CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The City of Charlotte is charging ahead with a rezoning petition for the old Eastland Mall site despite concerns from local activists that the community can’t be involved in the process because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
During a virtual zoning meeting Wednesday, Charlotte Economic Development Director Tracy Dodson admitted the Eastland Mall development is still a very big picture concept and things like an MLS team headquarters and what kind of restaurants and facilities would be there are way off in the distance.
“The discussions with Tepper Sports are very complex and they involve the Eastland site as well as Bank of America Stadium and Tepper Sports and it will take some time before we’re ready to bring that back to city council for a vote,” Dodson said.
Mayor Vi Lyles signed a letter sent to Major League Soccer committing $110 million to the MLS project.
The city owns the Eastland property and is moving forward with the rezoning process so it can eventually build those facilities.
But local activists from the Housing Justice Coalition are circulating a petition calling for a halt to the rezoning process saying the public can’t properly weigh in because of the pandemic.
The zoning petition process requires community meetings which the city is holding virtually to meet social distancing guidelines.
“We are comfortable that word is getting out there and that people are able to access the information,” Dodson said.
Alba Sanchez is with the Latin American Coalition and signed the petition. She says she’s worried about affordable housing options for Hispanic families and the city so far has not said how many affordable units would be part of the project.
"To send an email to organizations or to individuals that work in organizations doesn't mean you've reached out to the community," Sanchez said.
"You need to go an knock on the doors, you need to go to speak with the people you need to go to understand what these families go through every single day and what these families real experiences (are) and they are not doing that."
Sanchez says she’s worried that Hispanic families will be forced out of the community in a gentrification process that has already happened in many different areas of Charlotte. The city says it’s too early in the development process to come up with a number of affordable housing units.
"That is my main concern. How many families would suffer displacement and they are unable to move to other areas in Charlotte that they probably are unable to pay (for),” Sanchez said.