East Charlotte residents concerned over urban farm project

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Questions are being raised Wednesday morning about a major project coming to Charlotte's east side. Neighbors are concerned about the impact the project could have on their area.

Windsor Park is one of Charlotte's longtime established neighborhoods. Many residents have lived in the neighborhood for decades.

Vince Coscia has lived in Windsor Park for 40 years and says the area is normally "pretty quiet."

Now, residents are concerned it won't be so quiet any longer. "Well I have no problem with the farm. I just have problems with the traffic and parking alongside it," Coscia said. "I don't think parking should be offered here because then it'll generate more traffic."

Brad Maxwell, who is another long-time resident, agrees that the parking lot can disrupt the calmness of the neighborhood.

"My concern is, living directly across the street, this parking lot I'm standing in has been a nuisance for years for partiers and drug deals at night.  My understanding is it's gonna remain a parking lot.  That's not gonna cut it," Maxwell said.

The concerns come following the recent announcement that the Aldersgate Retirement Community is partnering with the Carolina Farm Trust to build an urban farm on seven acres in the neighborhood. It's a multi-million dollar project that will bring fresh crops and more to an area considered by some to be a "food desert."

When it opens, it will certainly generate more traffic.

The property is now run down but it was formerly a community park, complete with swimming pool and tennis courts.  During its heyday, it was very busy as resident Chelaru Marilena recalls. "I live next, first house from here and when the swimming pool was here was mass noise, parking everywhere," Marilena said. "You barely can get out from your house."

Neighbors don't want to see a repeat of that or anything worse.

"Well, first of all, I completely understand. Right? The fear of the unknown, not knowing exactly what's going to happen, what the impact of the farm is going to be is a very relevant concern," Erin Barbee, with Aldersgate, said.

Aldersgate and the Carolina Farm Trust say they are aware of neighbors' concerns and are reaching out to provide more information but Maxwell says people living along his street haven't heard a thing.  "None of us have been contacted about any of this. Period.  And I'm a little bit livid about that," he said.

So, Barbee says she's stepping up efforts to get the word out to as many people as possible, "We're going to host several meetings with the people that live in Somerdale Lane or anyone else that has concerns so that we're all on the same page as we go into the project," she said.

"This won't work if there's not the community backing it," according to Zack Wyatt, who is the executive director of the Carolina Farm Trust.

Nearly a week ago, Wyatt held a neighborhood meeting at the park. "This is an amazing project for east Charlotte, but it's right here in the middle of Windsor Park, and we want to be very good neighbors to them and have this urban farm as an asset to them," he said.

More community meetings are being planned.  Even so, with a project this large, there are bound to be disagreements.

Meanwhile, work on transforming the park into the farm is expected to begin sometime in June.

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