Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Charlotte mayor, council and school board elections for 2011: results and research

You can get direct election results from the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections from today's mayor, council and school board races later tonight. Polls close at 7:30 p.m. and results will start showing up almost immediately.

Figuring out who to vote for in the 2011 elections is a little harder. You can check endorsements at The Charlotte Observer. The League of Women Voters has an extensive PDF voter guide that includes candidates for towns in Mecklenburg County.

Try getting your sample ballot from the board of elections before you hit the polls.

Here's a list of more places you can research candidates in the Charlotte elections:
NCvoterGuide.org, from UNC-TV and the N.C. Center for Voter Education.
Charlotte Observer school board candidate profiles.
Charlotte Observer city council candidate profiles and positions.
Charlotte Observer mayoral candidate profiles and positions.

For the Charlotte Mecklenburg School Board race, Lisa Hundley has withdrawn for health reasons, but her name will still appear on the ballot.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

2011 Charlotte early voting for city council and school board

Early voting is open in Mecklenburg County.

You can vote in downtown Charlotte at the Hal Marshall Annex or at various libraries around Charlotte. Merry Oaks voters have choices for Charlotte City Council at large and Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board.

Hal Marshall is open today, Oct. 29, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and Sunday, Oct. 30, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Final early voting day at that location is Nov. 5 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. On weekdays, the annex is open for voting from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Nov. 4. Other locations are open weekdays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and today from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Oct. 30 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and Nov. 5, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Other locations:

  • Beatties Ford Road Library,
  • 2412 Beatties Ford Rd., Charlotte
  • Hayes Building (Ballantyne),
  • 11405 N. Community House Rd., Charlotte
  • Independence Regional Library,
  • 6000 Conference Dr., Charlotte
  • Main Branch Library (Downtown),
  • 310 N. Tryon St., Charlotte
  • Matthews Branch Library,
  • 230 Matthews Station St., Matthews
  • Morrison Regional Library,
  • 7015 Morrison Blvd., Charlotte
  • Mountain Island Library,
  • 4420 Hoyt Galvin Way, Charlotte
  • North County Regional Library,
  • 16500 Holly Crest Ln., Huntersville
  • South County Regional Library,
  • 5801 Rea Rd., Charlotte
  • Steele Creek Library,
  • 13620 Steele Creek Rd., Charlotte
  • University City Regional Library,
  • 301 E. W.T. Harris Blvd., Charlotte
  • West Boulevard Library,
  • 2157 West Blvd., Charlotte

Candidates' backgrounds
The Charlotte Observer has background about the candidates for Charlotte City Council and Charlotte Mecklenburg School Board. Research here.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Charlotte election 2011: Charlotte mayor and city council candidates' forum

From an email from our friends in Coventry Woods, here are the details about Thursday night's candidate forum at Amity Presbyterian Church:

WHAT: Charlotte’s mayoral and at-large City Council candidates in the general election will field questions before the leaders of 17 or more East Charlotte neighborhood and civic organizations.

WHEN: 7-9 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29. Doors open at 6:30 p.m.

WHERE: Johnson Hall, at Amity Presbyterian Church. The church is on the corner of Pierson Drive and North Sharon Amity Road – on North Sharon Amity between Independence Boulevard and Albemarle Road. The church is easy to spot. Johnson Hall is on Pierson Drive, the side street there. There is ample parking.

The East Charlotte Forum – also held in 2005, 2007 and 2009 – is the prime opportunity for citywide candidates in the general election to answer questions before the leadership and key members of neighborhood groups and other civic associations in East Charlotte. They are among the most influential voters in East Charlotte.

Groups participating include the Coventry Woods, Winterfield, Country Club Heights, Grove Park, Marlwood, Birnam Woods, Windsor Park, Merry Oaks, Brandywine, Shamrock Hills, Eastwood Acres, Idlewild Farms, Ravenwood and Plaza Eastway Partners neighborhood associations; Charlotte East Community Partners (CECP), Eastland Area Strategies Team (EAST) and Eastside Political Action Committee (E-PAC). Additional co-sponsors will be added in follow-up press releases.

This forum offers candidates the opportunity to answer questions of paramount interest to the eastern quarter of the city. The forum, with mayoral and at-large City Council candidates, begins at 7 p.m. sharp. It will last no later than 9 p.m.

At the forum, candidates will be asked identical questions and given an allotted time in which to respond.

The mayoral candidates will be be first. At-large candidates will field questions after the mayoral segment of the evening.

NEW THIS YEAR: This year, an optional after-forum event has been added: At 9 p.m., candidates and those in attendance are invited to continue their meet-and-greet and discussions at Steamer’s Bar & Grill, a family-friendly restaurant and pub several doors down Pierson, between North Sharon Amity and Albemarle. Steamer’s is providing complementary hors d’oeuvres for all who come.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Visual ties to the past for the new Harris Teeter store in Plaza Midwood

The cropped photo at the top by the legendary Jeep Hunter shows the old Plaza movie theater on Central Avenue. It stood next to the First Union bank, now Wachovia, and in its place is a parking lot.

The next image is part of an architect’s rendering of the primary sign at the new Harris Teeter at Central Avenue and the Plaza.

The old photo is likely from about 1986. By that time, the theater was showing second-run movies at cheap prices, aimed at kids during the day and older audiences, let’s say, in the evenings. The strategy didn’t work too well.

Architects for the new Harris Teeter grocery store have used the similar marquee styling, and the main sign at the Teeter is one of the details that requires a rezoning exemption from pedestrian overlay classification. Art deco curving details are also part of the store’s exterior design, emphasizing the sometimes-hidden deco details of Plaza Midwood.

At a neighborhood meeting in June, those architects seemed to think the theater was torn down in the 1970s. I’m sharing here just to correct a bit of history and capture the visual details.

The photo comes from the on-site print archives at The Charlotte Observer. The photo is stamped, “Property of Knight Publishing Company.” Jeep Hunter, the photographer, was inducted into the N.C. Hall of Fame for his photojournalism in 2004. His work spans 60 years, and he is a two-time recipient of the prestigious "Southern Photographer of the Year” award, among others.

I believe much of his work is held by the University of North Carolina, and some is held by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Baltimore Museum of Art.

The uncropped old photo is here too.

(Intent is to further work on neighborhood design and to preserve some history. If anyone would like me to unpublish Jeep’s photo, please let me know.)

More background on the planned new Harris Teeter grocery store.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Harris Teeter Store No. 1 in Plaza Midwood: Details of the makeover

Architects for the makeover of the Harris Teeter at 1704 Central Avenue met Tuesday with a small group of neighbors at Green Memorial Baptist Church

The meeting was one of several community outreach efforts by Harris Teeter as the grocery chain seeks a rezoning of the store property at The Plaza and Central Avenue. The area has a pedestrian overlay zoning classification, and Harris Teeter seeks exemptions from some of those rules.

The store is the first Harris Teeter in Charlotte, opening in 1951 after the Harris Food Store moved from about half a block west, in the heart of old Plaza Midwood. Plans for the new store on the property include a display that tells about the site’s history.

A few random facts from the meeting:

Size: The current store is 28,200 square feet. The new store will be about 51,000 square feet. By comparison, the Cotswold Harris Teeter is 53,000 square feet.

Energy: Inside the store, refrigerated products like butter and cheese will be behind glass doors, rather than in refrigerated tubs, to save energy.

Green roof: The roof the the building will have a large “clear story,” or pop-up area with windows to let in light.
The green roof cover will primarily consist of plants in the sedum family, made up of fleshy, low-growing plants that require little water, withstand heat and sun, and bloom frequently in yellow. The roof will require watering, particularly June through August.
Green roofs help control temperatures in the building and are a bit fire-retardant. The Ritz Hotel in uptown Charlotte has a similar roof.

Coffee: A small coffee shop is planned near the store entrance at the corner of the Plaza and Central Avenue.

Design: The art deco elements of the new store are designed to reflect quite a bit of historical art deco near Plaza Midwood among historical buildings and some that still stand. The store sign will be lit and is one of the elements that requires rezoning approval.

Nearby Teeters: The overlap of customers between the Plaza Midwood Harris Teeter and the “tiny Teeter” at the corner of Providence Road and Queens Road, at 1015 Providence Road, is 36%, said one of the architects who designed the exterior of the Plaza Midwood store. Store leaders are planning to remake the tiny Teeter as well, staggering its renovating with the Plaza Midwood store.

Timing: The expansion will require the removal of some gas tanks at the corner of the Plaza and Central Avenue. Therefore, the earliest that demolition is likely to happen is June 2012, with completion in 2013, but those dates most likely would slide about a year to coordinate with the tiny Teeter’s makeover.

Background on the rezoning request.

Photo: Historic image from Groceteria, edited.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Harris Teeter plans community meeting Tuesday for new Plaza Midwood store

A community meeting about the proposed new Harris Teeter at The Plaza and Central Avenue is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 28, at Green Memorial Baptist Church, 1324 The Plaza.

Harris Teeter has filed a rezoning request for the property to rebuild the existing store as a two-story building with a green roof and parking behind the building.

The public hearing on the rezoning is scheduled for July 18. Based on the city’s rezoning schedule, any site plan revisions would be due July 22, with a zoning committee work session on July 27 and a decision on the rezoning from the Charlotte City Council on Sept. 19.

Demolition is expected in 2012 with an opening in 2013. A Harris Teeter has been at the location for 60 years.
Background here.

Rating Charlotte neighborhoods: Measurements are changing

The city of Charlotte and partners at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte are changing the way they rate neighborhoods.
They're drawing new lines, including all of Mecklenburg County and adding more data that can help neighborhoods determine how environmentally sensitive they are, among other things.

The new survey is scheduled to be published in December 2012. In the mean time, researchers are holding meetings to share their plans with neighborhood leaders and to ask for feedback.

The survey also drops the neighborhood labels of "stable," "challenged" and "transitional."

The next two meetings are Tuesday, for the northwest slice of Charlotte, and Thursday, for the southwest slice.

The changes will likely mean eventual changes in Charlotte's housing locational policy that sites low-income housing.
"It might cause us to adjust some of the policies we have," said Tom Warshauser, community and commerce manager for the city of Charlotte, during a meeting for the southeast slice of Charlotte.

The survey also will include a "green assessment tool" that will measure factors like water usage and frequency of recycling.

Most neighborhoods, like Merry Oaks, will fall into smaller boundaries, with data that will more truly reflect the neighborhoods. The researchers hope to provide tools to the public to allow people to slice and dice the data to look at broader geographic areas.

The current survey lists Merry Oaks as "stable," with a property crime rate below the city average and access to public transportation above average. Access to basic retail, however, was way below the city average at 4.9 percent versus a city average of 17.4 percent (based on numbers a couple of years old.)

For questions or feedback, email the researchers.

For an interactive map of the current data, visit here.

Next forums:
Northwest School of the Arts, for the northwest district: Tuesday, 6:30 p.m.
415 Beatties Ford Rd, Charlotte, NC 28216
Southview Recreational Center, for the southwest district: Thursday, 6 p.m.
1720 Vilma St., Charlotte, NC, 28208


From the Charlotte Observer

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Harris Teeter files rezoning application for Central Avenue grocery store

The rezoning application for the Harris Teeter grocery store at The Plaza and Central Avenue has been filed.

Public hearing date is July 18.

The revised site plan (PDF) includes a bike rack near the building, specific space dedicated to a CATS bus pad and specific trees to be preserved.

Oh, and the rooftop seating area faces west, with a likely view of the skyline.

Here's the background.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Streetcars vs. bicycles: Some Central Avenue neighborhoods lose out (opinion)

Comments on an environmental assessment of Charlotte streetcar plans are due to planners on May 9.

The full environmental assessment, available at a city of Charlotte planning site, is 58 megabytes in a PDF and rather dense. Karen Sullivan of The Charlotte Observer has written a summary of the streetcar environmental findings.

The assessment concludes there are no significant negative effects on residents or surrounding neighborhoods.

But the fine print deserves a closer look, particularly for some neighborhoods along Central Avenue like Merry Oaks. The negative effect of the streetcar on bicycling cannot be denied.

For the Central Avenue Subarea, the report notes that bicyclists will face increased safety risks because of streetcar tracks in the roadway and because they would share a lane with streetcars along Central Avenue.

And while the report generally supports the increased use of bicycles, it includes a small clause that could affect plans for extending bike lanes along Central Avenue from Merry Oaks Road to Elizabeth Avenue. The Central Avenue bike lane now stops abruptly at Merry Oaks Road. (It's the red line in the bike route map at the top.)

Says the report:

“The LPA will maintain existing bicycle lanes through Central Avenue and adopt recommendations under the No-Build Alternative to the extent that the improvements do not present a conflict with Project operations.”

In other words, existing bike lanes would be supported as long as bicyclists dodge streetcars, but plans for extending bike lanes along the corridor could be in jeopardy.

Admittedly, many bicyclists and area residents think biking Central Avenue now is akin to suicide. One Merry Oaks bicyclist is lucky to be alive after being hit by a drunk driver on Central awhile back.

Still, bike traffic along Central Avenue continues to increase as gasoline prices rise and as area residents look for alternatives to fossil fuels. And bicyclists also often use parallel routes through quieter nearby neighborhoods like Merry Oaks, Plaza Midwood and Commonwealth. (Some of those routes are on the bike map.)

The report is designed to look at environmental conditions in the future and determine the costs of the streetcar. One cost clearly is the lost opportunity for increased bicycling along Central Avenue if extended bike lanes are abandoned and if street riding becomes even more dangerous.

Some people doubt whether these streetcar plans have any immediate effect on their lives since long-term funding remains unclear. But that one clause in a 58-megabyte document could add weight against a planning commitment for extending bike lanes along parts of Central Avenue.

If the streetcar would hinder the future bike lane from Merry Oaks Road to Elizabeth Avenue, then a deep commitment to enabling and connecting the alternative parallel routes seems in order. Certainly other factors affect future bike routes, but the streetcar plan piles on to existing hurdles.

Granted, other Charlotte city departments are working on bicycle route planning. The negative effects of streetcar planning on Central Avenue routes should influence their work.

Our transportation and energy consumption plans shouldn’t just switch us from oil to electricity. Enabling and encouraging other methods like bicycles shouldn’t fall victim “to the extent that the improvements do not present a conflict with Project operations.”

Bikes and streetcars don't have to be an either/or choice. Other cities like Portland have been through this and have lessons to share. Let's learn from them.

Thoughts? You can email the streetcar senior project manager, John Mrzygod, by May 9.

Images: Top image shows existing bike routes around Central Avenue. Bottom image shows planned streetcar stops.

Further reading:
Bikes & Streetcars: let's be Best Friends!
Streetcars and Bicycles, a Learning Experience
Bikes and streetcars should be friends

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Update: Eastway police station in Merry Oaks in Charlotte

From neighborhood advocate Nancy Pierce, through the Merry Oaks Google group:

"As most of you may already know, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department has definitely decide to pursue the Merry Oaks sites for their new Eastway Division facility. At the urging of many neighbors, they reconsidered other sites for redevelopment, including Little Saigon (formerly Kate's Skating Rink). According to the City Engineering Department, no other sites are big enough and the Little Saigon site's drainage and other issues would cost an extra million dollars to develop.

"The city is still working out real estate issues, so the rezoning will not be proposed any time soon. It is impossible to predict when, but once the site plan, building design and rezoning details become public, the Merry Oaks Neighborhood Association will mobilize to get neighborhood input. MONA has not taken a stand on the issue. MONA Board members urge everyone to keep an open mind on the matter."

You can sign up for email alerts of rezoning petitions at Charlotte's rezoning site. Be aware that a new state law for government email subscription lists prohibits their use beyond the purpose intended. The law appears to have been signed by the governor on April 28.

Also, check out a Civic By Design forum planned May 10 to talk about how people can work with government and developers to save trees.

An alternative site?
Update on the proposed Charlotte police station in Merry Oaks

Friday, April 29, 2011

Saving Charlotte’s trees: A Civic By Design forum

Charlotte’s Civic By Design forum plans a meeting from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 10 at the Levine Museum of the New South to talk about how people can work with government and developers to preserve trees.

The event is free, with free parking at the Seventh Street parking garage.

The meeting planners list a series of events that have focused attention on Charlotte’s tree canopy, including the loss of the last remaining forest stand in Southpark and the removal of large shade street trees along Park Road for sidewalk replacement.

Closer to Merry Oaks and surrounding neighborhoods, the tree canopy has been whittled away through development at the intersection of Briar Creek Road and Central Avenue, with first The Vyne condominiums and then a nursing home.

Charlotte Mecklenburg Police have also proposed a new police station at an entrance to Merry Oaks, on properties with stately willow oaks that are at least 80 years old.

No rezoning application has been filed for the Merry Oaks property yet.

Civic By Design, founded by Tom Low, is a monthly forum on growth issues in the Charlotte area. The Levine Museum is at 200 East 7th Street in uptown Charlotte.

Photo: Andria Krewson

Lush life: Last-minute plant sale in Merry Oaks

Late notice, but what an opportunity.

Merry Oaks gardener Meredith Hebden is divesting herself from some of her plants, with a plant sale from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 30.

She has accumulated 350 plants for sale and is charging $5 to $30. Come early for best selection; come late for best prices. Location: 1911 Graybark Avenue.

She's also selling garden junque (yes, with a "que.") Here's a list of plants for sale. There's no price list for the junque.

Questions? Reach Meredith or Gary through the Merry Oaks Google group.

The photos? From me, in Meredith's garden, late summer or early fall of 2010. The toad lilies could be those in Meredith's list of plants for sale; she has listed the varieties of "raspberry mousse" and "sinome." All rights reserved on the photos, though Meredith and Gary can use them as they wish.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

New Plaza Midwood Harris Teeter planned

Plans for a new Harris Teeter store in the heart of Plaza Midwood have been released, with sketches released Tuesday night on the Facebook page of the Plaza Midwood Neighborhood Association.

From the Facebook page:
The proposed new Harris Teeter will replace the current Harris Teeter at 1704 Central Avenue, with a required rezoning and expected decision on the rezoning by September. Demolition is expected in 2012 with an opening in 2013. Plaza Midwood Neighborhood Association will gather comments and concerns. Public meetings will be held, and an information table is expected at the Midwood Maynia event.

Images show a two-story building directly at the corner of the Plaza and Central Avenue, with parking behind the building. Entrances to parking would be from McClintock Road, Central Avenue and Nandina Street.

Also, the images show a partial green roof for the building.

From the images provided, here are some estimated numbers. It's early in the process (and the image details get fuzzy):
Parking spaces: 143 spaces, with 14 on-street spaces
Requested tree save: 22.5 percent based on square footage, including green roof
Grocery store size: about 45,000 square feet.

That size would make the store slightly larger than a proposed new two-story Harris Teeter at the corner of Providence Road and Queens Road in Myers Park, at 42,000 square feet. The rezoning application for that Harris Teeter at 1015 Providence Road was filed in May.

The location at The Plaza dates to 1951.

Background and further reading:

What's in Store, from the Observer, about the Myers Park store

The rezoning petition for the Myers Park store

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Appalachian photo contest: A chance to break some stereotypes

Do you have great photos from visits to the mountains? Do they reach beyond the usual stereotypes of the mountain area? Check out a photo contest to broaden the images of the Appalachian region, from the Appalachian Regional Commission.

You're responsible for photo release forms of people. Top prize: $500. Deadline: May 2. Photos must have been taken after May 1, 2008.

Photo: Street troubadour in Asheville near Pack Square. (Not good enough for the contest: lacks focus and quality, and I don't know this guy's name. If you know, let me know.)

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Talks continue on plans for future of Independence Boulevard

Updates from a couple of other sources on discussions about transit and development along Independence Boulevard in East Charlotte:

Background by Karen Sullivan of The Charlotte Observer before a Monday hearing in front of City Council:

And a post from Larry Shaheen at CLTBlog after the hearing.

If you have further updates, feel free to share in comments.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

By the numbers: A brief comparison of Alcohol Beverage Control Board numbers

The town of Mooresville allocates 12.5 percent of its revenues from its Alcohol Beverage Control Board to Iredell County for school purposes, 25 percent to the Mooresville General Fund for public parks and recreation and 27.5 directly to the Mooresville School Board.

After giving the state-mandated 7 percent to substance abuse education and 5 percent to law enforcement, Mecklenburg County allocates 47.5 percent of the remainder to the general funds of both Mecklenburg County and the City of Charlotte, some of which is returned to municipalities, and 5 percent to the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Charlotte’s expanding Hispanic population: It’s about more than taco trucks

About 25 people gathered in a circle in a meeting room Saturday at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church on Central Avenue in Charlotte.

Some wore cowboy boots and hats; others wore purple tights and hair. All cheered icons from the past, like César Chávez and Martin Luther King Jr.

They passed out papers that outlined 18 bills in the N.C. General Assembly that affect undocumented people and the businesses or educational institutions that work with them.

The meeting’s primary goal was to spread the word about the legislation and to support United 4 The Dream, a youth group connected with the Latin American Coalition.

Franco Ordonez wrote in The Charlotte Observer on April 1 about the youth group’s activities to mark the birth of Chávez.

The Saturday group plans another meeting from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on April 9, in Concord, at the Hispanic Learning Center 418 Kerr St., according to the Mi Gente newspaper.

While the St. Andrews group was relatively small, the 2010 census numbers show the growing strength of Hispanic residents in Charlotte and in North Carolina. Their economic strength can’t be ignored.

During the boom years in Charlotte, neighbors in places like Merry Oaks often dealt with houses in which it seemed six, eight, or 10 Hispanic construction workers lived, working to build the new towers in uptown or the split levels in the suburbs. That boom effect was national in scope, according to the New York Times.

Now, in the bust years, the Hispanic people that remain have small businesses and children in tow. They’re looking for safe schools and access to higher education, and some are moving to the suburbs when they can. They have growing economic strength, and perhaps soon, political strength.

And in Charlotte, their message is spreading, with an online campaign to loosen zoning restrictions that target taco trucks. An online petition, “Carne Asada is not a crime,” has gathered 272 signatures.

Hector Vaca, of Action NC, is one of the organizers of Saturday’s meeting. He also said he started the taco truck petition.

But Saturday’s meeting showed that this goes beyond just taco trucks.

One bill discussed in Saturday’s circle was "The Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act,” or HB 343.

It rolls in several provisions that require the use of E-Verify by governments, educational institutions and those who contract with them to verify the immigration status of employees.

It prohibits any undocumented person from taking a class at a community college or in any part of the University of North Carolina system.

It places barriers for anyone doing business with undocumented people, or educating them beyond high school.

So this time, it’s about much more than taco trucks, and about much more than just Charlotte.

About the map:

This slice of a census map from the New York Times shows Charlotte’s Census Tract 12, which includes the Merry Oaks neighborhood.

Green dots stand for white residents; blue dots represent black residents, orange dots stand for Hispanic residents and red dots stand for Asians.

On a micro-scale, the locations of dots are approximate.

Tracts directly to the east and southeast show greater percentages of Hispanic residents. One area near Arrowood Boulevard and Interstate 85, Tract 3804, shows a population that is 59% Hispanic.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

An alternative site for the Eastway police division?

At least one person has suggested the site of the old Kate's Skating Rink as an alternative for a police station for the Charlotte Eastway division. The site already has an existing building and a large, cleared parking lot with no trees.

In some ways, it fits the definition of "greyfields." Some neighbors have also suggested using cleared land at the site of the old Morningside Apartments along Commonwealth Avenue, but police have said they want locations that are on major roadways.

The image here shows a quick aerial of the site, roughly measured out to match the boundaries indicated at Mecklenburg County's Polaris real estate site. The land measures just over 2 acres, and the tax value is listed at $1,270,500 as of 2007.

The site is behind the House of Pizza on Central Avenue, and would require additional land acquisition nearby to add up to the 3 acres the police department seeks. For comparison, the city bought the site of the new Providence police station on Wendover Road in 2009 for $1.4 million, according to South Charlotte News (part of The Charlotte Observer).

Related: Some residents have created a Facebook group, "Save Central Avenue from CMPD Land Grab." It has 73 "likes" at the moment.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Update on the proposed Eastway division police station in Merry Oaks in Charlotte

Property on Central Avenue at Merry Oaks Road is being considered as a site for a police station for the Eastway division of the Charlotte Mecklenburg police department.
The department is aiming to build visible new stations and parking lots for divisions. Work has begun on a new building for the Providence division, on Wendover Road next to the Grier Heights community, and city council member Andy Dulin shared his opinion and a photo on Twitter recently that showed the work on the lot.

Without photos of the land before clearing began, it’s hard to gauge the cost of green space and trees.

So here are a few photos of the properties under consideration at 3517 Central Ave., 3507 Central Ave. and 3501 Central Ave. No rezoning request has been filed yet, but city officials expect to file in March with public hearing and a decision this spring and summer.

(Top photo: two lovely willow oaks at 3507 Central Avenue, likely outside any street buffer zone for the proposed police station. Next photo: Overall street scene, including oaks at Woodmere Condominiums, which are not affected by the proposal. Final photo: 3517 Central Ave., showing the old Phifer house.)

Merry Oaks and surrounding neighborhoods have lost tree cover in recent years because of development at the intersection of Briar Creek Road and Central Avenue, just a block or so away from the proposed police station. Photos and posts about that loss are in background links at this post.

Map and details from Merry Oaks neighborhood meeting, Feb. 17
More photos about the Eastway police station proposal on Flickr.
Photos from 3223 Central Avenue and the loss of trees during the development of a nursing home.
Photos from The Vyne, a condo development at Briar Creek and Central Avenue that stalled after the building of one building and the removal of trees.

Friday, February 18, 2011

City of Charlotte proposes building new police station in Merry Oaks neighborhood

The Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department wants to build a new Eastway division police station at the corner of Central Avenue and Merry Oaks Road.

Maj. Diego Anselmo of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department outlined plans for the station to about 40 people at the Merry Oaks Neighborhood Association at its general meeting Feb. 17.

Building the station would require a rezoning request to the city of Charlotte, which gives nearby neighbors a chance to weigh in on site plans or oppose the rezoning. The Eastway division is now housed at the Eastway Crossing Shopping Center at Eastway Drive and Central Avenue.

The station is part of Charlotte’s plans for capital improvement projects, Anselmo said. The city’s fiscal year 2011 Adopted Strategic Operating Plan mentions a recommendation for two new police division sub-stations: this one for the Eastway division and another for Steele Creek. The cost for each sub-station is listed at $7 million, to be paid with certificates of participation with available debt capacity.

The design of the station would be similar to the new police station recently built on Beatties Ford Road and one being built for the Providence division on Wendover Road near the Grier Heights neighborhood, Anselmo said.

At the neighborhood meeting, Anselmo walked quickly through printouts of a Powerpoint presentation showing maps of the division and other sites that have been considered. But he indicated that the Merry Oaks site is the preferred location now.
“This is the primary site,” he said.

Questions and answers

Anselmo asked for questions from the neighbors at the meeting. Here are a few of them:

Have you considered other sites, like where the Little Italy restaurant was on Central Avenue?
Yes, police looked at that site but determined it was too small. The division needs a site that is at least 3 acres.

What properties are involved? Is it the duplexes on Central Avenue and three houses along Merry Oaks Road?
Yes, the duplexes and the houses along Merry Oaks Road to the L-shaped property at 3517 Central Ave., listed as being owned by Edgar Conrad Phifer on the city’s Polaris website. In 2003, the land and building on the property were valued for tax purposes at $155,400.
James Minton, writing later at the Merry Oaks Google group, said his property was one of the two lots on Merry Oaks that likely would be bought for the project as well.
“I will share with everyone that the City has approached me about the
purchase of my property,” he wrote. “It is clear to me the city likely wants the entire ‘squared off’ area between Merry Oaks Road and Central Avenue, including my house (and I'm guessing) the house next to me.”

How many police cars would be going in and out at peak times, including shift change?

Ten to 15 cars, with the high end being on Friday; the rest of the time, the shift change would include about 10 police cars.

Are there other divisions that back up to residential property?

Yes, the Metro division, at 1118 Beatties Ford Road, backs up to residential areas and has been open about two years. In those two years, more property near the headquarters there has become owner occupied instead of rental property, and undesirable elements have left the area, police representatives said.

Will the headquarters affect our property values?
City Council member Patsy Kinsey, who attended the full neighborhood meeting, jumped in to answer this question. She said she had spoken with the city manager earlier on Thursday, and the city manager thinks property values would go up because of perceived increased safety. She acknowledged the uncertainty that comes with predicting any future property values.

Did police consider putting the headquarters on the Morningside property, which is a large cleared tract sitting empty further west in the Eastway division, off Central Avenue, where the Morningside Apartments once stood?
Yes, officers had considered that property and spoke with property owners, but the owners declined to negotiate for the parcel that the police department wanted. One audience member noted that the property owners at Morningside recently went into foreclosure, so circumstances might be different than when police did initial conversations. Anselmo also noted that police want the headquarters to be on a visible artery, like Central Avenue or Eastway Drive, on a bus line. Another police representative noted that there was some issue like the involvement of federal money in some way that stood in the way of the Morningside property.

What’s the process for moving forward on the project?
The city hopes to submit a rezoning request by March 28, with a decision to come from the Charlotte City Council in July. A public hearing could come on June 10. An audience member asked whether this Feb. 17 meeting was the required neighborhood meeting as part of the zoning process, and Anselmo said no, that meeting would be held later.

What’s the stormwater impact, especially since much of the site is pervious with trees and vegetation, to be replaced with a parking lot and one-story building?

Site plans aren’t finalized, but stormwater controls would likely be underground, said one of the city representatives at the meeting with Anselmo.

What would design of the building look like?

From Kinsey: “I want to support you on this,” speaking to the neighborhood members. “If this building ends up being on this site, I want you to like the way it looks.” Appearance would be similar to the Metro sub-station at 1118 Beatties Ford Road. Architects would likely seek LEED design certification for the building, they said.

What would the rezoning request be?
Institutional, with a 40-foot setback from Merry Oaks Road and a 30-foot setback from Central Avenue. The space between adjoining property on Merry Oaks Road and any pavement at the police headquarters would have to be 38 feet, though it could be less if there were an impervious wall. Since all rezonings are conditional, the rezoning process would give the neighborhood an opportunity to weigh in on how the building and site were planned. No setback would exist between the station and St. Andrews Episcopal Church next door on Central Avenue.

Have there been traffic counts done?
No. The current headquarters has 87 officers and 15 vacancies. Add in coordinators, detectives and 10 sergeants, as well as a Department of Social Services worker to determine the number of people working at the headquarters. Still, only about 10 police cars would go in and out at shift changes, three times a day. Officers are supposed to test their sirens at the beginning of their shifts, briefly.

What about noise from sirens?
Eastway division Captain Faulkner-Welch said that some officers might test their sirens before leaving the lot. Deborah Gilbert, whose property backs up to Eastway Crossing where the current station is, noted that she does not hear sirens.

Further questions? Stay tuned to the Merry Oaks Google group. Further minutes from other topics of the meeting will be available later.

If you have comments or concerns, that place is the best spot to talk with your neighbors, and the group has members like Kinsey and Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners Chair Jennifer Roberts. Likewise, if I left off anything here or made mistakes, feel free to comment here.

City Council member Kinsey said she’s available for any thoughts and concern, and Maj. Anselmo said he was available as well.

Background links from other sources

Geothermal heating at Providence division station
Background from The Charlotte Observer on Providence station, on Wendover at Grier Heights. (link will die in April 2011 or so)
WSOC version for the Providence division station, with background on the new Metro division station on Beatties Ford Road, where some crimes increased.

Andria Krewson, with map and editing help from Nancy Pierce, sourced from Polaris.