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City Council approves auto mall along future light rail

CHARLOTTE – In a livelier-than-usual City Council zoning meeting Monday night, the council’s meeting chamber was packed to the brim with rezoning opposition, but council members offered curiously little opposition in unanimously approving a rezoning for a 39-acre auto mall for the University area.

The rezoning, filed by the Winston-Salem-based Arden Group, has faced skepticism from the council because the auto mall site is in proximity to a station along the future Blue Line light rail extension. Typically the city supports transit-oriented development in those areas, developments like apartments or retail that encourage connectivity to public transportation. The nearly 40-acre auto mall could have up to four separate car dealerships and structures totaling 275,000 square feet.

But in discussions with City Council members, the developer must have said something to convince the council that the auto mall is a good use for the land because that collective attitude of the council has done an about face since the September public hearing for the rezoning request.

“We want to see Charlotte move into the future and I’m not sure an auto mall does that,” Mayor Pro Tem Michael Barnes said in September, when he was the District 4 Councilman. “I may not be on the council next year and I know what I want to leave behind and it’s not a proliferation of car dealerships on North Tryon.”

Barnes, of course, is still on the council, and on Monday voted to approve the rezoning.

“Originally I had some trepidation on land use on the site due to its close proximity to the North Tryon Station stop, but after many discussions and reviewing the efforts of many, I have come to realize and appreciate the tremendous potential we have to do three things,” said District 4 Councilman Greg Phipps. “No. 1 is to relocate several auto dealerships from the North Tryon corridor to the auto mall, No. 2 is to leverage significant infrastructure improvements and street connections that will facilitate more transit oriented development closer to where the trains will be running on North Tryon, and finally work with property owners and developers to secure appropriate transit-friendly, mixed-use residential zoning that supports the vision we have.”

With the council’s unanimous approval, Arden Group secured the rezoning of the 39.06 acres on the southeast corner of Interstate 85 and University City Boulevard across from IKEA Boulevard from a commercial center classification to a conditional general business classification that would allow the auto mall.

For more on the Arden Group’s auto mall, see here.

Despite little opposition to the planned auto mall, members of the community were out in force to have their voices heard over a proposed rezoning that would allow workforce housing in south Charlotte. And those voices echoed a resounding “NOT HERE!”

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Partnership is asking for the rezoning to allow up to 70 multifamily units, with a maximum density of 9.68 units per acre. The current zoning calls for a childcare center.

Dressed mostly in red T-shirts for solidarity, residents of south Charlotte threw out a litany of reasons why the affordable housing project didn’t make sense on 7.23 acres located on the west side of Weddington Road between Simfield Church Road and Portstewart Lane. Among those reasons were traffic and parking concerns.

No decision was made on this rezoning, as Monday’s meeting was only for the public hearing.

Other decisions

  • City Council approved the rezoning of 14.44 acres on the southwest corner of North Tryon Street and Tom Hunter Road for a conventional rezoning associated with the auto mall decision. Parks Chevrolet operates on this piece of land, but is moving to the auto mall. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Department is asking for a rezoning from a general business classification to a transit-oriented classification once the car dealership moves.
  • Council also approved a site plan amendment on the rezoning of 7.95 acres on the west side of Sharon Road, between Morrocroft and Sharon Township lanes, for a modification of an approved development plan. The site plan amendment allows for 398 units rather than 195, allows those units to be for sale or for lease, and would decrease the required commercial development from 50,000 square feet to 20,000 square feet. Grubb Properties was the petitioner.

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