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City approves land sale, hears comments on proposed budget

The city is in the process of selling several parcels of land, shown in green and orange, that were created by the realignment of Interstate 277. Courtesy the city of Charlotte.

The city is in the process of selling several parcels of land, shown in green and orange, that were created by the realignment of Interstate 277. Courtesy the city of Charlotte.

CHARLOTTE – The City Council on Monday unanimously approved the sale of an uptown tract of land, part of a multiparcel sell-off to retire debt on the NASCAR Hall of Fame, and awarded more than $664,000 to a company working on a master plan for Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

Meanwhile, several residents opined on the city’s plans to adjust property tax rates and raise development fees to fund a $21.7 million budget gap for fiscal 2016.

The council voted in favor of selling a 2-acre parcel at Morehead Street and Interstate 277 to RED-Overlook, a multifamily partnership between locally based RED Development and a national real estate company. The deal is valued at $4.1 million and is subject to a 10-day upset bid process that must increase the sale price by at least 5 percent.

The land had been appraised at nearly $5 million. Tony Korolos, Charlotte’s real estate division manager, says the city accepted the $4.1 million offer because the site had been on the market for a “very long time” with no other interested buyers. In addition, he said, the property’s irregular shape, topography and lack of access would increase development costs.

The plot is part of a land package that the city has been selling to pay off the $20 million it borrowed to help finance the NASCAR Hall of Fame. In April, the council approved the $12.2 million sale of a 3-acre parcel in uptown to Atlanta-based Pollack Shores Development. Proceeds from the sale would be enough to pay off the NASCAR Hall of Fame debt, Deputy City Manager Ron Kimble has said. The city is required to repay the NASCAR Hall of Fame loan only as the land is sold.

But this week multifamily developer Camden USA Development submitted an upset bid of $13.32 million for the lot south of Caldwell Street and across from the Hilton Garden Inn on Stonewall Street, said Korolos.

The higher offer is also subject to upset bids. If no other bidders materialize, Korolos said, the City Council will vote on whether or not to approve Camden’s offer. The parcel is the third tract the city had marked for sale over the last couple of years.

In May 2013, the city sold a 2.3-acre wedge at Stonewall and McDowell streets for $3.8 million. Charlotte-based Proffitt Dixon Partners bought the property to build a 210-unit apartment complex, dubbed Fountains Uptown.

In March, council members adopted a resolution for the private sale of land to Crescent Communities for $10.3 million. Crescent plans to build a mixed-use development with at least 400 residential units, 55,000 square feet of retail and 300 hotel rooms on the block extending from South Caldwell Street to the Westin Hotel along Stonewall Street.

One more tract remains for sale. The parcels are all zoned UMUD, an urban, mixed-use district that allows the tallest and densest development of the city’s zoning classifications. Any excess proceeds from the land sales after retiring the NASCAR Hall of Fame bank loan will be used to reimburse the city and state for construction costs on I-277. The parcels were created when construction work reconfigured sections of I-277.

The hall, which opened in May 2010 and has fallen far short of sales and attendance projections, was built at a total cost of $192.6 million. The funds came from land and sponsorship loans from Bank of America and Wells Fargo, as well as from taxes.

In other developments at its Monday meeting, the council approved a $664,255 amendment to a contract  with Landrum & Brown Inc., which has provided the city with plans to enhance airfield and terminal capacity at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

The amendment will expand the company’s work to include a map of all land that is designated as airport property. Landrum & Brown also will add an analysis of the airport’s aviation support facilities to the city’s master plan for the airport. The plan outlines the future construction necessary to keep up with increased traffic. The number of individuals travelling through the airport increased 77 percent to 44.3 million passengers last year from 25 million in 2004, according to the airport.

The city says the Federal Aviation Administration requested the amendment, which brings Landrum & Brown’s total contract value with the city to nearly $3.9 million.

Lastly, several residents spoke at a public hearing on the city’s plans to offset $21.7 million in revenue losses by increasing regulatory service fees, cutting services and expenses, raising stormwater service fees and eliminating a $47 annual residential trash-disposal fee in exchange for a $1.35 hike in property taxes per $100 valuation.

The City Council is slated to vote on the budget June 8.

Shannon Binns, executive director of local nonprofit Sustain Charlotte, spoke in favor of variable-rate pricing for trash disposal. Binns said such a program, instead of nixing the garbage-disposal fee, would provide a financial incentive to produce less trash and could generate as much as $19 million in revenue within two years. He described the “pay as you throw” system as more equitable, efficient and transparent.

Rob Nanfelt of the Charlotte-based Real Estate and Building Industry Coalition lambasted plans to raise fees for development and rezonings.

For example, the budget proposes that major residential subdivision review and inspection fees would be increased to $8,535 plus $100 per acre from $4,200 plus $100 per acre, or 103.2 percent. Conventional rezonings, which include single-family and multifamily rezoning requests, would be $1,950. Currently, conventional single-family rezoning fees are $925 and conventional multifamily rezoning fees are $1,350.

Such increases would make Charlotte less competitive, Nanfelt said. In addition, he cited a recent report by research firm Gartner Inc. that found a need to increase transparency, streamline online options and improve customer service in the city’s and Mecklenburg County’s building development departments.

The report also recommended that the city and county better organize and allocate tasks and services by restructuring their building-development departments. Gartner was hired last year for $325,000 to provide recommendations on how to improve after the county’s Land Use and Environmental Services Agency received complaints about its performance.

Increased fees would mean “paying for the same deficient service,” Nanfelt said, and advocated leaving the fees unchanged until the city and county address the issues raised in the Gartner report.

The deficit largely is a result of two factors: an ongoing revaluation of all Mecklenburg County properties that resulted in the lowering of many appraisals, which is estimated to cost the city $10.8 million in property-tax revenue, and the N.C. General Assembly’s elimination last year of the business privilege license tax, an $18.1 million loss.

District 3 Councilwoman LaWana Mayfield said the lack of turnout for the public hearing, where only seven individuals spoke, was “disheartening.” She said she had received lots of emails from concerned individuals over the budget proposals but was “challenged” on why so few opted to appear at the hearing. Mayfield then made a plea to the public to “show up so that we can hear from you.”


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