By Collin Cunningham
(CHARLOTTE, N.C.) Greetings and welcome to a sunny Tuesday, May 10, Charlotteans! This week's warm weather trend continues with a high of 80 and an overnight low of 52, while the rain predicted in Friday's and Saturday's forecasts has transitioned to thunderstorms.
Speaking of natural occurrences, over 25 earthquakes have rattled parts of South Carolina since 2022 began, the latest being a rare 3.3 magnitude quake near the coastal capital of Columbia. Local leaders in Weddington, North Carolina rejected a zoning request for a controversial mixed-use development. In news from Charlotte City Council, the group intends to buy a local strip mall and city employees spoke in favor of a proposed $3.2 billion budget.
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What happened: News first broke Monday of a 3.3 magnitude earthquake radiating from a point northeast of Columbia, South Carolina's capital city, but since then another four quakes have taken place in the Palmetto State in the following 24 hours.
While relatively low on the Richter scale, ranging between 1.6 and the initial quake's 3.3, the seismic events bring South Carolina to a total of more than 30 earthquakes since Jan. 1.
Why it matters: That's well above the state's typical annual average of 10-15 quakes reported by the South Carolina Emergency Management Divison and represents a rare trend in East Coast events. According to Forbes, the United States' rightmost shoreline sees about 1% of the quakes witnessed in areas like California and Nevada.
The United States Geological Survey allows U.S. residents to self-report vibrations via its Did You Feel It? page.
2. Greener pastures: Weddington leaders deny proposed development after community pushback
What happened: Residents of Weddington, North Carolina, roughly 20 miles south of Charlotte, found success in a public awareness campaign after the municipality's five-member town council voted on Monday to reject a rezoning proposal for Weddington Green. The mixed-use development would have turned 85 acres bordered by Hemby and Weddington-Matthews roads into 160 new construction homes but the board voted 3-2 to shut down the Provident Development project.
Why it matters: A Change.org petition entitled "RJECT WEDDINGTON GREEN CONDITIONAL REZONING PROJECT" accrued over 2,000 signatures of its goal of 5,000 ahead of a public hearing on the subdivision in March. Since then, the community appeal has racked up another 800-plus names, showing a strong desire to stymy the project.
Speaking at the March meeting, Weddington resident Mark Miller said the surrounding area lacked the traffic and education infrastructure to handle the over 500 community new members who would gather at the Green, which also called for a retail space and public park, per WBTV.
3. Charlotte City Council corner: Strip mall eyed, budget boasted
Charlotte City Council made or announced headway on two issues when they met for their regular action review and public forum sessions on Monday: a buyout that will save a local strip mall from federal foreclosure and positive words from employees on the city's proposed $3.2 billion budget.
West Boulevard rescue: Back in October, Qcitymetro reported that West Boulevard in the western extremities of Charlotte would be the next area to be fitted into Charlotte's Corridors of Opportunity initiative. On Monday, City Council took further steps to integrate the avenue into its continuum of redevelopment by approving thepurchase of a strip mall that federal attornies have referred to as "an open-air drug market" near Charlotte's West Boulevard-Remount Road intersection.
Painting a picture of "validated gang members" who operate "in plain sight and with brazen impunity," the U.S. Justice Department announced that it was considering a forfeiture lawsuit against the property in 2021. The year prior, Charlotte police officers responded to over 40 drug crimes at the shopping center.
Budget boasts: During a public hearing designed to collect community feedback on Charlotte's proposed 2022-2023 budget, Charlotte City Workers Union UE 150 President Dominic Harris thanked "everybody that knows that city workers deserve to live in the city that they work in." His words reflect the 8% raise for hourly city employees — spread across a pair of 4% increases in July and September — as well as the new $20 hourly minimum for employees who have over 40 hours per week.
They also come over a year after Harris' union chastised the city in a press release and media conference for not including wage jumps in the 2021-2022 budget, despite a $149 million injection from the American Rescue Plan Act.
More contentious aspects of the budget include an end to free Saturday parking along South End and uptown streets as well as a raise taking hourly rates from $1 to $1.50. The change would result in a $700,000 profit for the Queen City, but council member Ed Driggs said he would vote against the fee jumps until the city has more robust public transportation, WSOC reported.
Speaking of budgets, the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners is currently reviewing $40 million in budget-boosting requests for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools' 2022-2023 fiscal forecast, which predicts a $2.1 billion year, per WBTV.
4. Reel Out Charlotte: City's premiere LGBTQ film fest returns to Camp North End after 2 years
Purveyors of queer cinema will have a lot to look forward to at Camp North End this week when the Reel Out Charlotte LGBTQ film festival returns with in-person audiences and in-person projectors following a two-year hiatus induced by the pandemic. Starting Wednesday and continuing through Sunday, the event brings more than 10 films and a handful of shorts to the event venue's Boileryard, a green space near the plaza's entrance.
Passes for the Charlotte Pride-produced event run $5 for individual screenings, $40 for an all-access pass granting entry into every film and $25 to attend a drag brunch and showing of festival entry Milkwater. Readers can buy tickets on this page, but entry into Wednesday's opening reception and short film showcase — starting at 6 p.m. and 7 p.m., respectively — is free.
The return of this year's festival to an in-person format may be especially poignant after North Carolina Policy Watch released a report in April of 2021 that highlighted violence against transgender individuals in the Old North State. It refers to Charlotte as the "second deadliest city in the nation for transgender and gender-nonconforming people," six of whom have died as the result of violence since 2016.