Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Dilworth housing tiff nothing like Ballantyne

Posted By on Tue, Jul 20, 2010 at 11:37 AM

Knee-jerk reactions are not the exclusive property of any political persuasion or group. That was obvious yesterday, as a friend and I met for lunch. At one point, my friend left the table, leaving me to, eavesd ... um, accidentally overhear a youngish, white couple at the next table, who were chatting about the Charlotte Housing Authority’s plan to redevelop 17 acres in Dilworth. The guy at the next table said to the woman, “D’you see the Observer article about people in Dilworth fighting against a new affordable housing plan there?” “Yeah, I saw it,” answered the woman, “typical. They’re as bad as those jerks in Ballantyne.” “I know, right?” replied the guy, “Hypocrites. When it’s in their own neighborhood, they’re just as racist and stupid.”

You don’t expect detailed, reasoned arguments over lunch — any more than that couple expected others to be listening to them — but the pair’s little exchange was blatant knee-jerking at its finest. The Dilwort/CHA situation could hardly be more different than the Ballantyne fracas, where CHA canceled a sloppily arranged low-income housing plan after a mob of entitled golfers and friends descended on a public meeting to howl about their supposedly threatened property values.

By contrast, many people in Dilworth actually wish the CHA would build more affordable housing on the 17 acres in question, since the neighborhood has been supportive of the presence of over 300 subsidized apartments at the site. Instead, CHA wants to develop the property into primarily market-rate housing (which, in Dilworth, means “expensive”), as well as stores and offices. Profits would go toward building more affordable housing elsewhere (although CHA says it could, in the end, simply sell the 17 acres).

Problems arose over the height of two proposed buildings; possible noise and disrupted traffic during construction; and questions about light pollution, flooding control, and garbage. Unlike what happened during the Ballantyne mess, Dilworth residents worked with CHA and hashed out compromises. Building heights and overall size were shrunk, more trees will be saved, and agreements were reached on all but the flood control issue. Not everyone in Dilworth is happy, and some, including former Councilwoman Sara Spencer, still think CHA should build more affordable housing on the site instead of redeveloping it. But the conflict was on how to best use the property, and it was nothing like the Ballantyne “God help us, the poor are coming!” situation. Knee-jerk progressives, please take note.

Strawn Apartments, a CHA building in Dilworth
  • Strawn Apartments, a CHA building in Dilworth

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