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CHA quits Ballantyne project; neighbors continue to protest plan

http://66.225.205.104/LM20100223.mp3

The Charlotte Housing Authority has pulled out of a low-income housing complex planned for Ballantyne. The CHA says it has concerns with the number of units proposed for the site and the cost of the land. The developer, The Republic Development Group says it's still moving ahead with the project. Last night, the group's directors met with about 300 people who did not want to see the complex go up in their community. The project called Ballancroft would be the first subsidized housing complex for the Ballantyne area. But most of the arguments against the project last night did not focus on the low-income residents it could house. "It's a land-use question," said Ballantyne resident Doug Baumgartner. "Can you not find a more suitable multi-family site than essentially the southern gateway to Ballantyne in our community?" The Republic Development Group's response was no. The developer wants to build an 86-unit complex about a mile south of Ballantyne's main commercial area and nearby the pricey Ballantyne Country Club community. The group's directors say the project is still possible if they find another affordable housing developer. City council must also agree to re-zone the property. Ballantyne resident Kevin Williams said the pushback is not a case of wealthy people wanting to exclude the poor from their community. "This is not an argument against people, race, gender, equality or any other issue like that. This is an argument against your zoning classification," said Williams. Nearly all of the speakers at the two-hour meeting opposed the complex. They said the development would add to traffic congestion and overcrowded schools. Several people also said the site is ill-suited to low-income residents because it's far away from public transportation. Ballantyne resident John Van Camp brought up other concerns. "Here we are again living in a wonderful town home," Van Camp told the crowd. "We pinch ourselves every morning when we wake up and look out the window and I'm 65-years-old and they're talking about building tax-adjusted housing in my backyard yet again. And I can't afford this time to take another $20,000 dive. City Councilman Warren Cooksey who represents Ballantyne sat at the back of the room. He spoke once to say he's never taken a stance on a re-zoning request before a vote, but he will take into account the feedback from this meeting. The city is expected to vote on the re-zoning in April. A public hearing is scheduled for March 18th at the government center.