Monday night’s meeting of the City Council wasn’t too contentious. The two issues that drew the most debate were rules and regulations on accessory dwellings and the rezoning of a property on Fourth Street, near Peters Creek Parkway.Winston’s tiny house policies. I personally am more concerned with issues of development and gentrification.
Winston’s accessory dwelling/tiny house policies have received the most coverage from local media. I think Councilmember Clark’s comments on accessory dwellings/tiny houses were insightful. Clark said, “I think this is a solution in search of a problem.”
Clark went on to say that most people’s properties are only designed for one home. Garage apartments, granny flats, tiny houses or whatever anyone wants to call them just won’t fit on most existing properties.
Tiny houses are unlikely to ever accumulate in Winston’s existing neighborhoods like monopoly houses on a game board. Those fears are unfounded.
Gentrification, on the other hand, is a very real threat in Winston-Salem. Affordable housing that borders prime real estate, like BB&T Ballpark and the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter appear to be on the chopping block. It’s just a matter of time before developers callously displace the poor as they convert affordable housing in those neighborhoods into luxury apartments and condos.
It’s just a matter of time before developers callously displace the poor as they convert affordable housing in those neighborhoods into luxury apartments and condos, often doubling or tripling the rent.
With that in mind, I thought the biggest story of Monday’s City Council meeting was the rejection of a developer’s request to once again rezone approximately 2 acres of Fourth Street, just before it runs into Peters Creek Parkway.
You might recall that last year, around this very same time, the same developers wanted to build a huge complex in this same Fourth Street neighborhood. Their grandiose plans for apartments, a hotel, and retail stores was rejected by the City and County.
Monday they were back before the City Council with a stripped down rezoning proposal. Gone were plans for a hotel and retail, they just wanted permission to build a 144-unit apartment building.
After previously being rejected by the City/County Planning Board a couple of weeks ago the developers had to know that their chances of gaining approval by the City Council were slim to none. As expected, the City Council voted unanimously against the rezoning.
Councilmember Dan Besse said that it’s “not a bad idea” but it’s “in the wrong place.” Councilmember MacIntosh echoed what concerned residents of Ardmore and West End said before the Council. The developers were simply “trying to pack too much into a small spot.”
The developers argued unsuccessfully that their plans mirrored those of the nearby Link Apartments. But traffic concerns and the undesirability of placing a multi-story apartment building in a residential neighborhood were cited by citizen and council members alike as the main reasons this proposed development shouldn’t be approved.
Bonnie Crouse, a member of the Ardmore Neighborhood Association, said that the development would amount to the “amputation of a neighborhood.” Crouse is right. And even though this developer’s plans were once again rejected, it’s a near certainty that this small Fourth Street neighborhood in Ardmore, bordering the West End will eventually be amputated.
Perhaps a local developer with connections to the Mayor will come before the City Council with a more modest proposal in the coming months. With President of the Winston-Salem Alliance/Mayor Allen Joines blessing, this neighborhood could relatively easily be converted into upscale housing. Sadly, by hook or crook, it appears that the neighborhood is going to be gentrified. That’s an outcome that we have to vocally oppose.
The debate over rezoning that portion of Fourth Street that has dragged on for over a year now. It highlights the fact that we don’t have effective anti-gentrification policies on a local, state, or national level.
Here capital can do want it wishes and the poor and working class are left to fend for themselves. While often government at every level works with banks and developers to promote development with little more than lip service given to the interests of the poor.