Residents worried about Weddington road

The Charlotte Observer

Union County News

This sign warns drivers to slow to 35 mph for the upcoming curve as traffic, on the right, enters the curve going northeast on Weddington Matthews Road toward Antioch Church Road. CRYSTAL O’GORMAN

Larry Wood said he fears for his life when he drives out of his neighborhood.

“I have almost been hit a number of times, and so has everyone on my block,” Wood said. “The strategy is, pull out, floor it and hope someone doesn’t hit you.”

Wood has lived in Mandy’s Plantation, adjacent to merging Tilley Morris and Weddington Matthews roads, for 22 years. He said the neighborhood and surrounding area has grown from farm land to hundreds of residential and a few commercial properties.

It’s not the growth that bothers him, Wood said; it’s the dangerous stretch of curved road.

The speed limit is 45 mph on the half-mile of Tilley Morris Road, from the Mecklenburg-Union county line through the merger of Tilley Morris and Weddington Matthews roads to the intersection of the subsequent Matthews Weddington and Antioch Church roads.

Many say what makes the road potentially dangerous is the sharp curve approximately 500 feet from the merger of Tilley Morris and Weddington Matthews roads.

Advisory signs warn drivers in both directions to slow to 35 mph as they approach the curve.

“I’d like to see some acknowledgement that there’s a brewing problem and a plan to look at it,” Wood said.

Weddington Town Council members agree.

Councilman Michael Smith reviewed a crash data analysis from the N.C. Department of Transportation in September 2014. The Town Council addressed traffic and speed limit concerns at a retreat in February, when it was advised by N.C. DOT District Engineer Lee Ainsworth to present its case.

The crash data tracked accidents from July 1, 2009-June 30, 2014, from the Tilley Morris-Weddington Matthews roads merger site to the intersection of Matthews Weddington and Antioch Church roads.

There were 24 accidents during that period, with no fatalities. Eighteen had only property damage.

The number of accidents increased over the years from three in 12 months in 2009 to three in six months in 2014. The year with the most accidents analyzed was 2013 with eighth. Most the accidents were sideswipes, rollovers and accidents occurring when trying to turn, according to the report.

The N.C. DOT concluded there was not enough evidence to warrant a change in speed limit or more precautionary measures. N.C. DOT traffic engineers made the decision based on an updated crash data analysis, evaluation of the road’s alignment and width, the number of intersecting driveways and reviews of 85th percentile of average speed driven on the roadway.

The N.C. DOT crash report summarized accidents from Jan. 1, 2010, through June 30, 2015. There were 61 crashes with one fatality and 15 non-fatal injury crashes. The number of accidents increased from nine in 2010 to seven in six months in 2015. The highest number of crashes was 14 in 2012 and 13 in 2014.

Sean Epperson, N.C. DOT division traffic engineer, said most of the accidents were caused by motorists driving 55 mph or faster.

“These folks are not obeying the current speed limit and as such are unlikely to obey a lower speed limit of 35 mph,” he said.

He also said there were no other curves or hills that would cause concerns.

“The 85th percentile speed has been shown to represent a speed at which motorists feel comfortable traveling at, and a speed at which a roadway is safe to travel at,” said Epperson. “When a roadway has been specifically designed for a certain speed limit the 85th percentile speed will, within a few mph, be the same as the design speed.”

“Based on all the information, we feel that 45 mph is a safe and reasonable speed limit for this section of roadway.”

Mayor Pro Tem Don Titherington lives near that stretch of road. “The area has become a bigger concern because development has increased and because it’s such a hairpin turn,” he said.

Titherington and Wood predicted rapid development in the area will cause more problems. Town Planner Julian Burton said 90 lots are being built in Vintage Creek, a new subdivision whose entrance is in the middle of the curve. He also confirmed approximately 200 lots nearby had been submitted for review.

Titherington also said he was concerns about increased school traffic. He said recent redistricting funneled many students to Antioch Elementary, about a half-mile from the stretch of road in question.

“I’m always concerned when school starts up,” he said.

The Weddington Town Council was not satisfied with the N.C. DOT decision and motioned to have Titherington continue pushing for change.

Posted in Charlotte Observer, Civic and Government News, Law, Newspaper, Traditional Journalism, Union County Weekly | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Town leaders vote to build municipal complex

The Charlotte Observer

Union County News


Over 50 residents and business owners lined the aisles and stood in corners of the converted garage – known as the civic building – where Indian Trail Town Manger Joe Fivas recently presented a proposal for the town’s municipal complex.

The presentation cited these details:

▪ $7.98 million for land and building development of the municipal complex.

▪ The capital project will be funded from capital reserve funds.

▪ The plan would include a new town hall with a community center, Veterans Memorial Park and town square.

The council voted 4-to-1 to approve the financial and legal agreements, with Mayor Pro Tem David Cohn dissenting.

The municipal complex will stand in the downtown district on 15 acres across from Chestnut Square Park on Matthews-Indian Trail Road. The site will house a two-story, 19,900-square-foot town hall with administrative offices, a community center and council meeting chamber.

“The complex will be right in the middle of our downtown area with adjacent Chestnut Parkway bringing 20,000-30,000 cars right by it every day, and will be a part of the Indian Trail Downtown Master Plan,” Fivas said.

During a meeting in April 2014, town leaders decided to pursue building a new town hall. At that meeting, Fivas suggested a lot that could provide ample opportunity for the town’s growth and create a municipal campus with enough space for a town hall and additional buildings and offices. The 15-acre, town-owned site was selected by the council in a 3-to-2 vote in September 2014.

Fivas said town halls are vital landmarks that boost economic development by giving the town a central place for business and civic activity.

This capital project will cost the town $7,983,312.

Fivas said the financial recommendations were to spend $4 million in town reserve funds and finance $4.75 million through a 15-year loan with lowest-bidding lender, BB&T, at an interest rate of 2.51 percent.

The loan will be paid from a capital reserve fund that was established by town council. Fivas said the capital reserve fund averages $1.732 million annually and spends an annual $708,816 on the park bond, leaving $1,023,184 available for other capital projects. He said the first loan payment would be $429,931 and still provide an annual $593,253 cushion in the capital reserve for future projects.

Other town residents stood with Cohn in opposition of the municipal complex.

Kim Shelling, an 11-year resident and Navy Veteran, said she moved to Indian Trail for fiscal responsibility, low taxes and good schools.

She said the project infringed on the initial land agreement to use this property for park space. She also said she was concerned that the project had been pushed forward quickly whereas the widening of Monroe Road had been delayed to 2024.

Cohn said he was dissatisfied with the financial strain of the project.

“I think this is smoke and mirrors,” he said. “Your taxes will go up.”

However, many residents favored the project.

Shamir Ally, a one-year resident, said “Anything that doesn’t grow dies” and referenced the 450 new homes and apartments coming to Indian Trail as a major reason for a larger town government space.

Maureen Mulhall, general manager of Extreme Ice & Fitness Center, said her skating business has held meeting space for the Union County Chamber of Commerce and other civic groups for free because of Indian Trail’s lack of community space.

Mulhall concluded her speech by saying how town halls evoked childhood memories and gave community members and businesses a central meeting space that symbolizes growth and prosperity.

“I believe it gives us hope.”

Indian Trail council members approved the capital project at the close of public comments and construction is now set to begin in the fall. Fivas said the construction will take approximately 12 months.


Mike Parks, town communication coordinator, said interested residents should visit the town’s website, or stayed connected via social media.

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Charlotte photographer stumps for students’ ‘Inked’ exhibition

The Charlotte Observer

South Charlotte News

Mark Pendergrass hopes to bring light to students’ depictions of tattoo art

Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis shows support for his home state as part of photography collection “Inked: The Story Behind the Art.” CEA Read more here:

Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis shows support for his home state as part of photography collection “Inked: The Story Behind the Art.” CEA

The hundreds of photographs stored on hard drives waiting to be reviewed mean a great deal to Mark Pendergrass and his former students.

“These photos reveal untold stories about the people in them and the people behind the camera,” Pendergrass said.

Amy Stewart is a local YMCA member and Charlotte resident who showed off her tattoo for the photography project in 2010.
Amy Stewart is a local YMCA member and Charlotte resident who showed off her tattoo for the photography project in 2010. CEA
In 2010, Pendergrass, a professional banker and a photographer at Snap Photos, taught a photography class at the Stratford Richardson YMCA called Teen Scoop. The class consisted of 15 to 20 youths age 13 to 19 and focused on portrait photography.

The students created a photography project called “Inked: The Story Behind the Art,” that featured students, professionals, celebrity athletes and Charlotte residents with tattoos.

The students spent a couple months photographing tattooed people around Charlotte. The photo sessions took place on the streets, at the YMCA, in tattoo parlors and at Johnson C. Smith University. Pendergrass said they were able to meet and photograph a wide variety of people and tattoos.

“Some professional athletes – NFL Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis, NFL Minnesota Vikings cornerback Captain Munnerlyn and Charlotte native NBA Oklahoma City Thunder guard Anthony Morrow – visited the students and shared stories about their tattoos, as well as inspired them to pursue their dreams,” said Pendergrass.

“People always look so negatively at tattoos, so I just wanted to show how many have meaning behind them,” Davis said. “I also thought it was a great outlet for the kids to be doing this.”

Pendergrass said his students also spent a day photographing and talking to college students at Johnson C. Smith University. “Being on a college campus was a first for many of my students; it was great exposure for them.”

Amy Stewart is a local YMCA member and Charlotte resident who showed off her tattoo for the photography project in 2010. CEA

Amy Stewart is a local YMCA member and Charlotte resident who showed off her tattoo for the photography project in 2010. CEA

As they were preparing the project for presentation, the YMCA changed its after-school program structure, and funding was cut for the photography program.

The photos have not been printed or viewed by the public, but Pendergrass refuses to allow the students’ hard work to go unnoticed.

Five years later, Pendergrass has pulled together a fundraising platform on the GoFundMe website. He needs $5,000 to print and frame at least 20 poster-sized portraits. He intends to exhibit the photos in various galleries, tattoo shops and venues around Charlotte.

Pendergrass’ efforts have raised almost $300 in donations in 20 days.

“I want to bring to light my students’ hard work,” he said. Pendergrass said their models’ tattoos symbolize the memories of loved ones, their faith and the hardships and joys they’ve endured.

“The project is diverse: mostly African-American youth photographers, but the models come from all walks of life,” he said. “The camera brings people together, my students and the rest of the world, as will the exhibit.”

Kevin Mitchell, 23, was moved by his experience as a student in the project. He said working with Pendergrass and on the project inspired him to pursue his passion for photography, which he now does full-time. Mitchell’s artistic photography, Surf Mitchell Photography, has been published by BET, MTV and in various skateboard magazines and advertisements.

Mitchell is enthusiastic about “Inked” being exhibited. “What really grabbed me about this project (were) the stories behind the tats,” he said. “This is a great opportunity for youth art to receive recognition and inspire others enduring hardships to focus on their passions.”

Pendergrass said he hopes to keep mentoring youths through photography, and that this project’s exhibition is just the starting point. He is in the early stages of establishing a nonprofit called Creative Exposure through the Arts to mentor and teach photography skills to Charlotte-area youths who face challenging financial and family circumstances.

He said the nonprofit will give such youths an artistic skill that can turn into a business opportunity; but he also said the camera is a vessel for delivering life skills, such as how to build relationships with clients, speak and act professionally and connect to the greater community.

“Exposure to the arts is exposure to life,” he said.

Crystal O’Gorman is a freelance writer:

To donate to the project or host an “Inked” viewing, visit or contact Mark Pendergrass at Follow CEA at or on Twitter @CeaMark.


Posted in Charlotte Observer, Education, Entertainment/Creative Arts, Human Interest, Newspaper, Philanthropy, Traditional Journalism | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Waxhaw names first main street manager

The Charlotte Observer

Union County News

Posted on July 24, 2015

  • White’s former job was in Charlotte
  • New job hope to enhance town’s unique qualities
Posted in Achievements and Awards, Charlotte Observer, Civic and Government News, Newspaper, Traditional Journalism, Union County Weekly | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Menopause: The Musical’ coming to Charlotte, supports breast cancer research

South Charlotte Weekly

Characters joke about the physical, emotional and mental symptoms associated with menopause during the play, which takes center stage in Charlotte on Oct. 1 through 3. Tickets cost $45 to $50 and benefit Susan G. Komen. Photo courtesy of Aurora

Kathi Glist, director of “Menopause: The Musical,” believes she directs a show that inspires and comes alive in the hearts of all women.

Charlotte theatergoers will have the opportunity to participate in the inspirational experience Glist raves about Oct. 1 through 3 at Blumenthal Performing Arts McGlohon Theater.

The show comes to Charlotte in partnership with Susan G. Komen and Celebrate the Tatas, known as “The Survivor Tour,” to raise awareness and provide financial support in the fight against breast cancer.

“Menopause: The Musical” brings together a cast of four women from different walks of life who are all experiencing the “change of life.” The women meet at a shopping department’s bra sale and the show takes audience members through their shopping day, where the characters find commonalities and forge friendships – all the while, finding humor in their hot flashes, mood swings and other menopausal symptoms.

Glist said familiar tunes from the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s are lyrically transformed into a musical parody that aligns with the story, such as when Mary Wells’ anthem “My Guy” turns into “My Thighs” and pokes fun at the physical changes that happen to women’s bodies when going through menopause.

Glist feels the story provides an honest, yet funny, depiction of the realities of menopause and the significance of women supporting one another through it.

“It’s not uncommon for a woman to strike up a conversation with another woman that she doesn’t know and discuss intimate details of her life,” she said. “It’s an integral part of the way women are wired.”

Jeanie Linders wrote the story having no prior production experience. Linders was, however, going through menopause and wanted to share her life experiences in a fun, lighthearted way. Glist said the rawness from her writing and desire to bring women together through menopause is evident in the script and transcends the stage to the audience.

“Women in the audience become the fifth character – shouting out lines and adding to the story,” she said. “Women leave the show with a feeling of camaraderie and even men leave the show with a better understanding and appreciation for what women go through.”

Glist said the show formed a partnership with Susan G. Komen last year, as a way to continue raising awareness for women’s issues. She said charitable causes have always been a part of the show; in the past they’ve made donations to support ovarian cancer and rebuild homes after Hurricane Katrina.

“Breast cancer is so rampant,” she said. “It is important that we committed to this cause.”

GFour Productions pledged to donate $50,000 to Susan G. Komen and also donate $2 from each ticket sold to support breast cancer research and services in the cities where it’s performed.

Glist and GFour Productions picked up “Menopause: The Musical” during its second year of production in 2002; it has since been produced for the last 13 years in 13 countries and 250 cities, and viewed by more than 11 million people.

Visit for more information on “Menopause: The Musical.”

Posted in Entertainment/Creative Arts, Health and Wellness, Newspaper, South Charlotte Weekly, Traditional Journalism | Tagged , , | Leave a comment