'Fuming mad': Neighbors blindsided by prospect of new CMS high school

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Heavy machinery continued to roll inside the normally peaceful and quiet woods of south Charlotte on Thursday afternoon.

Crews continued work to classify the soil and check its density.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools officials are exploring the possibility of building a new south Charlotte High School in the wooded area behind the Olde Providence Elementary School, off Rea Road. Dozens of homeowners border the south side of the woods.

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They said no one knew this was happening until Mike Wall heard a bulldozer clearing trees and pathways last week.

"What did I think? I was fuming mad," Wall said.

To the south of the woods is Wall's house of more than two decades. To the north is sports fields and Olde Providence Elementary School.

The South Charlotte Recreation Association, who plays on the sports fields where CMS is looking to build a new school, said if plans go through, the 49-year league will have to close its doors.

In a statement, the Board of Directors said "We wish CMS would have engaged our association as SCRA has maintained these fields at the association's sole expense. We simply cannot relocate our recreation youth sports programs and look forward to collaborating with CMS for a mutually beneficial resolution."

CMS owns the land and without notice started clearing some trees to test the soil.

It's possible the site could be the home to a new high school in 2023, a CMS spokesperson confirmed.

Wall said the neighborhood went through a similar battle about 10 years ago, and he's saddened it's happening all over again.

"I thought we were home free, and they would keep this a nice wildlife sanctuary back here and all of the sudden, here we go again," he said.

Tom Bowers showed Channel 9's Joe Bruno the damage such as trails ruined, trees knocked down and benches built by Boy Scouts destroyed.

Bowers said he has lived nearby for more than three decades and the woods have been a sanctuary for him, his children and his grandchildren. Losing the woods would be devastating to so many, Bowers said.

"The bulldozer plowed through it, it didn't make any difference to them," Bowers said. "It's a place to go and get away from noise and just feel like nature. I think the decision makers need to consider what will be lost. Every 5 to 10-acres of woods does not need to be destroyed."

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In a news conference Wednesday, CMS leaders confirmed their interest in the site.

"We are looking at all options," superintendent Earnest Winston said. "I just want to be clear it is an ongoing process, but we have done some work."

Wall said neighbors are mobilizing. They worry about their narrow streets, increased traffic, home values and peace of mind.

"I hope they have found something they can't build here," Wall said.

The Charlotte Ledger first reported CMS' activity on the site. A CMS spokesperson did not respond to questions about what other locations are being considered and why neighbors weren't notified.

Channel 9 will continue to follow this story.