Council QuickiesLocal GovernmentNews & Opinion

Council Quickies: Spectrum Center Plan Changes, Palestine Supporters Speak

Monday, Feb. 26, 2024

Charlotte city skyline from North Tryon street
Charlotte City Council met Monday night for a public forum and to discuss changes that have been made to the Spectrum Center upgrade. (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

Charlotte City Council met for an action review, public forum and business meeting on Monday night

The most notable aspect of the action review came with some news about how the Hornets’ new ownership wants to change the proposed development of a practice facility next to the Spectrum Center. The public forum focused mostly on Israel and Palestine, while some miscellaneous items came in front of council at the end. 

On the Agenda:

  • Spectrum Center Project Update
  • Public Forum
  • Business Items

Spectrum Center project update

The Hornets’ new ownership group has proposed changes to the practice facility, which the city is referring to as a performance enhancement facility (PEC). If approved, the city’s investment will stay at $275 million, with the Hornets increasing their own investment to between $75-100 million. 

The Hornets want to build the facility in the gravel lot next to the arena, not the Charlotte Transportation Center as originally proposed in 2022

In total, city staff estimates that the city will come out $5 million ahead of where they were with the original proposal. 

The city will move half of its $60-million investment in the PEC to go toward Spectrum Center renovations. The city would no longer own the PEC upon its completion, according to the new plan. The Hornets would own it. Dimple Ajmera asked why the city would want to invest $30M in a building it won’t own.

Ed Driggs said he had some of the same concerns about losing ownership of the PEC, though he pointed out that owning the arena has not been a good investment for the city. He said it might work out better for the city to let the Hornets handle the property taxes, maintenance, etc. that come with owning the facility. 


Public forum

Before the public forum, LaWana Mayfield paid tribute to her friend and former council member Lynn Wheeler, who passed away over the weekend. “Lynn was family for me for many years … When we say that the work of public service does not have a party affiliation, the relationship we had was just that,” Mayfield said. 

The first speaker proposed that the city connect East & West boulevards by renaming them both Judge Fulton Way in honor of Judge Shirley Fulton, who passed away in February 2023.

Alex Kastanas Holladay asked that the city increase line item funding in its new budget to help with the work being done by organizations like hers, Windsor Kittens, as well as the CMPD Animal Care & Control that are on the frontlines of the crisis involving feral cats in Charlotte and doing trap-neuter-return services.

“We are angry at the complicity of our government and other western governments and the complicity and bias of the media which is downright upsetting and inexcusable,” said Randa Eldarini, who asked that council members acknowledge that Palestinian lives matter as much as Ukrainian lives.

Another speaker, Sam Poler with Jewish Voice for Peace Charlotte, said they have grown up in Charlotte attending Temple Beth El and are now speaking out against what’s happening in Palestine as a proud anti-Zionist Jew. “Judaism has taught me that to save one life is to save an entire universe … We cannot stand by and watch this happening without action.”

The next speaker, Dana Alhasan, referenced Aaron Bushnell, the US Airman who self-immolated in front of the Israeli embassy over the weekend to protest its campaign against Palestine. “It is your moral duty to not remain silent as our tax dollars fund genocide and ethnic cleansing.”

“Why should we care? I imagine that’s what you may be thinking,” said the next speaker, Kaitlin Wightman-Ausman, acknowledging that they once had the same question. “Join Carrboro and Durham and say that this city does not support the country’s active involvement in genocide.”

Gray Maddrey with Charlotte Metro Democratic Socialists of America spoke about the need to improve mass public transit. “Our vision is for Charlotte to have a reliable transit system that serves the needs of everyone, not only in getting to work but getting to the doctor, to the park, or to your friend’s house.”

Arthur Griffin, a member of the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners, spoke as a private resident, saying that he lives in a communication dead zone in Steele Creek that resulted in a house fire that burned a neighbor’s home nearly to the ground. “This is a critical issue for us in terms of health and safety.”

City staff told Griffin this has been a problem for years, but he just learned about it in November. He said more development is coming to the dead zone and it needs to be addressed because first responders cannot communicate on walkie talkies outside of their vehicles.

Robert Rosenthal, a Jewish Charlottean who publishes The Progressive Jew newsletter on Substack, said, “Much of the world was indifferent to the ethnic cleansing of Europe’s Jews. If you believe you would have responded differently to the Shoah, here’s your chance to demonstrate that.”


Business items

City attorney Patrick Baker said his office has filed an appeal of a judge’s recent ruling that overturned its denial of a landfill near a northwest Charlotte neighborhood. That means construction of the landfill will be held back at least another 30 days.

The landfill would be built off Kelly Road between Oakdale and Pleasant Grove roads.

No speakers signed up for the public hearing regarding approval of an installment financing contract worth $137 million that will finance construction of CMPD Northwest police station, acquisition of a new police helicopter, ADA facilities, and other line items. Council is expected to vote on the contract at its March 25 meeting.

Council unanimously approved appropriation of $1,271,000 for purchase of vehicles for the city’s new Civilian Crash Investigation Program, employing civilian personnel to investigate traffic crashes with property damage but no personal injury to free up CMPD officers from carrying that responsibility.

Council will meet again for committee discussions on Monday, March 4.


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