Leaders appear skeptical of south Charlotte apartment community near eagle nest

CHARLOTTE — South Charlotte residents came in buses Monday, donned green shirts and one even wore a hat with an eagle on it. They are demanding that Charlotte City Councilmembers tell the developer to fly away.

Garland Green, who lives near the proposed apartment site, held up a binder containing the names of 20,000 people who signed a petition against the project.

“If 20,000 people signed up from your area, how would you feel about it?” Green said.

RK Investments is proposing a 640-unit apartment and townhome project between Elm Lane and Rea Road in south Charlotte. That’s down from the original request of 1,100 units but still way more than what residents think the area can handle.

“How about visiting the popular Trader Joe’s during the day,” neighbor Dan Paulson said. “We need to break the cycle of pushing for as much development as possible.”

“Four thousand new cars, what’s that all about,” Green said. “We’re so crowded right now.”

Another concern are the eagles. There is an eagle’s nest fewer than 1,000 feet away from the development. The two birds, Piper and Glen, just had babies. The developer claims they will be fine.

“The development poses little threat to the eagles,” said John Carmichael, an attorney for the project.

The crowd booed in response.

Councilman Ed Driggs represents the area. As it stands right now, he’s against the project. But he warned neighbors that even if it is voted down, the developer can still build 400 single-family homes or duplexes and triplexes by right.

“I wish there was a way to preserve this as a habitat,” he said.

He says the county asked the property owner if they could buy the land to preserve it as a park or a nature area but was told, “No.” Driggs and all Charlotte City councilmembers appeared skeptical of the project, but they don’t want residents to end up with something worse.

“I just don’t want to have us say, ‘No’ to this and something nasty happens,” Driggs said.

“When we are in the position where the by right development is scarier than the rezoning, we’ve got a policy problem,” Councilmember Victoria Watlington said.

Neighbors are worried about the project’s impact on traffic, infrastructure, and schools. The developer believes it will fit in with the area.

Driggs says the soonest Charlotte City Council will vote on this project is in May.

VIDEO: Residents concerned about proposed development’s impact on wildlife in south Charlotte