Residents await town’s decision on new development

STALLINGS – Concerned residents of the Chestnut neighborhood are waiting to see if Stallings leaders vote Monday, Oct. 22, to allow a new office/retail development near their homes.

The neighborhood was well represented at the town council meeting on Oct. 8 which lasted nearly three hours as residents shared their concerns about John Fisichello’s proposed development on 6 acres of land at 2925 Matthews-Weddington Road. Fisichello, owner of Mario’s Pizza and John’s Place at the nearby Plantation Market, needs the land rezoned by Stallings officials so he can build a new restaurant and office space. The land adjoins 12 residents’ homes along Strawberry Road, said Bill Cox, one of the concerned homeowners.

Cox and his wife, Jenny, of 3013 Strawberry Road, said they are particularly concerned about the development.

“His plan would place a bar within 100 feet of our backyard, where our two young children and their friends play,” Cox said of Fisichello’s planned development.

Neighbors have signed a protest petition expressing their opposition to the development.

“Many of us expressed our concerns to Mr. Fisichello at a community information meeting in August,” Cox said. “We again expressed those same concerns to the zoning board at a meeting to discuss the request (in) September. The zoning board agreed with our assessment and forwarded a recommendation to deny the request to the Stallings Town Council.”

Cox said he felt the residents’ arguments fell on deaf ears with council members who “seemed to have already made up their minds.”

Cox outlined reasons Chestnut neighbors are not in favor of the proposed rezoning: Traffic congestion, unwanted noise and light pollution to an otherwise quiet subdivision, reduction of property values, even poorer water pressure and setting a “dangerous” precedent for other developers by allowing the rezoning of residential property.

“In my estimation, this is another example of business and money triumphing over the quality of life of ordinary citizens,” he said. “We are not against commercial development in our town, but businesses should be required to go through the proper channels and commercial development should not be done at the expense of citizens, neighborhood and families.”

Cox said many who currently live in the neighborhood bought their homes decades ago because the properties backed up to heavily wooded areas. This rezoning would change that.

“This is not only taking away our privacy, it is a safety concern for our children and our neighbors,” Cox said, adding the rezoning would create problems in the future. “There are more than enough commercially zoned areas available – some directly across the street and down the road – for commercial development. The wealth of one business owner should not trump the quality of life of the many who would be aversely affected.”

Since that meeting, residents have met with Fisichello to continue working toward a compromise.

“I met with residents on Monday, and I’ve tried to do as much as I can do as far as making concessions,” Fisichello explained. “We eliminated the fast-food place that was on the plan, we made concessions on our operating hours, and we moved (the dumpsters). We’re trying to make as many concessions as we can, but not hinder our business.”

Fisichello said he was trying to work with residents, but wasn’t sure how effective he was able to be.

“I don’t know if they want any kind of development there at all,” he said. “I don’t think it’s anything personal to me. I don’t know if we made any progress. The feedback I got was that they didn’t want anything going there.”

Discussion is still open and compromise is still possible in Fisichello’s eyes.

“I’ve been living in the community for 25 years and have had a business just down the street for quite a while,” he said. “I’m just trying to work with them the best I can. I’m open for discussion and would love to speak with them. If it does get approved, I would love to sit down and speak with them to do whatever I can do to make them happy and make them feel better about what’s happening.”

Fisichello said his business depends on customers who patronize the restaurants, and he wants a good relationship with the Chestnut residents.

“The last thing I want to do is open a place and be surrounded by people who don’t want to support me.”

Stallings Mayor Lynda Paxton said the town manager, Fisichello and the residents had a meeting, but she was not sure how productive it was.

“We will hear the report from the manager about that at the next meeting,” she said.

Paxton said to her understanding, most of the people concerned about the development are those immediately adjacent to the proposed development.

“Which I know is understandable,” she said. “But I’m not sure the whole community is objected to it.”

Another neighborhood across from the proposed development site has not contacted Stallings leaders with concerns, Paxton said.

“I’ve heard nothing from the community regarding it,” she said. “That’s a part of the city of Charlotte, but we haven’t heard anything about them being concerned about it.”

Paxton said the job of the council is to balance residents’ concerns with the property owner’s right to utilize and develop their property.

“The other concern the council always has is balancing the effect to the total community,” Paxton said. “I do think this council is very sensitive to the impact to the residents and the concerns of the residents. It is a balancing act.”

Paxton foreshadowed the possibility of larger, even less appealing developments that might have an interest in the property.

“I feel certain some sort of commercial development will go there in the future,” she said. “Maybe an even bigger commercial project. I know council does have knowledge of a lot of other commercial developments that have been strongly opposed by residents. It’s probably less of an adverse impact than other things that could be proposed there on a bigger scale.”

The council will meet again Monday, Oct. 22, at 7 p.m. with the intention of making a decision in regard to the development.

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