Charlotte will spend nearly $300,000 on nonexistent sidewalks. What happened?

Charlotte will spend nearly $300,000 on nonexistent sidewalks. What happened?

The look of Charlotte’s historic square is at a crossroads. 

Plans have been touted in recent years for renovating the historic courthouse. A new justice center was built just across from the square. And easier pedestrian walkability appeared on the horizon.

Hundreds of thousands had already been spent, in conjunction with the Tennessee Department of Transportation, to engineer and create plans for sidewalks around Charlotte’s centuries-old brick-and-mortar heartbeat. And, millions of state dollars were earmarked for the project. 

But, elected city leaders recently chose not to move forward with the plan, saying citizens and businesses either don’t want or are simply indifferent about the sidewalks. The city council voted 4-2 against sidewalks despite having $280,000 on the project.

Had the project continued, the city’s expected total was investment was estimated to be about $400,000. The state would contribute the remaining federal funds for the roughly $3.5 million project that included improvements to the city’s major three-way stop where Highways 48 and 49 intersect.

The sidewalk project alone was expected to cost about $1.8 million. The state first approved a grant toward the project about three years ago.

Charlotte Councilman Chris Deloach said at a December council meeting he’s talked with other business owners who said they wouldn’t want sidewalks because they could affect parking or truck entrances off the highway. Deloach said he’s also heard rumblings about possibly continuing the sidewalk project to the Charlotte baseball fields in the future, which could mean more city spending.

“I personally voted not to continue the project because it affected people and businesses,” said Deloach, adding the caveat that he, too, didn’t like the idea of spending money and “not getting anything out of it.” 

“But we would be spending less money to stop the project versus continuing the project,” Deloach added.

City Councilmen Josh Turnbow and Caleb Story, who both supported the sidewalks, said they’ve heard from people who support the idea.

“I have had several people say, ‘We can’t throw away what’s basically six months tax revenue,” said Turnbow at the council’s December meeting.  

A local business, Gene’s Body Shop, was concerned about the size of the sidewalks around its business. Another Charlotte business around the square, Sweet Charlotte, is supportive of the sidewalks. 

Supporters of the sidewalks also point to the state’s plans that include improved drainage for an area that is known for flooding around Sweet Charlotte and the Charlotte Fire Department, according to city officials. 

Mayor: ‘Hard time throwing away the taxpayers’ money’ 

“I have a hard time throwing away the taxpayers’ money of this small town. And’ that’s basically what we would be doing,” said Charlotte Mayor Garland Breeden.

After speaking with grant writers, Breeden said turning down the state grant could cause issues when applying for future grants with the state. The mayor also noted that the plan included the traffic light improvements.

Breeden said the walkways would improve life in Charlotte.

“A sidewalk gives a city walkability. It gives the people the opportunity to walk safely to wherever they want to go, if they choose to walk,” Breeden said.

“I look at for being attractive,” Breeden said, adding it’s an aesthetic improvement over a a “two-foot deep ditch.” 

More:Charlotte gets $1.5M for revitalization around historic square