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Waverly developers riding public support

But Charlotte City Council public hearings bring out objections to two other proposed rezonings

CHARLOTTE – Charlotte uber-developer Peter B. Pappas of Crosland Southeast was feeling so confident after his performance at a Charlotte City Council public hearing Monday night that he revealed the construction schedule of the $200 million, 90-acre Waverly development for the first time.

A Whole Food store, seen at left in this aerial perspective of the proposed Waverly development, would anchor the $200 million, 90-acre development. The main entrance onto Providence Road is at bottom right. A public plaza surroundede by 90,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space is at center. Courtesy of Providence Farms LLC

A Whole Food store, seen at left in this aerial perspective of the proposed Waverly development, would anchor the $200 million, 90-acre development. The main entrance onto Providence Road is at bottom right. A public plaza surroundede by 90,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space is at center. Courtesy of Providence Farms LLC

“We’re looking forward to starting the fun part,” Pappas said in a post-hearing interview about the project, which his company co-planned with another premier Charlotte commercial developer, Childress Klein Properties.

“Grading would begin in late June-early July, immediately, if not sooner, after the expiration of the 60-day appeal window that follows the City Council vote,” which would take place in late April if things go as smoothly for the retail-residential-office complex as they did Monday.

“We expect to have some of the major retail product (open) in spring of 2016 and (rent and vacancy) stabilization by the fourth quarter of 2016.”

Pappas’ confidence was hardly surprising, even though the project is still at the mercy of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission’s zoning committee as well as the City Council.

Earlier in the evening, the only two members of the public who signed up to speak against Waverly both said they were actually in favor of it except for minor traffic issues on a busy section of Providence Road at Ardrey Kell Road near Providence Country Club. Both said they expected their differences with the developers could be resolved.

Shad Spencer, zoning administration planning manager for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Department, apparently had a similar change of heart.

Spencer wrote a staff analysis more than a month ago that recommended the City Council turn down Waverly and its 340,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, four office and medical buildings, 150 single-family homes, and 375 apartments. The original report said the project, which will be anchored by a Whole Foods upscale grocery store, had too many outstanding traffic issues.

But a revised report Spencer gave the council Monday endorsed the project so long as the developers make some minor technical changes, changes that Pappas said after the meeting would not be a problem for the developers.

“The layout and the design of the proposed development create a well-integrated multi-use community,” Spencer said in his report to the council.

“In addition, the proposed rezoning mixes a range of uses and densities with pedestrian-oriented urban form that promotes a walkable community that can serve as a unique ‘town center’ for this part of Charlotte.”

Monday night’s public hearing on the project, which was announced last fall, was originally supposed to be held in December. But it was pushed back three months as the developers, Spencer’s staff and members of the Charlotte Department of Transportation worked on some of the issues pinpointed in Spencer’s original report.

Almost all of them had to do with streets and future connectivity to roads other than Providence as the more than 350 acres of adjoining land will almost certainly be developed as Waverly is built out, Pappas said. Ardrey Kell will be extended into the development in such a way that it could eventually connect to Tilley Morris Road, Spencer said.

The city planning “staff has been very diligent and pushed several items,” Pappas said. “And so were we; there are 19 pages of architectural standards in our proposal. One member of the staff said, ‘You brought us an A proposal, and we’ll make it an A-plus. It was a great collaboration.”

Members of the City Council were careful not to tip their hands, but none of their questions signaled strong opposition. Most of their questions were directed to Todd Pace, who with wife Laura owns the Cranfield Academy childcare center that will be surrounded on three sides by Waverly.

Pace was one of the two public speakers to express concerns about the project. He said he is worried about losing his center’s direct access to Providence Road and about cars going into and out of the development using the school parking lot as a through street.

“We are for the overall project,” Pace said, but said he is concerned that more traffic in a parking lot where children walk could expose him to more liability.

Jeff Brown, a land-use lawyer with Charlotte’s Moore & Van Allen who is representing the Waverly developers, told the council that negotiations with the Paces are ongoing and “we are very close” to resolving their minor differences. Brown also said that the Paces would actually have better and safer access to Providence with the development’s changes.

The Waverly rezoning petition, which seeks to rezone most of the area to two mixed-use “innovative” city planning categories, MUDD-O and MX-2, is scheduled to go to the zoning committee at 4:30 p.m. March 26 and to come back to the City Council for a vote at 6 p.m. April 28. The meetings are at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center, 600 E. Fourth St.

Two other public hearings Monday night generated more, and more heated, discussion.

The first, a proposal by Hawthorn Retirement LLC to build a nursing home on Providence Road between Lakeside Drive and Kuykendall Road, was opposed by nearby homeowners who said they believe the three-story facility is too tall and would not fit in with its surroundings.

The developer wants to build a 120,000-square-foot, 134-suite residential facility on about 11 acres. Nearly half of the seats in the nearly full City Council meeting chamber were occupied by opponents of the nursing home.

In Monday night’s second controversial project, Stonehunt LLC wants to rezone nearly 6 acres in Midtown’s historically black neighborhood of Cherry from a multifamily district with a density of 9.3 units per acre to one that would allow only 7.53 single-family units per acre.

Stonehunt plans to construct 39 detached homes and two duplexes – a total of 43 units on 41 lots.

But about 30 people who live in Cherry, led by Sylvia Bittle Patton, who spoke for the group, say they oppose the change because the homes would be too expensive for former and current residents of Cherry to afford.

Bittle presented a long history of the acreage dating back to the federal urban renewal movement of the 1960s and ’70s through today, saying that the land’s backstory indicates it was always intended for affordable housing at below market rates, either for rent or for sale, multi- or single-family. She told the council that her group has two protest petitions with more than 1,000 signatures.

District 1 City Councilwoman Patsy Kinsey, who represents Cherry, won several rounds of applause from the gallery.

“These are very nice looking houses, but they don’t blend in with the neighborhood; they look like $600,000 houses,” she said.

Kinsey added that affordable housing would better allow the neighborhood to both gentrify and retain its current character. Several members of the City Council discussed issues of gentrification, but then asked City Manager Ron Carlee and City Attorney Bob Hagemann to research both the history of the land and whether the issues raised by the protesters could be legally considered in a rezoning decision.

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