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A historic fight over Elizabeth

A historic fight over Elizabeth
April 22, 2021 Allison Andrews

A Charlotte neighborhood is one step closer to getting a historic designation. A new survey shows a majority of Elizabeth residents favor the designation.  This historic designation is very personal to me and my family.   We live in the Jennie Alexander house.  Our home is on the  Mecklenburg County historic registry right in the heart of Elizabeth.  

A group of 20 volunteers led by our neighbor and friend Jared Rorrer has been conducting a grassroots campaign for the effort for over 20 months. They organized block captains and advisors and leaders to help get the word out to neighbors about what a historical designation would really mean. They even went door to door to get ‘socially distant’ feedback on the idea. My husband Kurt was one of the volunteers that went door to door to talk to our Elizabeth neighbors.  

The survey of 276 residents (75% of all owner-occupied homes in the neighborhood) found that 72% favored the idea. 

An email, sent out to residents by organizers, noted the following reasons for the overwhelming support. 

  •     The pressure around Elizabeth is higher than most other inner-city neighborhoods due to the 7th Street corridor having the potential to look more like Central Avenue or South Boulevard than it would East Boulevard in a period of years, not decades.
  •     Charlotte’s Unified Development Ordinance (UDO), is currently on track to eliminate single family housing zoning across the city and is to be voted on as early as April by Charlotte City Council. There is concern that this has the potential to rapidly shift the fabric, density and feel of the neighborhood
  •     The new streetcar line, while a great neighborhood asset, has potential to bring higher density along Hawthorne Lane and surrounding streets.
  •     The historic charm and established neighborhood is why many families moved to Elizabeth, not to see it be overtaken with apartments or out of place new construction.

Feedback from the 12% that were not in favor of the idea ranged from there was nothing wrong with development as it is to government overreach concerns or confusion around cost to homeowners.

I don’t blame anyone for having concerns, you should be concerned when there are major changes of any sort proposed to your neighborhood. But this is all about maintaining the character and integrity of Elizabeth and it seems to me that the historic district designation benefits far outweigh the costs of doing nothing.  

So what happens next?

The Charlotte Historic District Commission (HDC) recommends the following: 

  • Assessing the process to define boundaries of a historical district
  • Formally petitioning neighborhood support
  • Gain City Council approval for rezoning

As of now the ECA Board has specifically not taken a public stance on this issue.  The neighborhood group has requested a meeting with them and the ECA Land Use and Development Committee. Fingers crossed that happens soon. Their support would be a significant step in moving forward. 

If you live in the Elizabeth neighborhood I  encourage you to speak up and speak out to the ECA board and the land use committee regarding your support of the designation. Your voice counts! If you want to learn more about this effort you can check out this website.

My husband and I are definitely for the historic neighborhood designation.  We know, first hand, asking permission to do things to your own house can be frustrating. However, we also know firsthand how precarious the beauty and history of Elizabeth are.  In fact, the nearly .5 acre lot that our home sits on is zoned R22MF.  This zoning means up to 22 units can be built on our lot.  In other words; If we had a mind to, we could sell to a developer who could tear our house down and build up to a 22 unit apartment complex.  As a real estate broker in Charlotte, I have sold homes in the historic neighborhood of Dilworth and Wesley Heights.  I understand the hesitation of some of my neighbors to resist the historic designation.  However, there is no other protection for our precious Elizabeth neighborhood.  We are watching development chip away at the edges and it is only a matter of time before they encroach further into the neighborhood.