A group of citizens living near Lake Wylie in Steele Creek have made considerable waves at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Department over the future development of Withers Cove.

The group, Save Lake Wylie Coves, came together in Aug. 2011 after a zoning petition was filed to develop land surrounding Withers Cove. Homeowners in the area were disturbed by the proposed increase in housing density and possible impact on the environment.

I just sat there with my jaw open, said Marian Black, who leads the group. I just couldn t believe this was happening.

She said the zoning would have passed if the group hadn t put up a fight at the November 2011 public hearing.

We ve had the hearing delayed several times now because of our concerns, Black said. There were numerous meetings with the petitioner and our neighbors, trying to find a compromise...the petitioner could not come to an agreement with us and the rezoning has proceeded. We just want answers. We want the truth about why this rezoning has been approved so far.

The public hearing before city council is set for June 18.

The zoning petitioner, Chapel Cove at Glengate LLC, filed for a zoning change in July 2011, requesting a site-plan amendment on the 319 acres it owns around the cove. The firm wants to raise the residential housing density to 2.25 units per acre.

The original zoning density of one dwelling per acre was passed in 2003, but Chapel Cove at Glengate said that density doesn t allow enough flexibility on lot sizes.

People with Save the Lake Wylie Coves say the zoning petition is invalid.

The planning board used a formula to determine the density for the proposed development by averaging land owned by Chapel Cove (319 acres) and Sanctuary homeowners (1,323 acres). Under that formula, only .52 units are allowed per acre. That number complies with the Steele Creek area plan, which was passed last February.

The Save the Lake Wylie Coves group is concerned that once the area is developed the cove will fill with sediment, much like Brown s cove at the Berewick community and Boyd s cove at the Palisades community.

Rick Gaskins, executive director and Riverkeeper of the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, said the development would have definite negative impacts on the cove and lake.

Development has a profound negative impact on the health of a cove both in terms of sediment during the construction phase and other pollutants from subsequent stormwater runoff, said Gaskins.

Steve Firestone, a member of the zoning administration, which first saw the petition, said the issue is land use.

When it comes down to it, the area does have some of the lowest density in Charlotte, he said. Firestone said he agrees with the Save the Lake Wylie Coves group. He said he took the groups concerns to the board but was outvoted and the zoning application was moved forward.

The Planning Department was contacted by the Charlotte Observer but did not respond.

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