaned up areas of Briar Creek along the neighborhood greenway on Oct. 4 as part of The Big Sweep. But heavy undergrowth and continuing warm weather prevented volunteers from getting everything. As the weather cools and snakes and bad bugs go into hiding, we have great opportunities for getting more trash out of the creek and nearby greenway. It doesn't always take an organized event: Mindful visits with trash bags in hand work well too.

Here's part of the report from the official cleanup from the neighborhood Google message group:

"Merry Oaks volunteers did their part on Oct. 4 to clean up our section of Briar Creek at the greenway. Many thanks to Kate Mellnik and Ben Kubie who headed up a group of five who ended up with 15 bags of trash and about 5-7 bulky items. They lugged them to Arnold Drive for special pickup and reported results to Mecklenburg County. These were some of the more interesting items that were found: boxsprings, basketball backboard, thermos, baseball, lots of golf balls, cordless phone, tire, sofa cushions, phone card, and dentures."

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Elizabeth's pumpkin wall

No matter your politics, you can't deny that the Elizabeth community's pumpkin wall has been a treat for the neighbors during recent years. Most of the photos here are from the 2007 wall, challenged by drought and then rains at carving time.

The photo second from the top is from the 2006 truth wall, which created a bit of political controversy.

Will there be a wall this year? What will it say? Let me know so I can share.

But one word of advice this Halloween: Let's hope all the nearby neighborhoods get a clue this year. Don't add to traffic and gas consumption by swarming Elizabeth and Plaza Midwood (and even Chapel Hill) for Halloween festivities. Let's try to make it work in our own neighborhoods. If we must visit the nearby sites, be mindful of people big and small on foot.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Call for artists

The Arts and Science Council of Mecklenburg County has released a call for artists for up to three $15,000 commissions for local painters to develop murals along the Central Avenue international corridor.

The project focuses on Central Avenue between Briar Creek Road and Eastway Drive, just next to the Merry Oaks neighborhood.

ASC encourages artists of diverse backgrounds – particularly Asian and Latino, reflecting the new immigrant communities – to apply. The application process involves qualifications only – no proposals.

From the prospectus:
"The goal of this project is to provide the corridor with a more colorful and cohesive visual identity....

"Ceramic artist Amy Sanders will continue as the lead artist. She'll have oversight of the artists hired, will coordinate community meetings to involve residents and artists in the project and will work with business owners as appropriate. The suggested locations for the murals are the Asian and Latino businesses near Briar Creek."

Application deadline is Oct. 30. Details: the Arts and Science Council.

Photos: Courtesy of the prospectus provided by the Arts and Science Council, showing a sample mural idea proposed in the UNCC Master Plan. The building is Cafe Central, at the corner of Central Avenue and Arnold Drive.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Finding gas using Twitter

(Edited December 2009: Embedded Twitter box no longer included, because #cltgas tag isn't being used at the moment.)

The box up above is a feed of notes people have posted on Twitter about gas availabilty in Charlotte. Posts with the keyword #cltgas will show up in the box, with a small bit of delay, human intervention and moderation using Google Reader.

It's not instantaneous, and it's not really high-tech. Someone with programming skills could do a better job than me, I'm sure. But it's working somewhat here in Charlotte, and definitely in other places like Atlanta. You can search Twitter at Twitter Search for the tag #atlgas and see an illustration.

What's so cool is that Twitter is easy to use from a cellphone, just the sort of thing you'll have with you while driving your dinosaur around town looking for fuel. And it's an illustration of how we can help each other quickly: Anyone in Charlotte for Hurricane Hugo or an ice storm can attest to the need for immediate information about basics like ice, gas, firewood, open restaurants and hotels. And sometimes, instant messages are the only communication method that works.

So check out Twitter. You might not need it now; in our neighborhood, many of us are lucky or smart enough to not be too dependent on gas. And walking and biking are certainly green alternatives. But live long enough and you will find a time when you need good local information from neighbors; Twitter can help.

Update Monday, Sept. 29: The Charlotte Observer added a link to Twitter Search on Monday for the #cltgas tag, and The Atlanta Constitution had a link up through the weekend for the tag #atlgas. Both used links directly to Twitter Search, so the results were real time. You can go there too for faster updates than you'll see here.

And Scott Dodd wrote about the shortage at Switchboard, a blog for the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Meet the other candidates

By now we all know Barack Obama is visiting Charlotte on Sunday, Sept. 21.

If you're into smaller crowds and finding out more about the other candidates, here's a great opportunity:

From noon to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Levine Museum of the New South, 200 East Seventh St., state and local candidates will be talking and meeting with voters.

From the event's Facebook page:

"Charlotte voters can ask questions of state and local candidates, receive state and local voter guides, register to vote, and gain a better understanding of what it means to participate in their local democracy from candidates themselves.

Several candidates and elected officials confirmed to speak include U.S. Senate candidate Kay Hagan, N.C. Gubernatorial candidates Pat McCrory and Bev Purdue, N.C. State Representatives Beverly Earle and Robert Pittinger, N.C. State Senator Malcolm Graham, Mecklenburg County Commission candidates Harold Cogdell, Hal Jordan, Dan Ramirez, Jennifer Roberts, and more. Panelists will include Charlotte Observer political video columnist Tonya Jameson and CNN and Fox News political contributor Lenny McAllister (The Hip-Hop Republican).

The event is sponsored by the Charlotte-area Association of Black Journalists, the Charlotte chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Generation Engage and the Levine Museum of the New South."

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

County could buy homes damaged by floods

April Bethea write in The Charlotte Observer:

"Mecklenburg County could buy up to 50 homes that sustained serious flood damage in the past month under a deal approved unanimously by commissioners on Tuesday.

Under the plan, the county's Storm Water Services department would spend $4 million to buy up to 30 homes, mostly along Briar Creek. Also, Park and Recreation could purchase up to 20 more residences using money from greenway bonds approved last year.

The program would be limited to homes severely damaged in floods on Aug. 27 or Sept. 10, and most prone to future flooding.

Most of the targeted properties lie in the Briar Creek floodplain, and include homes on or near the following east Charlotte streets: Dunlavin Way, Harbinger Court, Dolphin Lane and Shannonhouse Drive.


The program is voluntary."

(Note: I'd copy less here, but fear the link to story won't last more than two weeks. I recommend to any readers that they click on the link to read the full story at The Charlotte Observer and continue to visit

Saturday, September 06, 2008

FEMA flood plain maps

Here's a snippet of the official FEMA floodplain map for Briar Creek next to the Merry Oaks neighborhood.
Now that Hanna has blown through the Carolinas and Ike threatens other areas, it's a good chance to take the long view, study the maps and compare with the reality of how the water rose.
Anybody looking at real estate should check these maps before making purchases. They take a long time to maneuver around in at FEMA's website, but the information is valuable for informed choices.

And a fun update: Owners of the little Puffer sailboat that floated down the creek to the greenway have been located through the neighborhood Google group. Yay!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Whose missing a sailboat?

Briar Creek, swollen from the remnants of Hurricane Faye last week, captured a sailboat.

Then the creek spit it out into the undergrowth near the pedestrian bridge between Arnold Drive and Masonic Avenue next to the Merry Oaks neighborhood.

Workers with Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation hauled the boat out of the woods and took it off for safekeeping on Tuesday. They hauled a refrigerator out of the creek earlier.

Is the boat yours? Want it back? Call Susan Donnelly, greenway gardener, at 704.507.8950.

You might need it later this week as Storm Hanna heads up this way.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Briar Creek flooding

Pictures of the flooding of Briar Creek on Aug. 27 here.
This is the Flickr stream tagged with "flood" and "Briar Creek" so you might see some unrelated stuff as you go through the list, but it's a quick way to see photos from several people.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Tax revaluation ruh-roh

It's almost September 2008. A Mecklenburg County tax revaluation, with accompanying bills, is due in January 2009.

Do you know where your neighborhood stands?

Check The Charlotte Observer's comparison of recent home sale prices in 2006 and 2007 to tax values with an interactive map here.

The map above shows Merry Oaks. Red dots indicate home sales that were more than 50% higher than existing property tax values. Orange dots indicate sales that were 30% to 50% higher. Green dots indicate sales 10% to 30% higher.

Of course, prices in your neighborhood could have changed dramatically since 2007. If so, it might be worth your while to gather data on those price changes.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Briar Creek art dedication

Greensboro artist Jim Gallucci joined with neighbors and local officials Saturday to dedicate his mesh-and-metal sculpture lining the Briar Creek bridge on Central Avenue. Nearby restaurant Dim Sum provided some treats for those who attended, and La Onda Tropical provided shade and a gathering spot near the bridge.
Read more and see one view of the art here.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Dedicating the Briar Creek Bridge art

From the Merry Oaks Google group mailbag:

Residents of Merry Oaks, Plaza Midwood, Commonwealth, Morningside & Briar Creek Neighborhoods are invited to a public art dedication at the Briar Creek Bridge on Central Avenue, at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 23. The bridge is near the intersection of Central Avenue and Masonic Drive.

City Council member Patsy Kinsey and artist Jim Gallucci of Greensboro will be there to celebrate the new public artwork for the Briar Creek Bridge. Gallucci worked with neighborhood representatives to design art railings on the newly renovated bridge that reflect the elements of water, plants and the natural stream environment.

Refreshments will be provided.

Questions? Contact Sarah Gay, Associate Vice President of Public Art for the Arts & Science Council, at 704-335-3036.

This public artwork was made possible by the City of Charlotte's 1 percent for Art
Ordinance, and the project was managed by ASC and the Public Art Commission
on behalf of the City.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Central Avenue updates

Check out "The Naked City" for a post about zoning and urban design. You'll have scroll down for the moment to "The Central Avenue Challenge." Direct hyperlinks don't seem to work as The Charlotte Observer blogs prepare for a site redesign.

And also check out CLT Blog for a wrapup of the Central Avenue International Corridor work through the Knight Creative Community Initiative. The post has links worth bookmarking to a new creative community Google group as well as news about Garinger High School's involvement in planning improvements along Central Avenue.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Taming the feral dogs

Rebecca Jones and others in the neighborhood have managed to reunite the mother and pup feral dogs who previously roamed the greenway off Masonic Avenue.

Great story, great happy ending, but it's not over yet. Rebecca's looking for a permanent home for the dogs, and hopes they can stay together. Cate Martin has helped by making phone calls and thinks she might have some help.

But if you know of a special home that could take both dogs, comment here. Mother dog is on heart worm medicine; the pup is scheduled to be treated for heart worm in August. Rebecca's walking the pup with her other dogs in the neighborhood. Say hi if you see them.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Save the date -- MONA turns 10

The Merry Oaks Neighborhood Association turns 10 this year, and the group plans a celebration on Saturday, Oct. 18.

So save the date. Get out and meet your neighbors. Many original group leaders would love to pass on the leadership opportunities to a new generation of neighbors, so think about the possibilities and how you can make a difference.

Act locally.

Charlotte East community meeting

Charlotte East Community Partners meet on Tuesday, July 15th from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Plaza United Methodist Church at 5600 The Plaza.

On the agenda:
Updates on Independendence Boulevard, Eastland Mall, Coventry Woods, the Novant Health project at I-485 and Albemarle Road, the Historic Hezekiah Alexander bed and breakfast at the corner of Shamrock and Sharon Amity and police reports.

Darrell Bonapart, president of the group, says in an email that he's concerned about strengthening media coverage of the area and strengthening ties to the real estate community.
"There has been a tremendous amount of news covering the Independence Blvd construction or destruction, the Eastland Mall site renovation, the dozens of empty big boxes in our area and crime," he said.
"Some of the media coverage is justified, but I feel that in a lot of cases the negativity towards East Charlotte has gone overboard."

Thoughts? Talk with him at the meeting.

Other planned events for the group:
Saturday, July 26: Eastside Community Cookout at the Sheffield Neighborhood Park from 11 am until 2 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 11: The East Charlotte Black Tie Gala, at the Charlotte Museum of History. The event is planned as a fundraiser for a nonprofit organization that counsels abused and neglected children. Details at the July 15 meeting.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Krawl for a cause

Plaza Midwood and nearby neighborhoods party for a cause this weekend. Don't miss it. Details at The Krawl.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Conventry Woodstock on Saturday

The Coventry Woods neighborhood puts on Coventry Woodstock from 3:30 to 8 p.m. Saturday at Steamer's on Independence Boulevard, with music by the alternative Matthews group Lucky Five and Sacha Barlow, assistant principal violist of the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra.
The event is to raise money for a lawsuit against a developer. Background here.

Free classical music in a beautiful space

Mark your calendars: Maureen Howell gives an organ music concert at the refurbished St. John's Baptist church at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 18.
She'll play Bach, Franck, Howells, Halley and a special piece commissioned for the event, written by Dan Locklair.
If you're awake in time for morning services, music includes Roewer, Rutter, and a special commissioned piece by Paul Halley.
The event marks church renovations and the organ installation. The renovations improved acoustics and added flexibility for music performances, giving musicians and the community another venue option to share beautiful music.
More details on the organ here. The church's website is here.

Unband your trees

From Under the Water Tower comes good timely advice: It's time to unband your trees, in the battle against cankerworms.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The worms crawl in

From the Merry Oaks neighborhood Google group:

Person One:
"I live on Cosby Place; We still have lots of worms in this neighborhood; we banded, then the spraying. Does anyone else still have
this problem???"

Person Two:

"Yes, but not as much as last year...Our street tree leaves are about 1/4
eaten instead of 3/4 eaten."

Person Three:
"Yes. I live in Commonwealth Park - they aren't nearly as bad as last year but I have noticed more and more each day. They are definitely in one of my huge oaks and now that the flowers have dropped off my dogwoods (2 very large dogwoods), I'll be keeping an eye on them too. I'm debating calling Barlett Tree to come spray but I just don't have the $$. I even double banded some of my trees. Stupid worms."

Person Four:
"Canker worms hatch in cycles for about 3 weeks to a month. The city's spray killed the worms that were actively feeding at the time, but since it isn't systemic, it would have washed off in the next rain. I still have my Bug Barrier bands on my trees and added a little Tanglefoot to catch any of the little paratroopers once they started climbing back up (you can still get Tanglefoot from Black Hawk Hardware at Park Road Shopping Center).
"I'm not a big proponent of using chemicals, but if the worms have totally invaded your bushes, a quick spray with Raid yard fogger (for mosquitoes) will drop them in their tracks. I discovered that during the huge invasion a couple of years ago..the worms were annihilating my front bushes and I used the yard fogger..I was able to take out about a thousand of them in under 15 minutes. For trees, Home Depot also sells a solution that you can attach to your hose, but be very careful of overspray, dress appropriately when using it, and watch out for children and pets using the yard for a bit.
"Another option is to get an arborist to inject a systemic treatment directly into each tree's root system. It will make each leaf deadly to the worms when they try to feed, and lasts about a month.
Hope that helps!"

Photo courtesy of Flickr user xxxtoff of Winnipeg, Canada (where the worms live too). Shared under a Creative Commons license.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Getting there - on a bike

Here are a few bicycle route resources, for those close to town who are ready to give up high gas prices in their commutes. Links will join those in the sidebar.
Bike Mentor.
Charlotte Bikes dot org.
Routeslip dot com. Routeslip lists 1,401 bike routes for North Carolina. It lists 749 in South Carolina and 243 in Charlotte.
Thanks to Scott Lundgren for the links. If anyone has other tips on commuting from Merry Oaks on a bike, feel free to share.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Update: The Vyne in pictures

1. Photos were shot from Central Avenue and Briar Creek Road on April 12.
2. There are two car outlets, three lanes each. The one pictured comes out on Central Avenue.
3. The photo of two bulldozers has a teeny downtown building just above the horizon between the trees.
4. The largest tree had some leveling around it, reducing the original elevation of the property. Vines grow on that tree, perhaps suitable for the name of the property but not necessarily good for the tree.
5. A couple of willow oaks also remain on the property. They're slow to leaf out, probably because of last year's canker worm damage.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Neighborhoods unite to fight crime

From the Merry Oaks Google group comes word of a Thursday night meeting in Plaza Midwood with police. Edited slightly:

"From: Timothy Griffin

Two armed robberies -- at Fuel Pizza and Snug Harbor -- occurred in the last month here in the Plaza Central area. We need to address this issue with the police department and the city. I am holding a meeting with representatives from the Morningside Neighborhood Association board, Plaza Midwood's board, the merchants, Patsy Kinsey and the Eastway Police Department. We need more police presence in the business area immediately.

I am going to contact the PM Library at Central and Plaza and book the meeting room for an emergency safety meeting with the Police Department at 7pm for Thursday Evening.

Please let me know if you can attend.

Tim Griffin, president
Morningside Neighborhood Association
1508 Morningside Dr.
Charlotte, NC 28205

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Merry Oaks communications: a quick guide

Here's a quick guide on the various ways that Merry Oaks neighbors talk with each other online. It's for newcomers, old timers and anyone who wants more clarity and transparency on our current ways of communicating. It might be edited over time as I talk with others. Please feel free to share your ideas in comments.

The Google group:
The neighborhood association has had a Google group for awhile with a couple of moderators. The discussions are widely read by at least one city council representative and one county commission representative, as well as a law enforcement representative. It's moderated by a couple of different people. You can post pages and documents there as well, though we haven't gone that far with it yet. The Commonwealth Park Neighborhood Association has used their Google group for the posting of files (including police "mugshots" of people working the streets in their neighborhood). This is the most active and quick way to communicate with each other; just remember you're broadcasting to a large audience of elected officials, police and perhaps potential home buyers and real estate folks. I have not seen any ads there; if there were any, the revenue would go to Google.

Neighborhood Link:
This is a free long-standing website initially funded by a private company in partnership with Mecklenburg County or the city (I can't remember which, it's been so long). It's part of a network that provides the websites to neighborhood groups. It has excellent reference material about local government, schools and other neighborhood associations, as well as a discussion area and PDF documents of current and old newsletters. Those newsletters include contact information for all the current neighborhood association board members. The site requires a Neighborhood Link signon to participate in discussions. It has no ads. It has ads, and it's unclear where the revenue goes -- not the neighborhood association.

Under Oak blog:
That's where you are now. This is a personal blog, run by me, a board member of the neighborhood association. It is not an official vehicle of the neighborhood association. In that respect, it's similar to Under the Water Tower in Elizabeth. That neighborhood has an official website, and that blog is a personal endeavor by a resident of that neighborhood. Under Oak has no ads.

Facebook Neighborhoods application: This is the newest way I know of. Eight people are now members of the Facebook Merry Oaks neighborhood -- for the longest time, I knew of only three. This method seems to have potential for posting event information and meeting new people. It's free, but any ad revenue goes to Facebook.

All these methods might be a bit confusing. My point of view: It's good to have a variety of ways to talk with each other, though we all need to continue to work on being transparent so that people know how to use these ways to communicate well. In addition, I suspect that the folks running these various communication methods would love to have help.

To quote a co-worker recently: "Where there's no logic, there is history." In some cases, these methods evolved because neighbors didn't want to share their email addresses publicly, or wanted to be able to comment anonymously. As tech tools and the neighborhood evolve, I'm sure we can continue to improve.

And of course, there's always a chat along the sidewalk. Sometimes, that's the best way.

Thoughts? Let me (Andria) know at akrewson45c AT mac DOT com.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Comment moderation and legal stuff

Under Oak now has comment moderation turned on. If you leave a comment, I'll need to review it before it's posted online. Apologies for any future delays, but I'll try to be prompt.
Previously, comment moderation was off, so I missed seeing some of your comments until much later. This way, I'll get to see immediately what people are saying, and I'll have a little more protection under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
Comments have not been a problem in the past, and Merry Oaks is enjoying a peaceful, quiet time of community building with active parent play groups and a lovely spring. However, nearby neighborhoods sometimes share information about battles that might involve lawyers. Community news resources are lucky to have free, online legal references like those available at the Berkman Center from Harvard. I highly recommend that other newsy neighborhood blogs check the information there.
In addition, we have positive, solutions-oriented neighbors and brains in our head, to quote Dr. Seuss. I'm sure he would approve.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Charlotte East meets tonight

Charlotte East Community Partners meets tonight in Citiside.

Edited details directly from an email from President Darrell Bonapart:

This is a reminder of the meeting scheduled for Tuesday, March 18th at the Citiside Community Clubhouse (6:30pm - 8:00pm) on Plaza Walk Road. The community is located behind the Bi-Lo grocery store shopping center which is at the corner of Eastway Drive and The Plaza Road. Entrance to the community is right next to the Bi-Lo Shopping Center by way of The Plaza Road. You would be turning onto Plaza Walk Rd which dead ends directly to the front door of the Community Clubhouse. Extremely important information will be shared regarding issues affecting our area. If you or your community or business is ready to join the Charlotte East Community Partners, please bring your dues payment with you to the meeting. For individuals, the amount is $10 and it is $25 for Neighborhood Associations and Businesses. We need you all to become financial members to assist us in our efforts to protect our communities and businesses. A report will be provided to financial members at our April meeting. All communities and businesses between Monroe Road and The Plaza Road are with whom we want to establish a partnership.

Agenda is as follows:

Introduction of Communities
Introduction of Political Candidates
Park and Rec Presentation
Independence Blvd Rally Update
Coventry Woods Lawsuit update
Candidate Forums Hosted by CECP and EPAC
Membership Campaign
Tracking Zoning Permits along with issue of Back Zoning to bring properties up to date.
Annual Black Tie Gala
Coalition of Communities Project

Darrell Bonapart
President, Charlotte East Community Partners
704-890-2771 (cell)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Car, bus or bicycle?

A picture is worth more than a thousand words.

Related: Can someone please get a "Bike lane ends" sign put up on Central Avenue inbound before the intersection of Central with Merry Oaks Road? I worry a biker is going to get hit where the bike lane abruptly stops.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Coventry Woods does take prisoners

An email from a friend in the Eastside neighborhood of Coventry Woods, which is continuing its zoning battle against the developers of Independence Woods:

"There is talk in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, that the Coventry Woods Neighborhood Association 'does not take prisoners.'
... I can assure you that this is incorrect.
We eat them."

Attached to the email is a copy of a court action filed by the neighborhood association on March 11 against the City of Charlotte, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission and Independence Capital Realty LLC.

The action seeks to "determine the validity of the City of Charlotte's subdivision ordinance appeal process, and the validity of the preliminary plat approval for Independence Woods subdivision."

The action also seeks a declaration that the subdivision ordinance unlawful and that the preliminary plan approval for Independence Woods is invalid. It also seeks a preliminary injunction prohibiting Independence Woods from further construction, and demands a jury trial.

And here.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Dasani water? It's from your Charlotte tap

One of the best tidbits out of the Merry Oaks Neighborhood Association meeting Thursday night:

That Dasani water you buy at the store? It's bottled right here, in Charlotte, near the Charlotte-Mecklenburg water treatment plant off Tyvola Road. That's the word from a CMUD presenter who spoke at the meeting.

And while it's no secret that bottled water often comes from the tap, it's still a bit startling to remember.

Curious: Does Dasani filter out the chemical making the chlorine smell that comes from tap water in Charlotte? Or does CMUD provide Dasani water that has fewer chemicals in it?

More on the meeting later.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Merry Oaks meeting and precinct update

The Merry Oaks Neighborhood Association will hold its regular, quarterly meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 28, at Merry Oaks Elementary School.

On the agenda: the ever popular police report and perhaps discussion of making future meetings more social, except when events require coordinated, organized action. Board members are seeking new ideas from residents and many ongoing issues remain: code enforcement, Section 8 housing, nearby development. See the Spring 2008 neighborhood newsletter, linked from Neighborhood Link for more.

Precinct 29 Democrats update: Seven people turned out. Marcus Williams is chair, and Jan Snead is vice chair.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Very local politics

Precinct 29 Democrats plan an organizational meeting Tuesday, Feb. 19, at 7 p.m. at Merry Oaks Elementary.

Recent news about the sheriff's post in Mecklenburg County has highlighted the importance of local party organization. Joining a Facebook group for a presidential candidate is not enough to make a difference in how politics affects people directly.
So show up.

Equal time notice: If any other party plans similar organizational meetings, I'll be glad to post the information.

More information from Jan Snead, posted on the neighborhood Google group:

"We need five officers to form an organization. The group must meet again by March 12th to be considered a valid organization for the county Democratic Party elections in April. Our chairman has resigned, so a new one must be elected, and if we don't organize, we don't get any votes.

"The Mecklenburg County Democratic Convention also chooses delegates to the state convention, who choose the delegates to the national Democratic Party Convention in August.

"So if you ever wanted to know how you can help Democrats to get elected, or how to become more involved on a local level, please come out. We need your support! And if you don't want to be directly involved, but would like to stuff envelopes or call neighbors, we can give you information on who to call and how to start."

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Chinese New Year on Central Avenue (or why did the dragon cross the road?)

Traditional Chinese lions and a dragon danced at Dim Sum restaurant at 2920 Central Avenue on Sunday to celebrate Chinese New Year. Performers drew a crowd to the restaurant's parking lot and slowed -- and sometimes stopped -- traffic along Central Avenue. The sound of drums drew people from nearby neighborhoods.
For more information on Chinese New Year, try Wikipedia as a starting point.

Friday, February 08, 2008

The Vyne: Update II in photos

Feb. 3, from Central Avenue (above).

Jan. 19, from Central Avenue (above).

Photos shot Feb. 3 detail continuing work at The Vyne at Central Avenue and Briar Creek Road. I've tried (amateurishly) to match a couple of the February photos with those from the same angles from Jan. 19, with two bonus photos from Feb. 3 at the end. Grading and other site work has continued since that date; that's why the bonus photos at the end are interesting. The old Plummer house sat on a bit of a knoll, as is clear from the Terraserver image in an earlier post. The site is more level now, with some elevation for that skyline view perhaps lost. Still, you can catch a bit of downtown's buildings framed by the dirt mover in the last photo. Big water or sewer pipes are stacked at the site now as well.

Feb. 3, from Briar Creek Road (above).

Jan. 19, from Briar Creek Road (above).

Feb. 3, from Central Avenue (above).

Feb. 3, from Briar Creek Road, with a bit of skyline (above).

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Wherever you go, there you are

Lots of stuff here is about local things:
Being here, in this community, at the upper end of Briar Creek, connected to the Catawba River.
As a treat, I'm sharing a link to a naturalist's quiz that can challenge you to be more aware of where you are, right now, and how the things you do affect your place.
Check out Kevin Kelly's quiz here.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Coventry Woods vs. Zoning Board

Zoning update in their own words from the Coventry Woods Neighborhood Association. This is a fairly close-in eastside neighborhood that works together to try to preserve their established neighborhood. The post is long, and edited somewhat, but it's a complicated issue that's important to a small group of people. It's also about trying to save trees.

"After an all morning session Tuesday, Jan. 29, the Zoning Board of Adjustments voted late that afternoon on one of two appeals placed before it by the Coventry Woods Neighborhood Association, and voted to examine the second appeal in the near future.

The ZBA voted 4-to-1 against the CWNA's contention that notification should have been given property owners adjacent to the Independence Woods subdevelopment project.

Independence Woods received preliminary subdivision approval in December 2006; notice of project approval was posted to the City-County's Charmeck web site page close to a month later, long after the 10-day window for appeal had expired.

ZBA member Chet Rabon, an attorney, said the CWNA is in a "classic 'Catch-22' situation" and that the Planning staff's lack of formal notification to the Coventry Woods and Cedars East neighborhoods created a due-process issue -- "a situation fundamentally unfair to Coventry Woods."

The remaining ZBA members said that Zoning Ordinances specify notification of adjacent property owners only in code-specified instances, an argument put forward by the City Attorney's office; or that, simply, the stated 10-day deadline passed.

The remaining appeal before the ZBA concerns the applicability of the tree-save ordinance, which gives a "density bonus" to developers who set aside a percentage of land for saving existing tree canopy.

The East Charlotte tract in question, between Independence Boulevard and Amity Place, adjoining the Coventry Woods and Cedars East neighborhoods, is zoned R-4: It calls for four lots per acre.

Because of the tree-save proviso and other bonuses, the Planning department's subdivision staff gave developer Jerry Rigsby the go-ahead to develop the 15.8 acres with lots that are the equivalent of 10 per acre; plus the OK to build houses with only 6 feet between them. The increase in density from standard R-4 exceeds 20 percent.

Most of the tract has been clear-cut and graded; the long-established tree canopy there has been bulldozed; the net result of the tree-save and other bonuses has been to allow a de facto rezoning bereft of a formal rezoning and the public input a formal rezoning would require.

Through its attorney, Kenneth Davies of Davies & Grist, the CWNA will pursue the appropriateness of the tree-save bonuses given Independence Woods at an upcoming ZBA session.

In the meantime, the CWNA will pursue various appellate options.

....The Mayor and City Council have pledged to focus attention on maintaining and improving life in East Charlotte. Meanwhile, the bottom has fallen out of the sub-prime housing market, and the government, media and public is decrying the proliferation of poor-quality subdivisions.

But the city Planning staff nonetheless is defending its approval of Independence Woods, a low-quality, in-fill project... ."

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The Vyne: An update in photos

The Vyne, a complex of 99 flats at the corner of Central Avenue and Briar Creek Road, is becoming reality.
The photos with trees were taken on Jan. 12, from Central Avenue. Photos without so many trees (the top five in this post) were taken on Jan. 20. The top two are from Central Avenue; the following three are from Briar Creek Road.
Elevation map from
Aerial photo from Google Earth, with the old Plummer house highlighted by a red square.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

New pipe organ for Elizabeth

The Elizabeth neighborhood is getting a new pipe organ, made in Quebec.
The parts arrive at St. Johns Baptist Church on Sunday, Jan. 27, and church members will help unload the pieces from a truck and bring them into the sanctuary after the 10:30 a.m. service.

The church, at the corner of Hawthorne Lane and Fifth Street, is providing lunch for helpers. See more pictures of the organ being built here.

Through February and March, the organ, called Opus 113, will be assembled in the renovated sanctuary, and the organ pipes will get their new "voices" with testing. Organ builders will work six days a week, giving a "voice" to each of the more-than 2,500 pipes. It makes its debut in Easter services on March 23.

The organ is from the Sainte-Hyacinthe, Quebec, factory of highly respected Letourneau Organs. (Hint: You really want to click on the company link to see and listen to other organs the company has built.)

Letourneau Organs has built organs for Christ Church in Vienna, Austria, and the chapel at Selwyn College at Cambridge, England. Its new magnum opus is at the Episcopal Church of St. John the Divine in Houston.

Questions? Contact Minister of Music Warren Howell through the church office at (704) 333-5428.
Photo courtesy of Warren and Maureen Howell, taken in summer 2007, showing some of the wooden pipes of the church's organ being crafted at the Sainte-Hyacinthe factory.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Commonwealth Park vs. hotels

Members of the Commonwealth Park Neighborhood Association plan to attend a City Council public hearing on Monday, Jan. 14, to make their case for tighter laws that govern hotels.
The neighborhood is across Central Avenue from Merry Oaks, adjacent to Independence Boulevard. Residents have long been concerned about crime spillover from nearby hotels on Independence.
Monday, Jan. 14 update: Victoria Cherrie of The Charlotte Observer writes about the issue here. (Link will die in two weeks.)
Tuesday, Jan. 15, update: The change in law passed, and about 60 Commonwealth Park residents showed up at the meeting to support the change.

A letter written by the neighborhood association to be sent to the council's safety committee says, in part, "As you are aware, the safety and quality of life in our neighborhood has been adversely impacted by the nuisance hotels on Independence Boulevard for many years."
Proposed ordinance changes would allow city agencies (code enforcement) to regulate lodging establishments that are not currently being regulated by the state, through the county's health department. In a letter to the neighborhood association, Maj. Diego Anselmo of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said the changes in the ordinance "will help local law enforcement address criminal activity that is taking place on lodging establishment property by holding the owner/operator accountable for this activity."
The CPNA is seeking a good turnout for the 7:30 p.m. meeting Monday, at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center. Go here for a Google map or directions.
The neighborhood used their Google group to organize much of their efforts against the hotels. For more details, check it out.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Making low-income housing safer

Merry Oaks residents greeted the new year with news of a shooting on Arnold Drive that left one man dead and another charged with murder.
Neither party was a resident of the neighborhood, or of the nearby Hillcrest Apartments where the shooting occurred.

Still, the neighborhood cares: about perception of the neighborhood, about safety and about the family of the victim and about the law-abiding residents of the apartments.
Neighborhood online forum participants are more than tired of the crime in nearby low-income apartments. The regional property manager for Westminster Properties, owners of the Hillcrest Apartments, has responded on the neighborhood Google group, saying recent legislative changes have made it more difficult for providers of low-income housing to control crime by non-residents.

Many questions surface, from a variety of perspectives:
How much money are the owners making from the federal Section 8 housing program? Does that program work when it fills entire complexes with low-income residents and counts on local police to manage the problems? Are there better alternatives to housing low-income people? How can those property owners control non-residential access? How can cities filled with growth and new condos provide low-income housing without concentrating crime and school resegregation? Would increasing incentives for police officers, firefighters and EMT works to live in such complexes help? How can neighbors help?

Charlotte has a history of strong, nonprofit, efficient organizations that make change happen. Perhaps the community can find ways to improve policies and programs to increase safety for low-income housing residents and nearby neighborhoods.

Some resources:
The N.C. Housing Coalition The organization, based in Raleigh, states its mission is to lead a campaign for housing to ensure that working families, people in crisis, seniors, and persons with disabilities may live with dignity and opportunity. Safety is a key part of their efforts.
Housing Charlotte: An initiative to find new solutions to address Charlotte's growing affordable housing problem.

Other references:
Westminster Properties, the owners of Hillcrest. You can get a list of their other Charlotte properties.
Grier Heights Neighborhood Initiative: a pdf document listing community efforts to improve the Grier Heights neighborhood several years back, including the owners of Grier Park Apartments giving the keys to their rental office to the police. I'm unclear whether Westminster owned those apartments at the time. The company owns those apartments now, according to its website.

Text of the note from Bert Wray, regional property manager of Westminster Properties, posted on the Merry Oaks neighborhood Google group:

"Dear Merry Oaks neighbors,

Our new year has unfortunately stepped off with the tragic event that unfolded in the early hours of Tuesday morning. As a representative of the 48 families that reside at Hillcrest Apartments, I, as well as my staff on-site, am just as concerned about the criminal activity that has literally been brought to the front pages over the past months.

As an introduction, as the Regional Property Manager for Westminster Company, I represent the owners of Hillcrest Apartments as part of a nationally accredited property management organization. I oversee the management of seven properties in the Charlotte area. Westminster Company specializes in the management of affordable or subsidized housing. Due to the nature of our mission, security is a major priority for me and my staff. Every resident that enters into a lease with our property has passed a criminal and credit screening, as well as landlord references. We are serious about our stance against drugs and crime and use our contracts that we sign with our residents as our only form of enforcement. Let me emphasize that these steps apply to our lease-signing residents. The violent crimes that have occurred at Hillcrest Apartments in the past months have been at the hands of individuals who do not live in our community. They do, however, visit within the community and have ties to Hillcrest Apartments. It is these “visitors” that are the source of our pain and I have little to no means of screening these individuals or even identifying them.

Our most important ally in our war against crime is the police department. We have an excellent relationship with CMPD and its officers. We have always made proactive strides to improve our security to prevent crime instead of reacting to crime. We have openly expressed our need to ban any non-residents who commit crimes in or around our property. Recent legislation changes have made this process impractical and almost impossible. As the landlord, we must be present with CMPD and the individual to be banned, in order to legally ban them from the property. As we all know, the activity that would lead to these bans almost always occurs outside of business hours when the manager is not on site. In the past, we could enter an agreement with CMPD authorizing any officer to execute a trespass order without our presence. As far as our residents at Hillcrest, everyone who has been arrested for criminal activity, or had direct involvement in such activity has been given a lease termination. However, enforcement of that termination ultimately is in the hands of our magistrates.

Making a long story short, many of our limitations in limiting crime within our community stem from decisions and legislation that are made by municipalities and organizations that like to look at the big picture without zooming in on reality. That reality is that our police force needs the freedom to identify and remove individuals who are known cancers to our community. I have asked representatives of Eastway Division CMPD for a list of apartment managers in the area so we can share information to prevent recycling any poor residents and their guests.

As law abiding citizens and residents, I enlist your help to pressure the powers that be to authorize the necessary power to enable CMPD and landlords to eliminate problems, and potential problems, from our community. Also, understand that we at Hillcrest Apartments have an important yet challenging role to provide affordable housing to families in need as an opportunity to better their lives and positively impact society.

Bert Wray
Regional Property Manager
Westminster Company"