MINT HILL, NC – At the December 8 Developer’s Workshop held at Mint Hill Town Hall, J.R. Wright, Strategic Real Estate Partners, presented their plan to build an industrial park on Blair Road.
The proposed Eastside Commerce Center would be located within the semicircle formed where Connell Road attaches to Blair Road (also known as Highway 51), and will consist of two buildings totaling roughly 494,200 square feet. The two state-of-the art industrial buildings would have 116 bays, two drive-in doors each, and two 40,000-lb pit levelers to accommodate a broad range of users.
Residents from Connell Road and the nearby Summerwood neighborhood are against the proposed development, which they feel will lead to an unacceptable and unsafe increase in traffic and pollution as well as decreased property values and quality of life for those who live nearby.
“Connell Road is a one mile, two-lane rural road that connects to Highway 51 at both ends, forming something of a semicircle,” explained Connell Road resident Jeff Miller. “The first entrance to Connell Road (paved) is less than 200 feet from I-485 outer exit 43; the second entrance (gravel) is about a mile farther north on Highway 51 and diagonally across from Rocky River High School. There are 1600 students at this school,” continues, Miller, “so many of the commuters on this section of Highway 51 are inexperienced drivers. School buses, faculty and staff further congest the traffic on this section of the highway in the mornings and afternoons near the second entrance of Connell Road.”
Miller worries that the industrial park will exacerbate traffic in an already congested area and ultimately lead to more accidents. “While Connell Road has only about 20 homes, it is one of only 2 exits for the Summerwood subdivision, which has nearly 500 homes,” he continued. “Commuters are backed up several times each day on Connell Road trying to get out on NC-51 while competing with traffic from vehicles exiting the ramp from I-485, without benefit of a stoplight. Accidents are common at this intersection with at least one fatality since we moved here in 2015.”
“Traffic at the intersection of Blair Rd and Connell Rd near 485 is certain to increase,” added Summerwood resident Matteo Sebastiano. “There is a known traffic issue there already. Adding a new constant flow of trucks to the mix is scary and certain to make this even more dangerous.”
Mr. Wright has pledged $250k for traffic signal improvements at the entrance to the business park, but potential neighbors of the industrial complex fear that it won’t help – or might not even happen.
“We reached out to NC DOT, and they have stated that the area is a known issue,” said Sebastiano. “When discussing a traffic light with them, they said that they are not inclined to put one there (even if someone else pays for it) because they do not believe that it will solve the problem.”
“The engineer I spoke with says that it doesn’t matter what they are offering; the DOT would not put a traffic signal there due to proximity of the off ramp,” confirmed Miller. “The developer also had not submitted paperwork for a traffic impact study to determine the number and impact of tractor trailers that will exit the proposed facility onto NC 51/Blair Road.”
Connell Road and Summerwood residents also object to the amount of noise, light and air pollution the industrial complex will potentially bring in such close proximity to their homes. “Facilities like this one generally operate for long hours,” said Sebastiano. “Having trucks idling to wait for loading or unloading leads to diesel pollution. The noise from these trucks idling, entering or exiting at random hours is going to be an issue. In the distance you can see the high school lights when they are lit up for events — having a facility even closer that is bright all evening with be an even bigger problem.”
“The site under proposed consideration backs up to a house where a 3-year-old plays in his back yard,” said Miller. “This child as well as elderly neighbors with respiratory issues will be subjected to the diesel fumes from the engines of idling trucks 24 hours a day.”
“I’d like to note the amount of noise that this project will bring to the area,” said Summerwood resident Tom Capodicasa. “While it will bring a lot of noise to the actual site itself (rolling doors, trucks idling, forklifts, etc), one area that I don’t think people are noting is the interstate entrances. I understand I live near 485, so I expect traffic noise, but I’m hearing more tractor trailers utilizing their engine brakes when decelerating to the stop signs. In many areas engine braking is prohibited because of the loud noise it creates. This industrial project will bring more truck traffic 24/7 and increase this horrible noise.”
Commissioners Henderson and Long both questioned Mr. Wright at the Developer’s Workshop about whether it would be possible to limit the daily flow of trucks to and from the site, but Mr. Wright responded that it would be difficult.
Potential neighbors to the new industrial complex are also concerned with what all of this means for their property values. “Property values have increased for most of us, but if this makes its way here, we will lose those increases on our investment,” pointed out Summerwood resident Jarrod Fraley. “No one in their right mind would ever by a house with the headache the project is proposing.”
“This will affect everyone’s property values who lives close to this site,” added Summerwood Resident Tammy Klebler. “We moved to Mint Hill because of the small town feel and love that when we turned off the highway to go to our home there is a sense of nature and tranquility. Having to battle all these trucks daily to get to our home is not what we bargained for!”
In addition to committing funds to a stoplight, the plans for the complex also include repaving 1500 ft of Connell Road and a half acre recreational park; additionally, the industrial complex promises to bring jobs to Mint Hill. However, for many Mint Hill residents, these perks aren’t what they seem.
“The half acre park will be barely larger than my property,” said Fraley. “What will be of value to the community for that? That will be the size of a parking lot.” His concerns were echoed by Commissioner Holton at the December Developer’s Workshop, who expressed that if he had kids, he would not let them play on a half-acre lot beside an industrial lot.
Commissioner Holton also asked the total number of jobs this would bring to Mint Hill. When Mr. Wright said 50 jobs would be available Commissioner Holton pointed out (and Town Manager Welch verified) that five times that many jobs were created by the business park located across the street from Town Hall. “We do not think what they are selling is worth what we as a town or our Summerwood community would be giving up with regards to quality of life,” said Klebler.
“No one wants this,” concludes Sebastiano. “I have yet to hear any resident in Mint Hill that is anxious to have a light industrial facility here and certainly not in their back yard. This project will make the quality of life worse for almost 2,000 residents and 500 homes in Summerwood.”
If you have strong opinions on the Eastside Commerce Center, make them known by emailing your commissioners or attending a Board of Commissioners meeting. The Board of Commissioners meets on the second Thursday of each month at 7:00 pm in Mint Hill’s Town Hall.