Your chance to vote for bridge into Charlotte

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The City of Charlotte is planning to build a new bridge over I-85 and the city wants you to help choose the design.

From now until the end of June, anyone can vote for one of four possible designs for the bridge listed on the city’s webpage.

The four designs range from one with what appears to be a tree to two with more geometric patterns and one that is very simple with the work "Charlotte" carved into the stone.

Project Manager Dan Leaver said the city wants the bridge to be a gateway to the city because it will be the first thing people see driving south on I-85.

NBC Charlotte showed pictures of the plans to a number of shoppers today at the Park Road Shopping Center.

Everyone liked the idea of getting to vote on the final design but everyone had a different opinion on which design should win.

Katie Stone liked on of the more geometric designs.

"That’s probably the one that is the most eye-catching to me," she said.

On the other hand, Josh Covel liked the one with the tree.

"I like the design, and I like the tree," he said.

Using the link in this story you can vote for your favorite design.

Voting closes on June 30.

© 2017 WCNC.COM

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Prince George and Princess Charlotte steal the show – again- at Queen Elizabeth’s 91st birthday celebration

The British royal family celebrated Queen Elizabeth’s 91st birthday at the annual Trooping the Colour ceremony in London on Saturday — but all eyes were on the little Prince George and Princess Charlotte throughout the event.

Once again, the two adorable children of Prince William and Princess Kate stole the show from their famous great grandmother, enthusiastically waving to the crowd and the planes as they streamed above in a red white and blue Royal Air Force flyover.

An excited Prince George and Princess Charlotte could be seen peering out of the Buckingham Palace balcony window before joining great grandmother — "Gan Gan" — and the rest of the royal family on the balcony.

Prince George and Princess Charlotte are seen at Buckingham Palace, attending the annual Trooping the Color Ceremony in London, June 17, 2017.

Princess Kate was dressed in a pink Alexander McQueen dress and Jane Taylor hat, with Charlotte complementing her mother in a floral pink dress.

A major security operation was underway in the British capital following the recent terror attacks in London and Manchester. Snipers were positioned on roofs, with additional security forces on duty and plainclothes officers blending in with the public, as every senior member of the royal family participated in the queen’s official birthday celebration.

Today The Queen and other members of The Royal Family attend Trooping the Colour – The Queen’s birthday parade on Horse Guards Parade. pic.twitter.com/dffWq4WC0y

— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) June 17, 2017

The annual Trooping the Colour ceremony took a more somber tone this morning, with a moment of silence and Queen Elizabeth issuing a special message one day after she and Prince William visited the survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire, and just weeks after the terror attacks in London and Manchester. At least 30 people died in the West London fire, with more fatalities expected to be announced.

The Queen and The Duke of Cambridge also met members of the emergency services at Westway Sports Centre in London. pic.twitter.com/9m8j4wQjwF

— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) June 16, 2017

"Today is traditionally a day of celebration. This year, however, it is difficult to escape a very sombre national mood." The Buckingham Palace statement issued by Queen Elizabeth said: "In recent months, the country has witnessed a succession of terrible tragedies. As a nation, we continue to reflect and pray for all those who have been directly affected by these events."

With Prince Philip recently announcing his retirement, this may be one of the last events the Duke of Edinburgh will play such a prominent role. Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip’s carriage led the procession with Prince Harry, Princess Kate and Camilla, The Duchess of Cornwall, following in the second carriage.

Members The Royal Family including The Duchess of Cornwall & The Duchess of Cambridge attend The Trooping at Horse Guards Parade in London. pic.twitter.com/XgHg2ehEeW

— The Royal Family (@RoyalFamily) June 17, 2017

Prince William, Royal colonel of the Irish Guards, and Prince Charles rode on horseback with their regiments.

Trooping the Colour dates back to 1748 started by King George II, whose birthday was in November. A decision was made to have an official birthday celebration for the monarch’s birthday during a warmer weather season. Queen Elizabeth’s actual birthday is April 21.

More than 1400 troops and 200 horses took part in the procession, with the monarch inspecting the troops and taking the salute at Horseguards Parade before returning back to Buckingham Place, where the royal family joined Queen Elizabeth on the balcony for the Royal Air Force flypast.

This year’s Trooping the Colour took on special significance, as the country mourned those who recently died and celebrated the heroism of others.

“During recent visits in Manchester and London, I have been profoundly struck by the immediate inclination of people throughout the country to offer comfort and support to those in desperate need,” Queen Elizabeth wrote in her message.

Today, the country showed their resilience and paid tribute to their beloved monarch, but also to all of those affected by the terror attacks and the Grenfell Tower fire.

SLIDESHOW: Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her 91st birthday

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Bank of America laying off more employees in Charlotte

Bank of America is laying off an undisclosed number of technology workers in Charlotte, the latest job cuts to hit the second-largest U.S. bank.

Employees were notified of the layoffs this week, sources with direct knowledge of the decisions told the Observer on Wednesday. The cuts affect the Charlotte-based bank’s global technology and operations unit, which is headed by executive Cathy Bessant, who also sits in Charlotte.

One technology employee who works in Charlotte said employees notified Tuesday include full-time project managers who oversaw software projects, including testing and upgrades, from start to finish. Bessant oversees a workforce of roughly 95,000 employees and contractors worldwide, including more than 6,500 in Charlotte.

“Like all companies, we are in a changing marketplace, and we must adjust our workforce to meet those needs,” bank spokesman Dan Frahm said in a statement.

Frahm declined to provide the number of employees being laid off, citing company policy. Those affected have been given two weeks’ notice and are eligible for company severance, he said. The employees are also encouraged to apply for other positions at Bank of America, but for those unable to find one, the bank will work closely with them to assist in locating a new role, he said.

The cuts come a week after home-improvement retailer Lowe’s announced layoffs of about 125 corporate tech workers, primarily at its headquarters in Mooresville, amid efforts to improve profitability. Many of the affected information technology job functions are being sent to Bangalore, India, where Lowe’s employs approximately 1,000 people in information and technology and analytics.

Bank of America has trimmed about 75,000 jobs under CEO Brian Moynihan, who has pushed to slash costs at a bank that expanded through decades of acquisitions before he took the helm in January 2010. As of the end of March, it employed 209,000 worldwide, including about 15,000 in Charlotte.

While Bank of America has cited attrition as one factor behind the lower headcount, it has also pointed to efficiency efforts in previous rounds of layoffs affecting technology jobs in Charlotte. Moynihan has been seeking to improve efficiencies under an ongoing program launched in 2014 called Simplify and Improve.

In addition, last July the bank unveiled a new cost-cutting goal to reduce annual noninterest expenses to roughly $53 billion by the end of 2018, compared with about $56.3 billion over the previous 12 months. Bank of America announced the goal in reporting second-quarter earnings that fell as the bank continued to feel the effects of low interest rates.

On Wednesday, Chief Operating Officer Tom Montag said the bank will keep cutting costs even after reaching the $53 billion goal by finding more ways technology can replace people.

“There’s more to do after that,” Montag said at a conference in New York. “How much technology can we do that replaces people? How many things do we have that we can use it? How much big data can we use that helps us target better and not waste our time on certain things?”

Montag said Bank of America will take a closer look at businesses that can be optimized, naming foreign-exchange trading as one example.

Bloomberg News contributed.

Deon Roberts: 704-358-5248, @DeonERoberts

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Popular Charlotte pastor resigns

The Rev. Joe Brown, who was one of Charlotte’s most popular preachers for many years, has left Northside Baptist Church, where he became the senior pastor two years ago.

Brown, 68, announced his resignation during the church’s May 28 service, but also told his flock from the pulpit that it wouldn’t become effective until Dec. 31.

That effective date was later moved up to June 1 – the same day the church’s board of deacons met. According to a letter sent to the congregation on Thursday, the board was presented with a recommendation that Brown’s resignation become effective immediately, “which would allow more time for Dr. Brown to focus on his family.”

Brown told the Observer he needs more time to help his wife, who had given up teaching her adult Sunday school class because of her battle with cancer.

“I resigned two Sundays ago, but I offered to stay until the end of the year to help them find a new pastor. I didn’t want to leave them in the lurch,” Brown said Friday. “But they said they had it covered.”

A search committee to find a new pastor has already been mobilized and will update the congregation every week, said the Rev. Steve Goode, who was tapped to be the church’s interim CEO.

In that letter to the congregation, the church announced not only Brown’s June 1 exodus, but also the departures of four other high-profile leaders. Those included Brown’s son, Timothy, who had been a pastor at Northside Baptist, and Tony Fajardo, who will leave as the head of Northside Christian Academy at the end of the current school year.

Joe Brown came out of retirement in 2015 to take the helm at Northside Baptist. His hire was greeted with great fanfare, with the congregation voting “by overwhelming majority,” in the words of the church’s Facebook page, to give him the job.

Brown had previously been pastor for 26 years at Hickory Grove Baptist, which grew during his tenure to become the largest Protestant church in Charlotte and the biggest Southern Baptist church in the Carolinas. Brown was a famous face for years on local Charlotte TV, which aired his popular sermons and services every Sunday morning from 17,000-member Hickory Grove Baptist.

Brown retired in 2011, but agreed to take the post at Northside Baptist four years later.

Northside Baptist has also played a prominent role in the religious history of Charlotte. It was once the city’s largest church. And for a long time, it led conservative campaigns against liquor-by-the-drink, abortion and homosexuality.

By the 1970s, it had grown to 6,400 members and launched Northside Christian Academy. The Rev. Jerry Falwell, the nationally renowned preacher who founded the Moral Majority, spoke at the 1990 funeral of the church’s founding pastor, the Rev. Jack Hudson, a fundamentalist preacher who’d once been a dirt-track racer.

When Brown arrived at Northside Baptist, it had lost many of its members and was trying to rebound.

“I told them when I came that this is not going to be something long-term,” Brown said Friday. “I’d be there two years and help them get into shape to become a healthy church.”

Brown said his son, who had also preached at Northside Baptist, is a professor of theology at Southern Evangelical Seminary. “He decided at this point in his life to go ahead and concentrate on that,” his father said.

The church’s letter also announced the resignation of Andy Williamson, who had been chairman of the board of deacons, and business administrator Pamela Wedding.

Replacing Fajardo as head of Northside Christian Academy will be Van Wade, who is an alumnus, the church’s letter said.

“Everybody decided to leave at the same time,” Joe Brown said. “They didn’t fire any of us.”

Though he has left his job as a full-time pastor, Brown said he is available to fill in as an intern pastor at churches who could use his help.

“I’ve already had calls from guys to fill in.” he said. “My specialty is to go in and apply leadership skills – put the right people in the right jobs.”

And Brown said he has not lost his desire to deliver sermons. “That’ll never change,” he said. “God called me to preach.”

Tim Funk: 704-358-5703, @timfunk

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Which Of These Three Restaurants In Charlotte NC Would Be A Good First Stop?

Charlotte, North Carolina is a city we have been to recently. There were some great restaurants we visited last time, and there are going to be some great ones this time around. Are you ready? I’ll tell you what, I am, and I am certainly going to select some nice establishments. Here we go guys, but don’t get hung up on my first Charlotte NC restaurant pick because there will be two more.

The first restaurant is going to be 300 East, and it should be simple enough to find since it is on 300 East Boulevard. What kinds of food do they serve? One menu highlight is very intriguing, sweet potato ravioli. Have you ever heard of anything like that? Just the other day, I noticed corn ravioli on a menu highlight but not sweet potato. Okay it is time to go to another restaurant now.

Dresslers Restaurant is located on Metropolitan Avenue, and it is serving up lamb, halibut and crab cakes for starters. Then you have a very delicious looking cheesecake for dessert. That is enough of the menu to make me want to enjoy a meal there, what about you? Now guys, we have one more establishment to visit, and then I will tell you the place I would visit first if I were you.

I forgot to mention that the last place provides live music at times, and you can also dine outside. Almost out of time, so the last Charlotte restaurant is Tupelo Honey Cafe on South Boulevard. It serves up delicious brunch, and you are talking about blueberry jam, biscuits, and wait, I am already drooling. Tupelo Honey Cafe would be my first stop in Charlotte NC. Do you think the same thing, or would you rather be stopping at one of the other two places first?

Storms knock out power northwest of Charlotte

Nearly 4,000 Duke Energy customers are without power near Mountain Island Lake Sunday afternoon, following rain and storms around Charlotte.

One outage is affecting about 2,000 customers northwest of Mount Holly, and more than 1,500 additional customers are without power on the other side of the Catawba River, Duke Energy’s outage map shows.

Duke Energy has confirmed that the cause of the smaller outage is fallen trees or tree limbs.

Rainy weather around Charlotte may continue through Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.

Cabarrus and Rowan counties were under a flood advisory from the National Weather Service Sunday evening. Union County residents were warned to look out for very heavy rain and avoid flooded roads.

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A tree-killing insect that has devastated eastern forests is confirmed in Charlotte

An invasive insect that has killed millions of ash trees across the U.S. has arrived in Charlotte, a city official said Tuesday.

The emerald ash borer was first detected in North Carolina in 2013 after invading most other eastern states. It was a matter of time before the metallic green beetle appeared in Charlotte, experts told the Observer earlier this spring.

The ash borer appeared to have killed trees at a commercial development near South Tryon Street and Billy Graham Parkway, Heartwood Tree Service owner Patrick George reported last week.

Assistant city arborist Laurie Reid Dukes, who is an entomologist, collected specimens of the insect at the site. They’ve been sent for confirmation by the federal government, but Duke’s said she’s sure of her identification.

The N.C. Forest Service has already updated its map of confirmed locations of the insect to include Mecklenburg County. Trees in Gaston, Lincoln, Catawba and Iredell counties, west and north of the city, have already been attacked.

“My guess is they’ve been here about two years,” Duke said, the time that it typically takes the insect to fully kill trees.

Charlotte’s landscape management office has full information, including how to detect infestations, on its emerald ash borer page online. The city estimates 1,300 ash trees line Charlotte streets.

Signs of an infestation start with loss of leaves at the top of the tree. Other clues include tunnels under the tree’s bark where larvae have fed. Sprouts, a defensive response by the tree, often emerge from the base of the trunk.

Experts compare the beetle’s lethal potential to the blight that wiped out chestnut trees a century ago and to the insect that is now steadily killing hemlocks across the Southern Appalachian mountains.

Bruce Henderson: 704-358-5051, @bhender

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Charlotte adds coating to increase passing after lackluster All-Star race

(Photo: Jim Dedmon, USA TODAY Sports)

CHARLOTTE — Responding to a mundane All-Star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway last week, track officials attempted to stoke passing at the notoriously sensitive 1.5-mile oval by applying a compound to increase traction used this season at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Numerous drivers experienced everything from wiggles to near-missed slides plying the high line, and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points leader Kyle Larson brushed the wall coming out of an applied area in a corner. Track officials had also used a device to apply grip-improving rubber to the corners, but heavy rains might have washed some of it away on Wednesday night.

"It’s just not very black, and it seems very dusty when we all rolled off this morning," said All-Star race winner Kyle Busch. "Interesting there, but other than that, you know, the cars were starting to put the rubber down and it was starting to get more black as practice progressed, but you get outside of that black just a little bit, and it seemed pretty slick."

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Busch theorized that an Xfinity Series race on Saturday would help condition the track with additional rubber. The use of so-called VHT traction compound began in drag racing but has become a tool for tracks to increase racing grooves at places like Charlotte, which traction allows drivers to monopolize the shorter low lane.

"Years ago at my home track, they put it down in the outside groove to try to make an outside groove," he said. "It wasn’t noticeable the first week that they did it, but it took a few weeks for it to kind of get wore in and kind of groomed a little bit, and then it was actually not bad. I don’t know if we can groom it that fast here in just one weekend, but we’ll see."

Follow Brant James on Twitter @brantjames.

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Charlotte church has survived war, disease and revolution. Now comes the airport.

Steele Creek Presbyterian Church, founded when North Carolina was still a British colony, is the second oldest house of worship in Mecklenburg County.

But to stay alive, this 257-year-old church may soon have to decide to give up its land, maybe even its name.

The thoroughly modern reason: Its close proximity to the ever-expanding Charlotte Douglas International Airport, which has its eye on the property that’s been home to the church since Scots-Irish settlers had their first worship service there in a brush arbor – a lean-to built with tree limbs – in 1760.

This Sunday, the 351-member church will vote on whether to pursue a possible merger with one or more of the other Presbyterian churches in the Steele Creek area.

Any merger would likely mean eventually selling the land to the airport, which is already in talks with Steele Creek Presbyterian over the purchase of its manse. This former home of the church’s pastors is down the road and across the street from the church’s current sanctuary, built in 1889.

Pursuing a merger and all that might entail is an emotional decision that has split the congregation at a church whose motto is “Remembering the Past, Serving the Present, Anticipating the Future.”

Many on both sides of the debate have generations of ancestors buried in the church’s historic cemetery – the final resting place for 25 Revolutionary War veterans, 101 Civil War veterans, the parents of evangelist Billy Graham and a signer or two of the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence.

The airport has no interest in buying the cemetery and the church has no plans to sell it. But it’s located adjacent to the sanctuary, which would change hands.

“I was born and raised in that church,” said retiree John Freeman, who’s 82 and plans to vote against the merger motion. “I want to stay until we have to move. There are still roads that lead to the church. We (he and wife Annette) can still get there. Planes don’t bother us. You get used to it.”

But Walter Neely, 69, another life-long member, said Steele Creek Presbyterian must be realistic and explore possibilities. He’s clerk of the church’s session, the elected leadership body that is bringing the merger idea up for a vote and will pursue talks with the other churches if it passes.

“If we don’t do anything, we’re going to be in the middle of an (airport) industrial park,” said Neely, who favors the motion. “If we want to continue to exist, we probably ought to be flexible and look at our options.”

More jets, fewer worshippers

Bumping up against the growing airport has been an increasingly dominant fact of life for Steele Creek Presbyterian Church – and homeowners in the area – for decades. For a long time, more than half the congregation lived in neighborhoods just north of the church. But most moved away, said Neely.

In the early 1970s, the church had more than 1,000 members. Now it’s down to 351, with maybe 170 of them attending Sunday services.

“We have to maintain our buildings with declining membership,” Neely said. “We don’t have as many staff as we used to and we’re having trouble meeting budget.”

Steele Creek Presbyterian’s 40 acres constitute one of the largest remaining parcels in the area that the city-owned airport hasn’t yet purchased. Most of the homeowners around the former pastoral residence have already sold their houses to the airport. Mecklenburg County real estate records show the airport bought the house just north of Steele Creek Presbyterian Church’s pastoral residence, on 1 acre, for $44,5000 in September.

The house just south of the residence, on 2.3 acres: Bought in August for $180,000.

I was born and raised in that church. I want to stay until we have to move.

John Freeman, 82, member of Steele Creek Presbyterian Church

The airport says it is interested in the church’s land – minus the cemetery – but has no plans to demolish the church sanctuary if a sale ends up happening.

“CLT is committed to working with the church to find purchase options that work for them and for the airport,” a spokesperson said in an emailed statement in response to questions from the Observer. “If CLT and the church do come to a purchase agreement on the church buildings, the Airport will be committed to preserving the historic property. We would anticipate evaluating reuse options for the building, but we are not considering demolishing the historic structure.”

Laws protecting sites registered as historic places would also require not only the continued care and preservation of the cemetery at Steele Creek Presbyterian, but also maintenance of “the physical integrity of the property,” said Dan Morrill of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission.

“One has to be very, very sensitive to (the church property’s) sense of space,” said Morrill, the commission’s consulting director and principal administrative officer. “That means being sensitive to the tree cover, and the connection between the sanctuary and the cemetery.”

Charlotte Douglas International Airport has been steadily buying land for decades, especially north and south of the main runways. The airport typically buys out homeowners and businesses affected by jet noise and then demolishes the structures. Federal funds reimburse Charlotte Douglas for much of the costs.

There was a time when, in deference to churches, planes were not supposed to take off from the Charlotte airport’s west runway between 11 a.m. and noon on Sundays.

In 1995, the airport began working with Steele Creek Presbyterian and four other nearby churches to soundproof their sanctuaries, allowing planes to run full throttle off the west runway.

But the Rev. Jeff Pinkston, the church’s pastor for the last 10 years, said jet noise is still a problem for those engaged in outdoor activities, such as when children in the church’s daycare play outside and when there are burial services at the cemetery.

Plus, Pinkston said, the airport has other plans that could someday make the church a neighbor to a loud industrial-like area with trucks and railroad cars.

The airport’s rail cargo yard, located between two runways, is seen as a major economic development tool. Norfolk Southern operates the yard, transferring cargo containers between trains and trucks. Charlotte Douglas’ long-term plans call for tearing down the houses in the area it has purchased south of the the airport and developing new warehouse and logistics facilities for shipping.

“Based on our conversations with (the airport),” Pinkston said, “it would be uncomfortable for us here.”

Headstones of various stonecutting traditions in the historic cemetery at Steele Creek Presbyterian Church. The church, the second-oldest in Mecklenburg County, will retain ownership of the graveyard even if it ends up selling its property to Charlotte’s airport.

JEFF WILLHELM Observer File Photo

‘It’s really sad’

Still, the prospect of leaving behind the land that has had such a rich history is just as demoralizing to many at Steele Creek Presbyterian.

For church member Brenda Bledsoe, whose husband, Lewis, was pastor for nearly 30 years, “it’s really sad. We know that, with the airport coming upon us lately, we don’t really have a choice.”

The church traces its beginnings to the early- to mid-18th century.

When the king of England took control of the Carolinas, the royal government began to promote settlement by non-Native American people, said local historian Morrill. That led to a “land rush” between 1730 and 1770, with a multitude of Scots-Irish Presbyterians streaming into what is now Mecklenburg County from mostly Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland.

They started churches. Steele Creek Presbyterian is one of Charlotte’s “seven sisters,” the first churches – all Presbyterian – started in the area. Sugaw Creek Presbyterian is the oldest. It was organized in 1756.

Four years after that, Steele Creek Presbyterian was established. The church got its name from a small stream that rises from a spring near Shopton Road and Steele Creek Road and flows into South Carolina.

Seven sanctuaries were built on the site over the years. Slaves worshipped from the balcony until after the Civil War, when they left to start their own churches, including McClintock Presbyterian and Mount Olive Presbyterian.

According to the lore, each of the member families at Steele Creek Presbyterian were once assigned a tree from which to tie their horses.

Even into the 20th century, it was a place that was cited as a famous example of the rural setting and ambience of country churches.

“One cannot put a higher level of historical and cultural significance on a property than what Steele Creek Presbyterian Church and its setting possess,” said Morrill. “It’s as high as it gets.”

Of particular historical importance is the church’s cemetery.

The names on the old gravestones later became the names of prominent Charlotte area streets, schools and politicians: Berryhill, McDowell, Coffey, Knox, Irwin, Polk and Spratt.

The oldest grave bears the name of Sarah Knox, who died at age 64 in 1763.

The cemetery also includes unique headstones carved by members of the Bigham family – skilled, creative craftsmen in the 18th century whose work qualifies, Morrill said, as “extraordinary death art.”

Some of the stone cutters also meticulously carved the headstones with detailed stories of romance and heartbreak. One family, an inscription says, lost three children within three hours to disease.

The late Lewis Bledsoe, who retired as the church’s pastor in 2001, is also buried in the cemetery. And his wife said she and their daughters have designated plots next to his.

The current pastor, Pinkston, said that, even if Steele Creek Presbyterian ends up moving or merging, the church will still own the cemetery. Members and others will still have access to the cemetery and can still be buried there.

“The cemetery will remain here,” Pinkston said. “(But) we have funds for its perpetual care.”

If the church congregation ends up moving to a new location, the pastor said, it will honor its heritage in new ways.

Pinkston anticipates “some kind of historical room, to tell the history of the church.”

The headstone of Andrew Bigham in the graveyard at Steele Creek Presbyterian Church. JEFF WILLHELM Observer File Photo Crucial vote Sunday

The church’s vote Sunday will determine what’s next.

Approval will mean the session can try to negotiate a possible merger with one or more of the four other nearby Presbyterian churches. All are “daughter” churches birthed by Steele Creek Presbyterian over the years – Central Steele Creek, McClintock, Pleasant Hill and Mount Olive.

Increasingly, Pinkston said, the five churches have done a lot of things together, including Lenten services, youth group meetings and a mission project.

But it’s too early to say whether the other churches would want to merge with Steele Creek Presbyterian and, if they do, would be open to changing their name.

In fact, Central Steele Creek and McClintock have initially told Steele Creek Presbyterian that they are not interested in combining congregations.

“We’re still hoping that will change if we pass (Sunday’s motion) and go back to them,” Pinkston said.

The airport is an economic engine and it has great plans. And (they’re) squeezing us.

The Rev. Jeff Pinkston, pastor of Steele Creek Presbyterian Church

Another possible option: Relocate.

With money from a land sale to the airport, some members said, Steele Creek Presbyterian may be able to find property and build a new sanctuary.

“This could also be an opportunity to grow, maybe in a different area,” said Bledsoe. “So there’s still hope.”

But with only 351 members and land in Steele Creek in demand, others at the church don’t consider that realistic.

One thing nearly everybody agrees on is that the airport is on a path that will make it difficult for the church to stay the same.

“The airport is an economic engine and it has great plans,” said Pinkston. “And (they’re) squeezing us.”

Charlotte Douglas has already grown in just about every direction.

North of the runways, the area between Interstate 85 and the airport was once a neighborhood. Starting in the 1970s, Charlotte Douglas bought most of the land. The houses have since been demolished, and the airport has used some of the property to build a new car maintenance and storage facility. Last year, the airport bought one of the final pieces of property in the area: the Adult Super Store off Wilkinson Boulevard, for which Charlotte Douglas paid $755,000.

South of the airport, Charlotte City Council authorized the airport’s planned purchase of about 370 acres in 2013 for an estimated price tag of $35 million. Since the opening of the airport’s fourth parallel runway just to the north, jet noise over the area has increased significantly. The area around Steele Creek Road contains about 100 homes, most of which have already been bought. The airport has negotiated with the homeowners, rather than using eminent domain to forcibly take the property.

And the city, which owns the airport, has long owned the wooded land behind the church itself, on the east side of Steele Creek Road.

If the airport eventually becomes the owner of the church property, Morrill of the local Historic Landmarks Commission said, the city, the airport and church will have to be “very, very careful” to respect the historical character of the land.

“To deny change is to deny life,” Morrill said. “It’s not the job of historical preservation to prevent change. That’s futile.” The goal of his organization, he said, is to “manage change so that the historical integrity of the property and its setting is maintained.”

Bledsoe, widow of the former longtime pastor, understands change must come. But the possibility of saying goodbye to 257 years of heritage saddens her.

“This church has such a long, wonderful history, it’s hard to give it up,” she said. “You don’t like to see things end.”

Tim Funk: 704-358-5703, @timfunk

Ely Portillo: 704-358-5041, @ESPortillo

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Charlotte Casiraghi’s son joins his mom and Prince Albert at the Monaco Grand Prix

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Charlotte Casiraghi’s three-year-old son, Raphaël Elmaleh stole the show during a rare public appearance at the Monaco Formula E Grand Prix in Monte-Carlo on Saturday, May 13. The Monaco royal, looking characteristically stylish wearing a crème pantsuit, stepped out for the event with her little boy, uncle Prince Albert and cousin Louis Ducruet. The royal family gathered on the podium stage at the Circuit de Monaco where the top three teams’ drivers joined them.

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Charlotte’s son Raphaël made a rare public appearance on May 13 Photo: YANN COATSALIOU/AFP/Getty Images

Raphaël looked adorable sporting vibrant red pants and a white button down shirt as he played with miniature racecars on the stage by his mother’s feet. Doting mom Charlotte, 30, kept a close eye on her little boy as he played beside a magnum bottle of G.H. Mumm. The mother-son duo appeared amused as they watched the winning drivers spray champagne on the podium. Charlotte welcomed her son with ex-boyfriend, Gad Elmaleh in 2013. The French comedian confirmed his split from Princess Caroline’s daughter last May, while admitting, “We stay close. We are a family.”

The royal’s son played on the floor with his car toys Photo: YANN COATSALIOU/AFP/Getty Images

Charlotte’s attendance at the formula race follows her recent getaway with her current boyfriend Dimitri Rassam. The couple took their love to Italy for the La Biennale Art Exhibition in Venice last week. Charlotte and French actress Carole Bouquet’s son were photographed cruising the canals of Venice on a boat, checking out art and holding hands during a romantic lunch at an outdoors café. On May 10, the royal mingled with actress Salma Hayek and her husband François-Henri Pinault as well as Adrien Brody at the Cini party during the 57th International Art Biennale.

Charlotte mingled with Salma Hayek and Adrien Brody during a recent trip to Italy with her boyfriend Photo: Bertrand Rindoff Petroff/Getty Images

Charlotte and Dimtri visited Jamaica and New York City together earlier this year. Back in 2015, Princess Grace Kelly’s granddaughter opened up to the French magazine Philosophie about love saying, "I believe that the key to a long and happy relationship is when you both share a passion for the truth, for life.”

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