It was only a couple of weeks ago that the troops were fired up. People were outraged at the idea of developers coming in and taking over the land that is currently home to the Chop Shop and Ultimate Gym in the NoDa neighborhood. Nearly 1,500 people signed an online petition to support the businesses. Emotions were running high up until last night's public hearing on the issue.
And then no one showed up.
During last night's City Council meeting, the only people speaking out about the Crescent Communities rezoning request were Crescent representatives and a representative from the neighborhood association. One person was signed up to speak against the rezoning, but was a no-show.
Crescent regional vice president Ben Collins spoke to Council about their plans for the property, which includes commercial and residential, giving a slightly updated version from that which was presented to the neighborhood association earlier this month.
Collins said the light rail is expected to carry roughly 25,000 passengers per day through the area, which makes the property a front door to the community and an important site for the future of NoDa. Joe Kuhlmann, owner of the Evening Muse, read the neighborhood association's letter, telling Council they support the rezoning and hope Crescent will continue to work with them on their plans and take certain caveats — more trees, incorporating local artists, etc. — into consideration.
Council members noted they would like to remove any potential for a drive-thru on the property, and ensure there would be a pedestrian crossing and access to the rail station.
Vi Lyles said she wants to make sure any plan that is approved takes into consideration the entire corridor of the light rail. Mayor Dan Clodfelter agreed, saying there should be a clear vision for all of the communities along that extension of the light rail — NoDa, Optimist Park, Belmont and Villa Heights. Patsy Kinsey said she wants to be sure that each of them are treated as distinct neighborhoods.
Collins told the Council they are currently planning for 450 to 500 parking spots needed for residents with the potential for an additional 250 for the neighborhood, depending on the potential for return on investment. (Read: paid parking.)
And then the public hearing was over. The planning board will next offer a recommendation before the City Council votes on April 20.
With all the online banter, it's surprising no one spoke out against the rezoning. Suffice it to say it's easy to click on a petition or shout to the rooftops on social media, but getting people off their asses and to the City Council meeting to express their opinions is completely different. It requires (gasp!) public speaking and organization.
The land is going to be redeveloped — whether it's sooner or later. It's prime real estate across from the future light rail station. It won't sit idle for long — perhaps that's why dissenters stayed home.