Photo: Charlotte Douglas International Airport
By Miriam Cordova with contributions from Gabriel Roshan
In late October, Charlotte Douglas International Airport held meetings announcing a proposal for additions which include “relocating West Boulevard.” This project, which is sponsored by the City of Charlotte, would displace and uproot families by buying and destroying homes in the area for development.
The airport, which is the sixth busiest in the US, sent a vague flyer in the mail to West Charlotte tenants and homeowners for this proposal, which it is calling the “Airport Master Plan.” While the proposed plan for the new 10,000-foot runway, parking deck, and expansion of two concourses had already been in the works, many tenants of the surrounding area were not aware of the corresponding displacement.
According to the city, the Airport Master Plan is part of the Airport Area Strategic Development Plan, which it said will attract industries to the “available 6,000 acres of land that surrounds the Airport.” These 6,000 acres include many working-class neighborhoods. It also said that the project is expected to “redefine” West Charlotte over the next 20 years.
The meeting also included literature taking credit for the new 2.4 million square foot Amazon Robotic Facility off Wilkinson Boulevard. The airport had sold the land to Amazon and touted it as the first completed installment of the Airport Master Plan.
Mother Love, who lives within a mile of the airport entrance, attended the “open house” meeting and said, “It was confusing. They should have had a speaker there to tell us what was going on and what they are building. Instead they just stuck some posters up and expected us to piece it together from there. I could’ve stayed home for that.”
Incendiary also spoke to other community members in attendance and they brought to light the displacement that will result from this project. They mentioned that the airport recently bought up Steele Creek Presbyterian Church, and the neighboring Steeleberry Acres community is in danger of being bought up and rezoned due to its location off West Boulevard. The airport has already bought and demolished nearby homes on Dorcas Lane, and the families in the area have established two neighborhood associations.
The environmental assessment that would push forward the next steps of the plan will be completed in 2020, but the airport is already gearing up for it to pass when it encroaches on nearby land, making it “available.” While Steeleberry Acres is not a primarily working-class neighborhood, the plan also stands to affect a large portion of West Charlotte which does contain many working-class communities, all of whom have in interest in fighting back against displacement.
Last year 46 residents of a West Charlotte neighborhood won $1.5 million in a lawsuit against the airport after the 2010 construction of a runway that drastically increased the noise over their homes. Steeleberry Acres residents told Incendiary that the airport agreed to a memorandum of understanding in which they will not fly routes over their neighborhood between 11 PM and 7 AM, but they do not abide by it.
The city does not care about the fact that many of the people it plans to displace with the new airport plan are homeowners and tenants, seeking to circumvent this through rezoning the land for commercial use. Meetings like those held last month only serve to further alienate the masses, and will be used later to claim the city solicited “community feedback.” The city government does not care about the interests of the people who live in West Charlotte, instead they directly protect the financial interests of the airport and its businesses partners.