CHARLOTTE, NC (Ely Portillo/The Charlotte Observer) - Residents near a proposed Topgolf entertainment venue in the University City area are fighting hard to stop the development, and a vote by Charlotte City Council on the plan will be delayed a month.
The Topgolf location, which would be the second in Charlotte, is part of a planned development on 65 acres of wooded land at Interstate 85 and West Mallard Creek Church Road. Topgolf opened its first Charlotte venue June 9, across town at I-485 and West Arrowood Road.
In addition to Topgolf, the mixed-use development by Charter Properties and Browder Group Real Estate would include shops, restaurants and 395 apartments.
City Council had planned to vote on the proposal at their monthly zoning meeting Monday. But the developers have requested a one-month deferral for the decision, meaning a vote won't happen until mid-July.
Neighbors voiced their concerns at a City Council hearing in May, where they said they're concerned about increased traffic in an already congested area, noise and light pouring onto their properties from the elevated poles at the facility. Since then, they've ratcheted up their opposition, launching an online petition that's gathered more than 500 signatures and organizing a march against the development.
"We are a quiet, single-family development in this area," said Gail Buff, who lives nearby. Linda Majchrzak, another neighbor, said she's seen lights at the other Topgolf location and fears the impact they'll have on her house.
"I couldn't believe how bright those lights were from 600 feet away," she said. "There is no doubt that we're going to see the glare from the lights."
Others have been in favor of the plan, including University City Partners, which encourages growth and development in the area. Topgolf representative Morgan Wallace said the company has agreed to build fences around the property to shield from light and noise, increase the landscaping buffer between the development and single-family houses from 50 feet to 75 feet and realign the intersection of Galloway and Garrison roads to improve safety.
They've also reduced the proposed maximum height of the apartment buildings from 60 feet to 48 feet, and the Topgolf building from 80 feet to 57 feet.
"Topgolf is confident that we will not have an impact on the neighbors, based upon our experience in many other similar locations," said Wallace. "Should our rezoning be successful, as a good neighbor we would, of course, monitor reports of any undue impacts and take measures that we have successfully implemented in other situations across the country to eliminate any concerns immediately."
The fight playing out in a fast-growing part of Charlotte mirrors controversies in other parts of the region, where developers are seeking to build dense, mixed-use projects that combine shops, restaurants, offices, hotels, apartments and houses on the same site. Such plans seek to cater to people who want a more walkable, less car-dependent lifestyle in areas that have been more traditionally suburban, such as south Charlotte and Mooresville.
Developers and many urban planners contend that by putting a mix of uses together, people who live on the site won't need to drive as much as people in single-family neighborhoods who have to use a car for almost all trips. But many neighbors are still skeptical, especially because of the heavy traffic loads densely developed sites can bring.
The undeveloped site at Mallard Creek Church Road and I-85 generates almost no traffic now. The Charlotte Department of Transportation estimates that if it developed as it's currently zone, with single-family houses and office space, about 7,170 new vehicle trips per day would be generated. If developed with the proposed Topgolf, apartments and retail, the site would generate about 22,900 new vehicle trips per day – a three-fold increase.
Many in the University City area don't buy that more people will walk at the new development, in an area long dominated by high-speed thoroughfares that present a formidable obstacle to pedestrians.
"It's ridiculous to try to sell this as a walkable area for people living in those apartments," said Majchrzak.