Outlet traffic worries Steele Creek residents

jmarks@lakewyliepilot.comDecember 17, 2012 

— By many accounts, Steele Creek residents like the large outlet mall being planned for their community. What they’d like just as much or more is a sensible way of getting there.

Steele Creek Limited Partnership last week hosted a community meeting to discuss Charlotte Premium Outlets, a 350,000-square-foot center set for I-485 and Steele Creek Road with a possible 50,000-square-foot expansion. The outlet is a partnership between Tanger Factory Outlet Centers and Simon Property Group. Opening is expected in 2014.

For many the plan comes down to liking what’s proposed, and concern for the road infrastructure that’ll have to support it.

“I remain very concerned about the traffic on Shopton Road West,” said Sanctuary resident Dave Chavoustie, “which is already dangerous and highly traveled in the morning and evening rush hours and further complicated by the narrow outdated bridge over the lake. Add to that the hundred of homes (Crescent Resources) plans to add on both sides of Shopton and the extra South Carolina traffic for the outlet mall and we will have a very hazardous road for all of us to drive on.”

Chavoustie is a former homeowner association board member and was one of many residents earlier this year citing traffic impact as a reason to oppose a rezoning to allow hundreds more homes in Steele Creek. He’s concerned zoning decisions are made “from 10,000 feet” and don’t fully consider traffic impact.

Karl Froelich is president of the Steele Creek Residents Association, a community advocacy group encompassing many neighborhoods near the proposed mall. Froelich hopes the expected traffic will convince state transportation officials to look at Steele Creek Road for improvements. As for the development itself, Froelich isn’t worried.

“We’re thrilled to death that it’s coming,” he said of community response. “The only issue we have is the roads, and that’s not (the developer’s) concern, really.”

Steele Creek Limited Partnership is the land owner, and Childress Klein Properties is involved in the outlet’s development. Those entities are petitioning Charlotte planners for rezoning to allow the project, and for increased signage near the main entrance. Steele Creek Limited, led by Sarah Belk Gambrell, also has a petition to rezone 110 acres at Sandy Porter Road and I-485 for use as an industrial park.

Hearings for all those rezoning requests are planned for Jan. 22.

One reason for optimism, some say, are the names attached to the project. Dave Wiggins runs the website and message board for the Steele Creek Residents Association, and is a long-time advocate for the Steele Creek area. There’s “general excitement” about the mall coming, he said, but even more for the leadership behind the effort.

“Mrs. Gambrell and Childress-Klein have a vested interest in how Steele Creek is developed,” Wiggins said.

“They have made sure that any project that they’re involved in will benefit the community and be of high quality.”

Childress-Klein manages 80 properties in its Charlotte market, including a half dozen in the Steele Creek or upper York County area. Nearest Lake Wylie, the company is known for the RiverGate shopping center. Development there, from trails to building makeup, took place only after considerable input from the community, Froelich said.

“They won’t be one-and-done,” Wiggins said. “I am confident that the mall and ancillary development will make Steele Creek an even better place to live in.”

More conversation is expected on the project. A Childress Klein representative is expected at the Steele Creek Residents Association annual meeting in February. Public input will be taken at the Jan. 22 hearings. Residents will be able to question plans for the outlet, signage or even road impact.

“Another concern is the variances that the developer is requesting for very large signage,” Chavoustie said. “They want an exception to the current city limits on size. Why? This is not a remote site far from any developments. It really is in a more residential area.”

When complete, the project will have more than 90 stores. About 300 construction jobs will be created initially, and more than 900 full-time or part-time jobs are projected. The requested rezoning also would allow for up to a 120-room hotel.

The fact that planners already hosted one community event and have agreed to present at another, Froelich said, is positive for the project in total.

Leaders behind it have been “very upfront, very transparent” and have done a “superb job in the community for many years.”

“They’re a strong supporter of the values of Steele Creek,” Froelich said.

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