Council QuickiesLocal GovernmentNews & Opinion

Council Quickies: What Does Quality of Life Mean to You?

Sept. 25, 2023

Patrick Cannon, city workers, quality of life
City council met on Monday night and discussed the newly formed Quality of Life Team and affordable housing developments. (Photo courtesy of City of Charlotte)

Charlotte City Council met on Monday for an action review, public forum and business meeting. Much of the discussion centered around the city’s newly formed Quality of Life team and multiple affordable housing developments on the agenda, including one from Freedom Fighting Missionaries, which provides services to people leaving incarceration. 

On the Agenda:

  • Quality of Life Team Update
  • Public Forum
  • Affordable Housing
  • Freedom Fighting Missionaries Developments

James “Smuggie” Mitchell was not in attendance on Monday. 

Quality of Life Team Update

In a presentation from the newly formed Quality of Life team — which is tasked with addressing issues like litter, illegal parking and commercial truck parking — Rebecca Hefner said staff is still recruiting for its rapid response team but has started taking some small actions, like leaving cards on windshields of cars parked in bike lanes that read, “WARNING: Parking in bike lanes is prohibited. A bike lane is a lane of travel. YOU CAN BE TOWED AT YOUR EXPENSE.” 

While most parking violations currently warrant a $25 citation, the QOL team is asking the city to increase that to $100 for violations such as parking in bike lanes, parking on streetcar tracks, illegal commercial truck parking and others.

Dimple Ajmera raised the issue of scooters that are left on sidewalks in Uptown, stating that she saw a man using a wheelchair over the weekend who was unable to pass a group of scooters that were strewn about.

Ajmera also asked about anti-littering signs in parking lots and other public spaces. A QOL rep said such signs have not been shown to reduce behavior so the team is focusing on causes of littering in certain focus areas. Ajmera said she regularly sees bags of fast food that have been tossed out of car windows in parking lots and would like to see the QOL team work to stop such behavior. 

While encouraging more private development of truck stops, including a new one that will offer 100 spots off I-485, the QOL is also talking to NCDOT about using old weigh stations to provide more parking for commercial trucks, which have been parking in and around neighborhoods and on the sides of thoroughfares. 

LaWana Mayfield said the Quality of Life discussion is directly related to the social district conversation, which was scheduled for Monday night but passed over due to time constraints, because folks will likely throw cups on sidewalks and streets in those districts and she expects to see a rise in public urination in those areas as well.

Ed Driggs said that safety is tied directly to quality of life. He acknowledged that violent crime is down citywide but said there’s been a “breakdown of civil order” in terms of property crime, street racing and panhandling, claiming that residents are uncomfortable on the streets.

He added that there have long been conversations amongst council about the concerns regarding short-term rentals like AirBnB but no real solutions to the nuisance that they cause, implying that the QOL team should potentially look at that issue.

Braxton Winston said he was discouraged by the entire conversation and “the idea that my colleagues think that increasing punitive measures against people in our community who are just trying to make it” is a decent solution to any of these problems.

Winston pushed back on the idea that people are defecating in areas of Uptown — an issue that was brought up by residents in Fourth Ward last week and mentioned again during the QOL discussion — simply because the ordinances against such behavior aren’t being enforced. He ties that behavior to the demolition of the main library branch. \

“Where are they going to go if you arrest them for it? In the detention center? Then where do they use the bathroom when they get out again?” Winston asked. 

Public Forum

Taylor Hodges with the underfunded, understaffed and overcrowded Animal Care & Control shelter said the “culture of pet companionship” needs to change in Charlotte, “backyard bullying and dog fighting should not be tolerated.”

Another shelter volunteer said she has been attacked four times by unleashed dogs around Charlotte this year, and that at least one was on the radar of AC&C as a nuisance but they could not act as they do not have the capacity or resources.

A speaker representing an organization called Street Peace is informing council about what he said is a rise in drivers who have modified their car exhausts to become louder, which he says violates noise ordinances — and is also a danger to pedestrians as the drivers speed through residential areas — but goes unpoliced.

In a plea to council to preserve tree canopy and mature trees, Kim Holmes says development is necessary but has reached a dangerous tipping point with no balance. She says Charlotte’s draw is in its natural beauty and the city is “killing the goose that laid the golden egg.”

Affordable Housing

Council heard from residents before voting on approving more than $17.5 million in local and federal funding for nine affordable housing developments.

A number of speakers representing the East Charlotte Coalition of Neighborhoods spoke against the planned Sycamore Station II development, claiming that east Charlotte is being inundated with low-income housing and that it’s affecting the quality of life in the area around Milton Road.

Multiple speakers also spoke in opposition to Arrowood Homes, a multi-family affordable housing development planned for South Boulevard and Arrowood Road, voicing similar concerns about a concentration of low-income housing in the area.

“We hear the term ‘concentrated poverty’ but I think it’s an opportunity to discuss solutions,” said council member Renee Johnson. She would like to discuss providing concentrated satellite/wrap-around services in these areas where neighbors talk about concentrated poverty.

Ed Driggs said that time after time during his long tenure on council the data has proven that this type of development does not bring a corresponding rise in crime as the neighbors who opposed the developments had implied.

LaWana Mayfield shared a map of Housing Trust Fund developments and said Sycamore Station II isn’t even in a concentrated area of HTF projects.

That motion passed in two votes, with three opposed: Mayfield, Tariq Bokhari and Victoria Watlington. 

Freedom Fighting Missionaries

Next, council voted on whether to approve $2 million from the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund for local organization Freedom Fighting Missionaries (FFM) to support housing security and stability for low-income, criminal justice-involved residents.

We spoke to FFM founder Kenny Robinson on the Nooze Hounds podcast in 2021

The money will go toward construction of the Sardony Lane Townhomes, a development made up of 21 for-rent townhomes on East W.T. Harris Boulevard that will house criminal-justice-involved families earning 30% to 80% of the average median income.

A similar development, Missionary Grove, which was set to include 16 for-rent townhomes nearby Sardony Lane on the property of The Grove Presbyterian Church, was withdrawn due to backlash from neighbors. 

Some members and leaders with The Grove Presbyterian Church and residents of nearby Grove Park spoke in support of Freedom Fighting Missionaries, while others voiced their support for FFM’s mission but opposed the development due to the lack of a concrete plan and safety concerns.

Council approved the funding for Sardony Lane Townhomes unanimously. 

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