MATTHEWS – Brace YMCA will lose about seven acres as the N.C. Department of Transportation incorporates a partial cloverleaf design to the Weddington Road interchange at I-485.
The nonprofit has approached the town about relocating two youth playing fields on its 32-acre campus. Attorneys for the YMCA described the fields as big playground areas with movable goals. There will be no bleachers or seating.
Ben Pinegar, executive director of Brace YMCA, said the fields are used 10 months out of the year for different sports, especially youth soccer and summer camp activities.
“Our goals through this will continue to meaningfully serve our community, our members and our participants the best that we can,” Pinegar said. “In doing so, being the best neighbors we can to Fair Forest and St. Andrews.”
Five neighbors from these communities raised concerns about the proposed changes during a Jan. 13 public hearing.
Part of the push-back comes from town staff’s recommendation of an easement for a future pedestrian and bicycle connection with Fair Forest Drive.
This connector was specifically mentioned in the town’s Comprehensive Bike and Pedestrian Plan, approved in 2015, according to Planning Director Jay Camp.
“This really envisions a way for people to walk or cycle – as we want to make our community more bicycle and pedestrian-friendly,” Camp said. “The idea here is we have a stub street that makes for easy access to a very popular destination in town, not just the Y, but McKee Farms.”
Louis Abernathy and Dave Raichle, of Fair Forest Drive, spoke out against connecting their neighborhood to the YMCA.
Abernathy said the fields will be closer to his neighborhood than the YMCA’s parking.
“The end result of that pathway on the end of our street is that our subdivision will become a parking lot and our narrow streets will become access roads to the Y,” Abernathy told commissioners.
Raichle reasons the roads around his neighborhood lack curb, gutter and sidewalk.
“Public safety is at risk,” Raichle said. “With no sidewalks and narrow streets, adding pedestrians, bikes and additional traffic is neither safe or prudent.”
Abernathy also worries about the YMCA not being able to monitor the fields, creating a safety concern.
Attorney John Carmichael, whose law firm is assisting the YMCA with its request, said he understands why the town wants the pedestrian and bike connection, but his client sides with the residents due to safety reasons.
St. Andrews residents brought up issues involving the site’s elevated topography and YMCA’s plans to install 70-foot light poles. Carmichael said his team would discuss the height of the lights.
The YMCA had already agreed to a condition that lights for the two playing fields would be shut off by 9 p.m., two hours earlier than town ordinances require. Another condition calls for a black chain-link fence along portions of the boundary.
The Matthews Planning Board will discuss the YMCA’s request at its Jan. 28 meeting. Commissioners will consider the planning board’s recommendation when deciding on the matter as early as Feb. 10.
Planning board member Kerry Lamson said he’ll ask questions about access and parking.