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Weekly News Roundup: YWCA Announces Plans for New Affordable Housing

The YWCA Central Carolinas campus. (Photo by Anna Davis/YWCA)

YWCA Announces Plan to Construct New Affordable Housing Units

YWCA Central Carolinas announced Thursday that it will work with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Partnership to build and fill more than 100 units of affordable housing on its Park Road campus. The project will be funded in part by a $3 million donation from the Gambrell Foundation of Charlotte.

The 104 housing units will be built on 3.5 acres of the 10-acre campus and cater to families making 30-60% of the area median income. The campus is already home to Families Together, a program that provides safe, affordable housing and intensive support services for 10 homeless families with minor children for up to 18 months at a time. YWCA also houses more than 60 women through its transitional housing program.

“If you work in our community you should be able to live in our community, and at the YWCA, we intend to be part of the solution by building out affordable rental housing on our campus,” YWCA CEO Kirsten Sikkelee said in a press release.

On Twitter, Q.C. Family Tree founder Greg Jarrell praised the move, calling on other organizations in the private and public sector to step up in a similar way. 

“…There are hundreds or thousands of property owner[s], [especially] churches and businesses, with unused/underused land that can become part of the solution. Convert some parking into housing. Easy win.”  

The YWCA project is expected to be finished in 2023.


NCWF Kicks Off Stabilization Project for Lake Norman Herons

Heron Island is home to 40-60 herons, some in manmade nesting areas, and the site of an upcoming restoration project. (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

Queen City Nerve was on Lake Norman Monday morning for the kickoff of a new stabilization project at Heron Island, at which the North Carolina Wildlife Federation (NCWF) and Lake Norman Wildlife Conservationists are working on shoreline restoration of an eroding Great Blue Heron rookery. The stabilization project is funded by a grant from Duke Energy’s Habitat Enhancement Program

The project will restore and stabilize the main channel side of the island, located in Davidson Creek in Cornelius, and aims to stop erosion there by employing a rock shoreline with over 300 tons of material, including woody debris derived from riparian tree and shrub communities.

Great Blue Herons are listed by the N.C. Natural Heritage Program as a vulnerable species in the Piedmont due to loss and fragmentation of habitats by development along rivers, reservoirs and adjacent floodplain forests. Rookeries like Heron Island are protected under the Colonial Waterbird Nesting Area Program. The boundaries of these habitats are posted with signage and no entry is allowed during the water bird nesting season, which lasts from April through August.

Michael Abney Sr., environmental resource manager at Duke Energy (left), and Billy Wilson, chairman at the North Carolina Wildlife Federation, examine animal bones found on the shore of Heron Island. (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

Organizers will strategically plant buttonbush, a wetland native plant that provides cover and forage for fish, amphibians and reptiles, as well as brood and forage habitat for species like wood duck, mallard, numerous songbird species and butterflies. 

“These islands are oases for wildlife as shorefront property has been heavily built up over the decades,” said Tim Gestwicki, CEO of NCWF. “This particular heron rookery island is a unique gem worth preserving from the wind, boat waves and storms wreaking havoc on many of the islands and shorelines around Lake Norman. Through this habitat restoration project we hope the herons will be here for many years to come for all to enjoy, including for those who don’t live on the lake via viewing our heron and osprey nesting cameras.

A majestic heron of the tree tribe (none of that is real except heron). (Photo by Grant Baldwin)

Police Arrest Suspected Hit-and-Run Driver

CMPD detectives have arrested a man they believe to be the driver who struck and killed 24-year-old Franklin Leal on Monday night then fled the scene. On Friday, CMPD announced the arrest of 37-year-old Michael Lambe, who they believe hit Leal while he was riding his bike home from work on Harrisburg Road in northeast Charlotte at around 11 p.m. on Monday. Leal worked at Lucky Dog Bark & Brew in the Wesley Heights neighborhood of west Charlotte, but would often transport his bike closer to his north Charlotte home by CATS bus then ride the rest of the way. 

Franklin Neal

“We are shocked and extremely saddened with the news that Franklin, one of our own was tragically killed last night while riding his bike home after his shift at Lucky Dog,” the dog bar posted on Facebook on Tuesday. “The driver that killed him didn’t even stop. We are asking for your prayers for his family and friends and our staff as we all deal with his loss. We are brokenhearted. He was only 24 yrs old and always had a great attitude, smile on his face and loved each and every one of your pups.” 

The team at Lucky Dog led a charge to find the driver, who police said was driving a white Toyota Corolla, and even offered a $2,500 reward for information leading to an arrest, though it’s unclear at this time how detectives identified Lambe. Lucky Dog also organized a GoFundMe campaign for Leal’s family to cover funeral costs. It has already surpassed its original goal of $15,000. 


Wells Fargo Pays Pocket Change for Lying to Investors

On Friday, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charged Wells Fargo & Co. for misleading investors about the success of its core business strategy at a time when it was opening fake accounts for unknowing customers and selling unnecessary products that went unused. Wells Fargo agreed to pay $500 million to settle the charges, which will be returned to investors, part of a combined $3 billion settlement with the SEC and the Department of Justice.

Though Wells Fargo is based in California, its largest employment base is in Charlotte, where it employs around 27,000 people. Last month, John Stumpf, former Wells Fargo who oversaw the bank’s 2008 acquisition of Charlotte-based Wachovia, was banned from the banking industry and fined $17.5 million as a result of the fake accounts scandal that led to his resignation in 2016. The scandal involved employees opening millions of fake bank accounts in customers’ names in order to reach unrealistic sales goals.

“Wells Fargo repeatedly misled investors, including through a misleading performance metric, about what it claimed to be the cornerstone of its Community Bank business model and its ability to grow revenue and earnings,” stated Stephanie Avakian, co-director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, in a release on Friday. “This settlement holds Wells Fargo responsible for its fraud and furthers the SEC’s goal of returning funds to harmed investors.”


Three Charlotte Murders in Two Days 

The week got off to a violent start when CMPD homicide detectives responded to two murders within minutes of each other in southwest Charlotte on Sunday morning, then another in northwest Charlotte on Monday. The bloodshed began early on Sunday, as police responded to Deanna Lane in the Montclaire South area of southwest Charlotte just after 2 a.m. and found 32-year-old Ramon Alvarado-Cubas lying dead of a gunshot wound outside of the Brook Valley Apartments. On Monday, police arrested 39-year-old Rafael Pena and charged him with the murder. 

Around 15 minutes after the call came in for the shooting at Brook Valley, police responded to another shooting call on Westinghouse Boulevard, right on the other side of I-77 from the previous incident, which is not believed to be related. Officers found 34-year-old James McKnight suffering from a gunshot wound in the parking lot of The Trap Bar & Billiards. McKnight was transported to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. 

On Monday, police responded to a shooting in front of the Chicken King on Rozzelle’s Ferry Road in the Lakewood area just after 8 p.m. and found a victim suffering from a gunshot wound. The victim was transported to the hospital, where they were later pronounced dead. Police identified the victim as Zenita Graham, though the victim went by Twan Graham and was listed as male on their Facebook account. On Tuesday, police arrested 23-year-old Dayshawn Beckham and charged him with Graham’s murder. 


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