Charlotte City Council had a packed agenda at its April 10 business meeting, but three topics took up a majority of the conversation: recommendations from city staff on what to spend the next round of Housing Trust Fund dollars on, a change in who polices CATS properties and vehicles, and the demolition of a motel site on the Sugar Creek corridor that nearby residents say has plagued the community with crime for years.
Council will come together again for a zoning meeting on April 17, followed by another business meeting on April 24.
On the Agenda:
- Housing Trust Fund Recommendations
- CATS Policing
- Sugar Creek Redevelopment
- Other Business Items
Housing Trust Fund Recommendations
Shawn Heath presented recommendations from Housing & Neighborhood Services for new developments funded by the city’s Housing Trust Fund: nine newly built developments consisting of 701 affordable units. All units must cater to folks who live at 80% of the local average median income (AMI), with at least 20% of each development catering to folks at 30% or lower.
In total, 40% of the newly recommend units are in the 60-80% range, 25% are in the 50-60% range, 14% are 30-50% and 21% are 30% or below.
The largest affordable housing developments included in these recommendations are Union at Tryon in University City, consisting of 200 units with rents ranging from $437‐$1,860; and The Vue at Honeywood near the Brookshire/I-85 interchange, consisting of 108 units with rent ranging from $399‐$1,776.
Evoke Living at Ballantyne will offer 60 units with rents ranging from $453‐$1,843. District 7 rep Ed Driggs acknowledged it is one of the most expensive areas in town and said he’s anxious to get this project done to prove that “There is no opposition in the district to this type of housing.”
The two homeownership developments recommended by staff include Aveline Townhomes at Orange Street in Grier Heights, 18 townhomes via DreamKey Partners; and the Hope Springs subdivision in northwest Charlotte, 25 single-family homes built by Habitat for Humanity.
LaWana Mayfield called it disrespectful that Hope Springs is offering a guaranteed affordability period of just 15 years, the city’s minimum, when all other recommended projects are committing to 30-40 years. “Bare minimum is not good enough,” she said.
City council will vote on the recommendations at its April 24 meeting.
After moving down to the chambers, two speakers have addressed council, one for and one against the decision to replace Allied Universal as the primary security force for
with two other firms — one armed and one unarmed.
The one to speak in favor of the decision was Joseph Sordi, CEO of Strategic Security Corp, one of the firms that will be replacing Allied, while a representative of Allied spoke against.
CATS plans to double its spending on security over a three-year term to $40.3 million over that span. LaWana Mayfield asked that CATS look into the backgrounds of armed officers to ensure they have not been fired from some outside police force only to find jobs with a private security firm.
Braxton Winston warned that these armed private police forces operate just as any other police department or sheriff’s office but are not accountable to any government entity.
“I don’t trust that spending more money on a service that hasn’t been shown to work is the answer to more safety and security in our transportation system,” said Winston.
Lee Ratliff, owner of Professional Security Services, the firm that’s looking to split the contract with Strategic Security, clarified that all private security firms are accountable to the Campus and Company Police Administrator, who is under the NC Attorney General’s Office.
Winston wanted to respond to Ratliff’s comments, but some council members wanted to move on from the agenda item, which was originally planned to only appear in the consent agenda. A motion to end the convo failed so the debate continued.
Winston asked that Ratliff explain a claim he made that his company’s officers meet or exceed CMPD’s level of training. Ratliff said his wife works for CMPD and he knows their training standards.
Winston responded that CMPD’s level of training exceeds that of almost any department in the state and that’s why so many come from out of the city to train with CMPD. He insisted that there is no way to trust or verify Ratliff’s claims. He stated that he would vote No on the contract, adding that he wanted CATS to use law enforcement agencies that are accountable to the city and not some outside agency.
The motion was approved, with Winston casting the only No vote.
Sugar Creek Redevelopment
One agenda item involved the purchase of two parcels on Reagan Drive that currently serve as the site of Economy and Budget Inn Motel, for a total of $4.2 million plus a $1-million investment in demolishing those motel buildings to prepare for redevelopment and rehousing the long-term tenants there.
The reduction of motel rooms at the interchange of Sugar Creek and I-85 is part of a plan by the city to reduce violent transactional crime in the area. Marjorie Parker, president of the Hidden Valley Community Association (HCVA), spoke in support of the project, asking that townhomes replace the motels.
Community organizer Apryl Lewis also addressed council, emphasizing the need to be purposeful about rehousing the elders living in those motels with as little disruption as possible and to think about changing the mindset on the Sugar Creek corridor rather than just demolishing motels.
Assistant City Manager Tracy Dodson said 10 people are living in that motel, four of whom were employees, and they have been working on a displacement strategy with community organizations on the corridor. “We’re trying to be very thoughtful, not purchase and then think about it.”
Driggs said he was appreciative of Parker’s powerful speech on behalf of the HCVA but he would still be a No vote because he just doesn’t think the city can afford to pay $1 million per acre on projects like this.
Malcolm Graham responded that he didn’t think the city could afford not to do it, adding that he drives down the Sugar Creek corridor every day and it has been an “eye sore” for Charlotte for too many years.
“We’re not going to solve this problem … by purchasing one of these motels at a time, it will be a marginal effect,” said Braxton Winston.
He said he’d like to see the city close the Sugar Creek exit from I-85 completely as a way to change the way those motels operate wholesale, not one by one.
“It’s a place where we need to do something but I want to do something that continues to build on the good work that’s being done and doesn’t just provide the kind of generic stamp of ‘We’ve come here and done something,’ that it sometimes can feel we’re doing as a city,” Winston said.
LaWana Mayfield asked why the city should hand $4 million to a company that has “caused chaos in our community” so they can turn around and purchase some other property. She warned that the people who benefit from this project won’t look like the people who live in Hidden Valley today.
“If we’re going to move forward and have this conversation then we need to be honest with y’all and not just say what sounds good,” she said, addressing the Hidden Valley residents in the crowd. “We owe you … over the last two decades we have not done everything we can to protect you because we could have put the language in on the front end.”
Mayfield wanted assurances that long-time community members will benefit from the housing or other development that replaces the motel and wanted assurances that the slumlord they are “about to pay $4 million for your trash business” won’t turn around and open another one elsewhere in the city.
After feeling that Dodson did not adequately answer her questions, Mayfield told her, “This is frustrating to me for the simple fact that all of these are my neighbors. You don’t see these people on a daily basis.”
That comment led Watlington to call a point of order, asking that Mayfield maintain a level of respect and decorum. Mayfield denied any disrespect or lack of decorum, to which both Malcolm Graham and Marjorie Molina agreed with Watlington that things had gotten out of hand.
Rather than go into a short break, council voted. The motion to move forward with demolishing the Reagan Drive motel site and preparing it for redevelopment passed 6-3. No votes: Mayfield, Winston and Driggs.
Other Business Items
Council approved a $1-million add-on to join Duke Energy’s $4-million investment in a Low-Income Energy Efficiency Home Rehabilitation Pilot Program that will fund energy-efficiency retrofits to low-income, high-energy-use customers in the Charlotte area at no cost to those customers.
Council approved $2 million in funding to help the new Sullenberger Aviation Museum reach its $31-million fundraising goal. It is expected to open later this year.
Council approved the purchase of 2.27 acres on Beam Road for expansion of the existing Police and Fire Training Academy for K-9 and Civil Emergency units and De-Escalation Training Facility.
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