Pineville has a secret DMV + other time-saving hacks

Plus: 7 acres under contract in NoDa; Carowinds owner contemplates sale to Six Flags; Bojangles' says no to Thanksgiving turkeys

Good morning! Today is Friday, October 4, 2019.

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Going to the DMV doesn’t have to crush your soul: Make an appointment, and know when and where to go

by Michelle Crouch

I didn’t have a DMV horror story until last week, when I took my 16-year-old daughter Stella to get her driver’s license. I thought I had done everything right — made an appointment weeks in advance, arrived early and made sure we had all the correct documents.

But the DMV employee didn’t like the way my daughter had recorded some of her driving time, so he sent us to the waiting area to redo her driving log. It took almost an hour.

When we gave the employee the new log, he took a minute to look it over. Then he said, “Sorry, we don’t do road tests past 4 p.m.”

It was 4:01.

Stella, frustrated, burst into tears. But the employee wouldn’t budge.

That’s how we ended up waiting in line for three hours at the DMV on Arrowood Road on a Saturday morning.

You make the call: Dante’s ninth circle of hell, or the Arrowood Road DMV on a Saturday morning?

Wait time data: To spare Ledger readers the same fate, we requested data on wait times so we could find out which locations have the shortest waits. But the DMV tracks only the time spent waiting after you check in — and waiting to check in can be the big hold-up: At the Arrowood DMV last week, we waited outside the office for almost three hours before we checked in and then about 40 minutes once we got inside. 

After checking in, here were the average wait times on a recent week at Charlotte-area DMVs:

The data does offer some guidance on the best time and days to go to the DMV. We used that data, talked to DMV employees and crowd-sourced friends to compile these tips to help you get through the DMV with your sanity intact.

Important: Do whatever it takes to get an appointment…

An appointment means you can walk past all those folks sweating it out in line to check-in and go right up to the desk. It’s a nice feeling, like having TSA PreCheck or using a FastPass at Disney. To get an appointment, call the state office at 919-715-7000 (after you hear “main menu,” press 1, then 1). You may get a busy signal or get stuck on hold, and the first open spot will probably be weeks away. Trust me, it’s worth the extra hassle. Use these tricks to get a reservation:

  • Keep calling and prepare to hold. The first two times I called, I heard, “Our call volumes are unusually high at this time, and we are unable to provide service.” But when I called back a few minutes later, I was put in the hold queue. In test calls last week, I waited for 15 minutes to get through on a Monday morning and 7 minutes on a Tuesday.

  • Don’t call on Monday. A DMV call center rep told me that’s their busiest time for calls.

  • Ask about openings at regional offices. You may be able to get an appointment at a DMV in Gastonia, Monroe or Statesville before you can get one in Charlotte.

  • Ask about cancellations. Some DMV phone reps seem to try harder than others, and one was able to get me an appointment for the next day after I specifically asked about cancellations. Another agent told me your best bet for picking up a cancellation spot is to call right when the phones open at 8 a.m.

  • Make an in-person appointment. Local offices won’t give you a reservation over the phone, but you can make one if you walk in the door. One Ledger reader walked into an office during her lunch hour and got an appointment for the next week.

If you have to walk in without an appointment…

  • Go in the middle of the week. DMV data shows your best bet for fast service is to show up on Wednesday or Thursday. A DMV employee said it’s also a good idea to avoid the beginning and end of the month and days after a holiday.

  • Avoid lunchtime. You’ll wait almost twice as long if you go at noon (75-minute wait after you check in) compared to early in the day (36-minute wait) or late afternoon (16-minute wait), according to DMV data.  

  • Try the Charlotte North DMV office. Located at 9711 David Taylor Drive in the university area, this is the newest Charlotte area DMV, so fewer people know about it. It’s also one of the largest. When I visited this location at 3 p.m. on a Thursday, there were only about 10 people in line.

  • Make the drive to a regional office. Driving 30 minutes beats waiting in line for 3 hours. A friend who walked into the Gastonia office in the afternoon last year said there was no line at all. Others had good experiences in Polkton, Hickory and Lincolnton.

  • Try the secret DMV in Pineville.  This little-known mobile DMV operates out of a nondescript building in Pineville, and it rarely has a line. It is open on Wednesdays only from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. (It’s closed for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Seriously.) [UPDATE 1/11/2020: In January 2020, the state drastically cut back the days the Pineville DMV is open in 2020 — it is now open only eight Wednesdays in 2020.] The office does not do road tests, but it can handle almost everything else. Two Ledger readers who went this week said they got there around 8:45 a.m. and waited about 10 minutes. You’ll find it at 118 College St. in Pineville — go to the side door of the Pineville Communications building.

Michelle Crouch is a freelance journalist in Charlotte who covers health, personal finance and parenting. Her work has appeared in a variety of local and national publications, including Reader’s Digest, Real Simple, Prevention and AARP.

SUCCESS: The author’s daughter Stella finally got her license after waiting for almost four hours.

Something big planned at ice plant near center of NoDa

Last month, we brought you the news of a potential redevelopment in the heart of Plaza-Midwood. Today, there’s news of more big redevelopment plans near the heart of another close-in Charlotte neighborhood: NoDa.

Grubb Properties confirmed to the Ledger on Thursday that it is under contract on a 6.8-acre site on 36th Street just north of the light rail line that now contains the Herrin Brothers Ice building and open space. That’s a prime spot just a couple blocks away from what’s considered NoDa’s main intersection, 36th and North Davidson streets.

Grubb wouldn’t give more details on what it’s doing with the land. “We are looking forward to working with the city and the community to become part of the exciting NoDa neighborhood,” said Frank Tetel, vice president of acquisitions and dispositions, in a statement to the Ledger. The news was first reported late Thursday afternoon by the Twitter account @CLT Development.

The parcel is zoned I-1, or general industrial use. But by the end of the year, the city is planning to rezone about 1,900 parcels along the light-rail line — including this one — with a new designation that allows developers flexibility for projects in transit corridors. The new zoning for this parcel would be TOD-NC, which allows construction of buildings up to 100 feet tall.

Opportunity for development: The development of this land in NoDa is probably made possible because it is inside a federal opportunity zone, a census tract that has been designated high-poverty and is eligible to postpone and reduce the taxes of investors who spend money on real estate projects there.

Grubb has been active in opportunity zone investments in recent months. This spring, Grubb announced a project on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill that qualifies for favorable tax treatment — even though almost nobody thinks of Chapel Hill as a blighted area (except, perhaps, for Duke and N.C. State fans).

Ice, ice: A 2014 Charlotte magazine profile of Herrin Brothers Ice says it is a fourth-generation family business originally named “Herrin Bros. Coal & Ice.” It got out of the coal business decades ago and “mostly supply bags of ice for special events, convenience stores, and supermarkets, although they also still sell to individual customers.”

The article continues:

When the bulldozers finish their work and a new light rail stop for the Lynx Blue Line Extension rises across the street, Herrin Brothers Ice Company will still be here. [The owner] hopes passengers will step off the train and pick up a bag of ice. 


Plan to buy Carowinds’ parent company ‘makes almost no sense’

Reuters was out with a story this week that Carowinds’ parent company, Cedar Fair, is entertaining a buyout offer from Six Flags.

But the supposed offer is getting a thumbs down from some customers and analysts. Roller coaster enthusiasts tend to like Cedar Fair because its parks have distinctive character and different kinds of rides. Six Flags is a little more of a cookie-cutter operation.

Wells Fargo analysts panned the idea. So did the editor of Theme Park Insider, who said it “makes almost no sense, not from a business standpoint and absolutely not from a customer’s one.” That’s because he figures Six Flags would spend so much to buy Cedar Fair that it would have little money to reinvest in the parks to build awesome new roller coasters.


In brief

  • Unemployment falls: The Charlotte area’s unemployment rate fell to 3.9% in August, down from 4% in July, according to figures released Thursday. The area added about 300 jobs in August and has added about 28,000 jobs in the last year.

  • Head-banging: Caring.com, a company that helps families find senior care, is moving its headquarters to Charlotte from the San Francisco area. It had been part of Red Ventures until an investor group bought it last year. Caring.com’s CEO said it was hard to hire people in California: “At times, I felt like I was banging my head against the wall,” he said. It’s unclear how many people are affected. The company employs about 200 around the country. (Biz Journal/paywall)

  • Delivery layoffs: Inpax Final Mile Delivery is laying off about 200 statewide, including 64 positions in Charlotte, according to a notice filed this week with the state.

  • Commuting detour: The ramp from I-77 South to westbound Brookshire Freeway (I-277) closed Thursday and will be shut for two months as construction crews build a noise wall. (Observer)

  • This is the time: Tickets to the Billy Joel concert at Bank of America Stadium on April 18, 2020, go on sale this morning at 10 a.m. on Ticketmaster.


Food and booze news

A weekly wrap-up of the week’s eating and drinking developments

  • No Bo turkeys this year: Bojangles’ says it is not offering turkeys for Thanksgiving this year. In an email to customers Tuesday, the company said “turkey is SO overdone” and instead steered people to “Big Bo Boxes” of chicken-n-fixin’s.

  • Wolfpack ice cream: Howling Cow ice cream, a longtime N.C. State favorite, is now available in Charlotte-area Harris Teeter stores, N.C. State said this week.

  • Optimist Hall openings: Papi Queso, a grilled cheese restaurant, opened Tuesday. Its co-owner boasts to Charlotte Agenda that it has the “Ferrari of griddles.” El Thrify Social, a “Mexican-inspired restaurant, bar and gaming venue,” is now open, too. (Charlotte Agenda)

  • Wine and snacks: Cicchetti, a “Venetian-style wine bar,” opened this week in the Bank of America Corporate Center. It includes a “build-your-own bruschetta bar.” (Team coverage: CharlotteFive, Charlotte magazine, Agenda)


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The Charlotte Ledger is published by Tony Mecia, an award-winning former Charlotte Observer business reporter and editor. He lives in Charlotte with his wife and three children.