CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Neighbors in the NoDa area are fighting to save the trees from being destroyed when a proposed new development is built.
According to a rezoning petition filed with the City of Charlotte, up to 211 multi-family residential units are expected to be built along East 36th Street between McDowell Street and North Alexander Street.
Several single-family homes back up to the site of the proposed development along North Alexander Street and East 37th Street.
Jason Newton and Krysten Reilly bought their home along North Alexander Street when they moved to Charlotte in July 2020.
The married couple said they knew development would be coming next door, and they welcomed the idea -- as long as it was done responsibly.
"We believe in high-density housing,” Newton said. “We believe in affordable housing, and we think we need that and we want that. But it's how can it be done right where everybody's winning?"
However, Newton and Reilly said they didn’t realize how high or how close the proposed development next to their property would be when they bought their home.
"We were happy to, you know, to get on board with it,” Reilly said. “But unfortunately, with the plans that they have put forth, it's impossible for us to back the project now."
Newton and Reilly said the project puts a roughly 60- to 100-year-old willow oak tree and more than a dozen other trees backing up to the property where the development would be built in jeopardy.
The willow oak tree is fenced into the property where Newton and Reilly’s house sits, but they said the willow oak, as well as other trees, are in an alley that neither the city nor private citizens own.
“Somebody kind of needs to speak for the trees,” Newton said. "Otherwise they’re going to get killed.”
The gray area where the trees are planted has led Newton and Reilly to advocate for saving the trees. The two started an Instagram page, @NoDaTreeSave, where they have been highlighting their efforts to keep the trees from being jeopardized with the new development.
"Basically, what the building will do is kind of go in like a guillotine and just cut the, I mean they'll literally be like hacking roots to put the foundation in and that is what's going to kill the trees,” Newton said.
The developer, Ascent Real Estate Capital, made changes in the latest rezoning petition to reduce the height of the building and made a commitment to preserve two large maturing trees.
Caci Cambruzzi Jaeger, a partner for Ascent Real Estate Capital, said in a statement to WCNC, “This mixed-use project responds to our growing city’s need for more housing choices as well as the public policy to build transit-oriented development along light-rail stops. We have incorporated a long list of community benefits such as new public open spaces, stormwater detention improvements, affordable housing (10%), improved crosswalks, retail opportunities for small businesses, public art, streetscape improvements, and others. We also adjust our design to respond to neighborhood requests including: reducing the height near single family, removing the pool, moving our building in order to save key mature trees.”
At the last City Council Zoning Meeting, city council members voted to adopt and approve the zoning decision regarding the proposed project in NoDa.
Mayor Pro Tem Julie Eiselt said she struggled with the decision but ultimately voted to approve it.
"We're going down the road of an Austin, Texas or a San Francisco or other cities where housing has become so expensive,” Eiselt said. “If we don't make smaller units for people, people just aren't going to have, going to be able to afford places to live."
Newton and Reilly say they will continue moving forward with their efforts to preserve the trees in NoDa.
Reilly said she would like to see City Council reconsider its decision and send the project back to the Zoning Committee for further review and discussion.
"Development and conservation can work together,” Reilly said.
Flashpoint is a weekly in-depth look at politics in Charlotte, North Carolina, South Carolina, and beyond with host Ben Thompson. Listen to the podcast weekly.
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