Council QuickiesLocal GovernmentNews & Opinion

Council Quickies: Airport Expansion, Public Forum and Solar Farm Project

Jan. 8, 2024

Patrick Cannon, city workers, public forum
City council met on Monday night to hear a public forum, discuss airport expansion costs and vote on a large solar farm project. (Photo courtesy of City of Charlotte)

Charlotte City Council met on Monday night for its first business meeting of 2024, and its first public forum since Dec. 11, when Mayor Vi Lyles cut the forum short due to disruptions from attendees who were there to speak on the Israel/Palestine conflict.  

On the Agenda:

  • Consent Agenda
  • Public Forum
  • Business Items

Consent Agenda

Council member LaWana Mayfield asked that a number of consent agenda items be pulled from consent to be discussed and voted on separately. 

First, council approved a $1-million contract with Schneider Tree Care to carry out pruning on ~1,500 trees over one year. Services include pruning, debris removal, disposal, and clean up of trees identified by city as damaged, diseased, deteriorated, or deemed to pose a safety hazard to the public. 

Mayfield was the only council member in opposition because the contract is an extension of a $450,000 contract signed in September 2022, but worth double due to “the high number of work orders to care for the city’s tree canopy,” according to the agenda. 

Mayfield also took issue with language in the agenda that stated, “Potential price adjustments may be considered based on legitimate and justified increases in the cost of doing business.” 

On another agenda item, Mayfield questioned why JE Dunn-McFarland, the builders behind a major airport expansion, are requesting a second increase to its $172.6-million contract after a $3.5-million add-on last August. The new request was for $4.8 million, which was approved by all council members but Mayfield. 

City staff said the builder wants to construct a new baggage handling system based on increased passenger numbers.

Learn more: CLT Airport Releases Overlook Renderings, Details on Expansion Projects

Public Forum

Noah Goldman with the Jewish Federation of Greater Charlotte spoke out against antisemitism, Islamophobia and hatred against any population. He advocated for more open dialogue without intimidation. “While our impact overseas is limited, our impact here in this city is great.”

The next speaker said she was unable to speak during the Dec. 11 meeting. She said that hearing chants of “From the river to the sea” implied the desired destruction of Israel, at which time someone in attendance interrupted, yelling “That’s enough.” Mayor Liles threatened to have the person who interrupted removed from the chambers.

High school student and local Democratic political activist Eric Willoughby said that at last month’s meeting he was called an “enemy of the state” due to his Jewish heritage. He called on those who disagree with his stances to refrain from dehumanizing speech.

The next speaker was interrupted by the same woman who had already been warned about speaking out of turn after the speaker called Hamas a dictatorial terrorist organization. The audience member was escorted out of chambers by police while stating that she could no longer listen to lies and calling Zionism a “racist ideology.”

The next speaker, an American with Kurdish roots, said she empathizes with both sides of the conflict. She asked that city leaders demand a ceasefire in Gaza, adding that 23,000 bombs had been dropped on an area that would stretch from Huntersville to Pineville if in Mecklenburg County.

Greg Kosinovsky called the Oct. 7 terror attacks “Holocaust on live stream” and claimed that the Israel response has been carried out “as humane as possible.”

The following speaker, a Palestinian American, said the word “antisemitism” had been thrown around too often to shut down all criticism of Israel’s campaign and pointed out that many of the claims from the previous speaker about atrocities carried out on Oct. 7 had already been debunked. “You should be ashamed,” he said to council. 

Business Items

In his city manager’s report, Marcus Jones reminded council that Charlotte is expecting a weather event on Tuesday, including thunderstorms and high winds. He said the city should expect downed trees and his office has already activated the emergency operations center.

Jones pointed residents to the city website for tips on how to prepare at home.

Council authorized the city manager to move forward with a contract for the South Davidson Solar Project, a solar farm in Davidson County that is expected to produce enough renewable energy per year to power 13,535 homes, the equivalent of planting 1,775,718 trees in a year.

A stock photo of a solar farm
Cypress Creek Renewables will build a large solar farm in Davidson County to help power city-owned buildings in Charlotte. (Photo courtesy of CCR)

The farm is projected to bring the city within 19% of achieving its Strategic Energy Action Plan 2030 goal to have zero-carbon buildings in city ownership and on trajectory to meet that goal. 

Dimple Ajmera called it the biggest SEAP step the city has taken to date. “This is huge.”

The average annual cost of the project — a partnership between the city, Duke Energy Corporation, Cypress Creek Renewables Inc., and South Davidson Solar, LLC — is modeled to be $1.169 million per year for 20 years, which will be split between the city’s enterprise funds and the general fund.

The city spent $34,100,000 on energy alone in 2022. According to the agenda, the city will not incur any expenditures until the solar farm is completed and the energy comes online.

Council is not scheduled to meet again until Jan. 22, 2024 for an action review, public forum and business meeting.

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