Council QuickiesNews & Opinion

Council Quickies: Historic Building at Center of Dilworth Debate

Sept. 18, 2023

Patrick Cannon, city workers
Charlotte City council met on Monday night for a zoning meeting. (Photo courtesy of City of Charlotte)

Charlotte City Council met on Monday for a zoning meeting, with council making decisions on a few petitions and hearing from developers and residents on a few others. While the decision portion of the meeting was relatively uneventful, council did carry out a lengthy discussion about a proposed restaurant rezoning in Dilworth. 

On the Agenda

  • Zoning Decisions
  • Zoning Hearings

Neither Mayor Vi Lyles nor James “Smuggie” Mitchell were in attendance on Monday, with Mayor Pro Tem Braxton Winston leading the meeting.

Zoning Decisions

A petition to allow for the development of a Chipotle on a currently vacant lot across Park Road from the Park Road Shopping Center was approved 8-1.

Council approved the Caldwell Business Park petition, which will allow for construction of a 2.5-million-square-foot data center and electric substation on 124 acres along University City Boulevard at the I-485 interchange in northeast Charlotte. Renee Johnson and LaWana Mayfield opposed the petition, citing concerns about tree save efforts and sound mitigation. 

Council could not agree on a petition for redevelopment of a site on Mt. Holly Road near the Catawba River in northwest Charlotte that would replace three single-family homes, a triplex and two small commercial buildings with a multifamily residential community of up to 268 dwelling units. A motion to approve failed before a motion to deny also failed, so the petition was deferred to be brought back in a future meeting.

A plot of land along Mt. Holly Road.
A petition along Mt. Holly Road was deferred after no decision could be reached.

Council discussed a petition to allow for a new mixed-use development including 28,400 square feet of retail and up to 24 townhomes on a vacant site on Sunset Road near Beatties Ford Road. The zoning committee voted 7-0 to deny the petition due to environmental and traffic concerns.

The environmental concerns stemmed from a nearby quarry that could impact air quality for future residents in the townhomes. Victoria Watlington moved to defer the petition until the December zoning meeting so the developer could rework the plan to decrease residential and focus more on retail. 

The motion passed unanimously. 

In the final decision of the night, council unanimously approved a petition to redevelop a 1.77-acre lot on McKee Road at the Matthews border in southeast Charlotte, replacing a single-family home with 14 units (two triplexes and two quadruplexes). 

Zoning Hearings

Monday night’s first hearing was for an old Dilworth church building most recently occupied by Bonterra. A rezoning would allow for adaptive reuse of the church building as a new restaurant, while also allowing for developers to move the Leeper & Wyatt building, Dilworth’s oldest surviving retail building, from its current space on South Boulevard to the lot on the church’s property at 1823 Cleveland Ave.

The petitioners are with the Tonidandel-Brown Restaurant Group, owners of Haberdish, Growlers Pourhouse, Supperland and Ever Andalo. They hope to open their new restaurant, Leluia Hall, on the Cleveland Avenue property. 

A historic building in South End with an all-brick facade
The Wyatt Leeper building was at the center of a debate Monday over whether a well-known restaurant group should be allowed to move the building to Dilworth at the expense of parking. (Photo courtesy of CMHLC)

One of the petitioners told council the redevelopment would save the historic Leeper & Wyatt Store building, which is currently slated for demolition. Currently located at 1923 South Blvd., the Leeper & Wyatt Store was built around 1903 by local entrepreneur D. A. Tompkins. 

“Somehow it is 2023 and I find myself here as a restaurateur in front of city council fighting to save a 1903 building,” said Jamie Brown with Tonidandel-Brown Restaurant Group. “That’s not where I expected to be.”

Tommy Warlick with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission also spoke in support of the petition. 

Five residents, including some representing the Dilworth Community Association (DCA), signed up to speak against the petition.

The first speaker with DCA said his organization cares about the historic building and agrees with making exceptions to the 2040 Policy Map to help save it, but not by cutting back on parking minimums as this petition requests. 

The petition is proposing to move the Leeper & Wyatt Store building to a part of the property that currently serves as a parking lot. Opposition is asking that petitioners include at least 22 spots in the new development. 

One Dilworth resident speaking in opposition told council, “Charlotte is known for its quaint houses … Charlotte isn’t known for preserving history and this shouldn’t be our end run [to do so].”

A presentation showed the site plan from developers.

Dimple Ajmera said she would not vote yes on the petition as it stands now if a vote were held on Monday due to quality-of-life concerns from neighbors. 

“I’m hopeful that the petition will look different when it comes up for a vote next time around,” said District 1 rep Dante Anderson.

Learn more: Neighbors at Odds Over Push for Elizabeth Historic District Status

“I don’t think this is about parking, this is about the way a neighborhood is built up and goes through change,” said Braxton Winston. “This neighborhood was intentionally built with no driveways because it was the city’s first streetcar suburb.”

“Dilworth was meant to be developed around mass transit and walking people. It is really not set up for the type of single occupancy vehicle traffic that most of its residents participate in today,” Winston continued. 

“We should ask ourselves which history we are trying to preserve,” he said. “Are we trying to actually preserve the makeup of the neighborhood or do we want to preserve a gentrified version of the neighborhood, which exists today?”

Following the gentrification remark, Dante Anderson emphasizes that the DCA is one of the most inclusive neighborhood organizations in Charlotte in terms of welcoming a diverse range of building uses and affordable housing.

Anderson also pointed out that the 22-spot parking minimum is following the Unified Development Ordinance, not some sort of extra restriction. Winston acknowledged that the petitioner is utilizing exception conditional rezoning requests as allowed by the UDO, not going against the UDO as was claimed by opposition speakers.

It’s unclear if the petition will come back in front of council for a final vote at its next zoning meeting. The petition still needs to go in front of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission before it can come back to council, which could take up to two months.

Council will meet again for a public forum and business meeting on Monday, Sept. 25. 

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