Teardowns are in the news again, with the UPoR devoted 1,500 words including a sidebar to the topic over the weekend. Now, should it come as a surprise that more old small homes in desirable neighborhoods are being turn down and replaced by larger houses now that the economy is improving? Absolutely not.
The real question is whether Charlotte decides to do anything about it. There certainly are some activists that are against the trend, contending that big, new houses don’t match the existing “character” — whatever that is — of a community. As the UPoR reports:
Dan Morrill, consulting director of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission, is among those watching the trend with a wary eye.
Morrill pointed to the Cherry neighborhood as an example of an area that is being reshaped now by teardowns.
“This was a historically African-American neighborhood right on the edge of Myers Park with small-frame houses,” he said. “You’re seeing expensive houses built in the midst of this neighborhood that had just small houses.
“Not only is it changing in terms of its built environment, but it is the classic case of gentrification.”
So? There’s no entitlement for a neighborhood to have the same socio-economic conditions forever. And I’m pretty sure that Morrill isn’t calling for a return of segregation, especially now that Mecklenburg County is majority minority (whites now make up less than half of the county’s population).
Can gentrification ever be a valid concern? Sure, when it’s local government that’s behind it, cutting sweetheart deals with developers. And if gentrification is truly a concern, reducing the city and county’s tax and fee burden would be a great place to start.
Sadler Barnhardt, president of the Myers Park Homeowners Association, said the look of his neighborhood is also changing as smaller homes are being replaced by much bigger ones.
He said some of the recently demolished homes had been built away from their setbacks – the required distance between the home and property lines. The newer homes are being built right up to their setbacks in some cases, Barnhardt said. “I’m not saying they’re violating any deed restrictions,” he said. “But people are still somewhat pushing the envelope, in my opinion.”
Doing something that’s perfectly legal qualifies as “pushing the envelop?” OK…