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.