CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Neighbors are concerned about a planned 93-home subdivision on 55 forested acres south of N.C. 51 near Providence High School.
Pulte Homes is negotiating to purchase the property from the descendants of George McManus, long-time owner of the residential-zoned land on Hugh Forest Road.
According to a sign at the site, Pulte’s “Hembstead Manor” will feature homes priced from $400,000 to $600,000.
Residents living adjacent to the property fear the construction will have a negative impact on the nearby creek and the abundance of wildlife in the area.
Richard Platte, former homeowner’s association president of Huntingdon, is worried about the area’s ecosystem. For 28 years, he and his wife, Susan, have lived on Kilmonack Road near the undeveloped land, in a home that backs up to a haven of deer, raccoons, birds, black squirrels and an unnamed creek that runs into nearby Four Mile Creek.
“More water dumped into that creek will cause more frequent and severe flooding and further erode creek banks,” said Platte, a 67-year-old retiree. “And what impact will this development have on the ecosystem of Four Mile Creek and its tributaries as well as the wildlife living there?”
He and other neighbors are also concerned about traffic out of the dead-end Hugh Forest Road, which is home to three large subdivisions: St. George’s Place, Huntingdon and Bailiwick.
The new subdivision will be directly across from the Beverly Crest neighborhood.
City officials confirmed that the land is zoned for residential.
“I can advise that a sketch plan has been submitted for review for 93 single family lots,” said Shannon Frye, a city planning manager and subdivision administrator. “The next step will be for the developer to submit an application for preliminary plan approval. This is a 60- to 90-day review process.”
A sketch plan was delivered in mid-December by Pulte. A preliminary plan also has been submitted to the planning department showing details of street construction, lot layout, storm drains, creeks and adjacent properties.
Pulte Homes would not confirm the transaction.
“This land deal has not closed yet and we are doing our due diligence,” Valerie Dolenga, Pulte Homes communications representative, said in an email. “We don’t comment on any pending land deals.”
Charlotte-Mecklenburg tax assessment records show the McManus property features a 3,216-square-foot home assessed in 2011 for $327,000. The surrounding land was assessed that same year at $2.8 million, with a $2.3 million tax deferral because of its forest land value.
According to the city’s real estate property tax assessor’s office, property owners qualify for a forest tax deferment if they have held title to the property for the past four years, have at least 20 acres in commercial timber production, which cannot include a home or open fields, and have an active forest management plan to confirm intentions of commercial timber production.
Vinie Walters, 47, who lives in a home in St. George’s Places across Hugh Forest Road, said neighbors have been surprised by the pending land deal.
“Several people are thinking there could have been a lot of worse things that could be happening to that space, but I’m wondering if an environmental study has been done on that area,” said Walters. “We are just all worried as we have no information. The sign just went up … weeks ago.”
“We’ve always wondered what would happen to the McManus property as our neighborhoods and the area becomes more and more congested on Hugh Forest Road,” said Platte. “Obviously anything inside ‘the loop’ is more valuable and considered more desirable. It just seems that we are jamming homes in left and right. I wish they would go about it a smarter way.”
Platte agrees that Hembstead Manor is prime property, and one of few parcels of green land available for residential development in south Charlotte.
Laura Brewer, an assistant city arborist, estimates that there are fewer than five large pockets of treed areas north of I-485 in south Charlotte that are viable for residential development.
Platte works as a volunteer testing the nearby creek for the city’s water quality division.
“I also want to know how Pulte is planning to manage storm water run-off from impervious surfaces,” he said. “I see this as a real problem and potential impact on all the properties bordering the creek which flows between our properties and the Reverdy Oaks development.”
Platte’s wife Susan said they are both bird watchers and would hate to see nests and other wildlife homes destroyed.
“It’s been so peaceful for so long here and I think we’ve just gotten used to it,” she said. “We love our back deck, sunroom and gazebo because there is always something to watch.”
Jerrod Philpott, a new resident of Bailiwick, said he and his family were dismayed to learn about the new subdivision.
“I’ve already seen deer in that area in the evenings when I jog and the greenery is unbelievable. It will be hard to watch trees being torn down,” he said.
“I know this is the ‘City of Trees’ and find it ironic that that much land here in our area will be without such older trees. You don’t see a lot of that in south Charlotte. I’m sure the new developer will add trees, but what does it do for the deer and other animals that call that their home?”
Gary Turner is an urban forest engineer with the city and oversees the area of Charlotte where the new development will take place. He said that his office, erosion control, the department of transportation and city engineers are all currently reviewing the plan and will soon provide feedback.