We are posting Mary Newsom's post "Ballantyne Affordable Housing?" in its entirety because she has disabled the anonymous comment feature on her blog The Naked City, we even fixed a typo for her.
Here you are welcome to comment as you like without censorship or the blog administrator silencing those commentators who voice opposing views.
You can read the original post on the Observer site here if you like.
By: Mary Newsom
Ballantyne 'affordable housing'? It was there at the start
It turns out that affordable housing – a better term is "below market-rate housing" – was required to be built in Ballantyne as part of its rezoning request, which county commissioners approved in November 1991. This was more than just a verbal agreement from developer Johnny Harris. It was part of the legally enforceable zoning agreement. And the housing was built. (This relates to Tommy Tomlinson's column today, "Is public housing Ballantyne's IOU?", in which he notes that we taxpayers spent millions to create the highways that allowed Ballantyne to prosper.)
Planning consultant Walter Fields, who for many years was land development manager for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg planning staff, worked with the Harris family over a period of years, starting in the 1980s, about their development plans for what used to be called "The South Farm," a beautiful tract that was part of late Gov. Cameron Morrison's vast property holdings.
"There was definitely something in there [the rezoning agreement] and they definitely did it," he told me. He recalled it was small-lot, single family housing. And he pointed out one problem with those sorts of "affordable housing" provisions: Unless other mechanisms are in place the housing is below-market rate when it's first sold, but after that it sells for whatever anyone can sell it for. Which is why, let me note, there's still a need for below-market rate housing in the area.
Today, Ballantyne is awash with apartments, which Fields points out are another form of "affordable housing." He was approached, he says, by a lot of people for help in fighting the now-dropped proposal for subsidized apartments at Providence Road West and Johnston Road. "I turned them all down," he says. As a consultant he often advocates for multifamily.
And, he recalls, during negotiations with the city-county planning department over Ballantyne the planners were continually pushing the importance of a mix of housing types at Ballantyne.
But the project was controversial, not least because that was in the era when Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools was really trying to integrate its schools, because it was legally required to, part of a court order in effect. (Today, schools in the Ballantyne area are far less integrated than in much of the rest of the county; Hawk Ridge Elementary is 10 percent black; Community House Middle and Ardrey Kell High are 12 percent black.) Some school board members weren't happy about the prospect of a vast sea of white kids that they'd be required to bus long distances – or, conversely, having to bus another sea of nonwhite kids long distances. Of course, that problem got solved by the dissolving of the court order to integrate ...
This is from an article in October 1991, by the Observer's Liz Chandler:
"Louise Woods [who later served on the school board], representing a citizens group, urged commissioners to make Harris detail how many low- and moderate-income homes he will build.
"We request that the Ballantyne proposal include a section of affordable moderate- and low-income housing," Woods said in a letter signed by seven others.
Woods also said school and county officials should scrutinize Harris' plans to ensure Ballantyne is an integrated community. Neighboring subdivisions are predominantly white. The group is concerned about what they see is a trend resulting in long bus rides for black students brought in to achieve integration."