Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Davidson vote in pictures...

A month after election day and the day of swearing in the new Board, data on the last Davidson election is starting to be available.

Data can tell you a lot when presented in the right format, and elections are a particularly data rich environment.  Voter registration info and voter history don't tell you how people vote, but they do tell you who voted.  That alone can reveal a lot about why elections turn out the way they do.  Regular readers of aShortChronicle will know we are data geeks at heart, so we are particularly excited to be able to show you the below.

All thanks and credit go to Ben Beall of Davidson for pulling together these maps using Excel, Google, and data available from the Board of Elections.  It is rare that you get to see this level of detail on a hyper local election.  The time and effort pulling them together is much appreciated.

These first three maps show registered voters against those who voted early and those who voted on election day.

These next three maps show the actual breakdown of the vote by voter segment which is a rough approximation for neighborhood.

What jumps off the page is that even though turnout was way up this cycle, there are still major segments of the voting population who stayed home.  The more heavily populated in-town neighborhoods voted in higher percentages while Davidson's East Side and Exit 30 areas still didn't manage to make it to the polls in large percentages.  Davidson College students almost completely stayed home.

The interesting thing about that is that situation is no different than most Davidson elections.  Combine that with the turnover in elected officials, and one can surmise that only happened because even Davidson's most regular voters from the in-town neighborhoods finally decided in significant numbers that it was time for a change.

At the swearing in ceremony tonight, that change will finally happen.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

5 ideas for the new Davidson Board to improve land use policy

In a continuation of new ideas for the soon to be seated new Davidson Mayor and Board of Commissioners, here are 5 ideas on how the town can improve and protect Davidson's land use policy.

1.  Vote down or indefinitely table the "missing middle" concept from Davidson's Village Infill area.   As reported earlier, the outgoing Board has chosen not to vote on this at their last meeting.  The new Board should let that sleeping dog lie.  Davidson does not need more high-density development particularly in the Village area where the infrastructure is not designed to handle it.

2.  Remove "density averaging" as a concept in the planning ordinance.  Density averaging is a sleight of hand maneuver used by developers, to overcome limits on the amount of impervious surface allowed on a given parcel.  Simply put, impervious area on another parcel somewhere in the same drainage area is transfered to the target parcel allowing more dense development than would otherwise be allowed on the target parcel.  Density averaging permits are approved by the Board of Adjustment, a sub body of the Planning Board.

3.  Keep rural areas rural until development plans are available.  As part of this idea, the Board should do what is necessary to roll back the mass rezoning to Neighborhood General, Neighborhood Services, and Neighborhood Edge done earlier  this year as part of "implementing" the Rural Area Plan.

4.  Revisit the Comprehensive Plan and consider down zoning any large parcels to remove multi-family as a by right building type from the standard zoning areas.  This does not mean Davidson will never have more multi-family housing, but it would mean large scale multi-family proposals would need to go through the conditional zoning process which gives the town more control.

5.  The Town needs to put its money where its mouth  is when it comes to pushing back against aggressive developers.  A legal defense fund should be set up to stand behind a reinvigorated defence of the town planning ordinance by the staff and elected officials.  This fund can be seeded with $250,000 from the $1 million fund set aside for Mi-Connection subsidies owed Mooresville.  Developers need to know for certain they are in for a lengthy and expensive fight if they come with crazy proposals that don't fit with the town character.  Sometimes a credible threat of retaliation is the best way to avoid an actual confrontation.  This fund will provide that for the town.

Davidson's new Board has work to do to untangle the gordian knotted mess left by the soon to be previous elected officials.  These five ideas if implemented would cut right through it.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Tuesday agenda...Swearing in the new Board, but no "missing middle"

Citizens can breath a momentary sign of relief....aaaaahhh.

The agenda for Davidson's upcoming Dec 12th meeting was just posted, and it appears outgoing Commissioners will not be voting on the "missing middle" text amendments that would force multi-family housing into the Village Infill area.  They will receive an update on the subject and will no be voting on them. aShortChronicle dpuble checked thos with the Town PIO, Christina Shaul, late Thursday afternoon.

That is good news to citizens worried the outgoing Board might pass these unwanted amendments as their last act just moments prior to the swearing in of the new crop of elected officials.

Tuesday will signal the changing of the guard at Davidson Town Hall.  It is very good to see that won't be tarnished by controversy (or at least not this one).

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Room In The Inn has started...consider volunteering this winter

It may not feel much like winter, but this week marks the beginning of Urban Ministries annual "Room In The Inn" program, or RITI.

The RITI program works with regional institutions, mostly churches, to provide additional beds off the street for our homeless neighbors during the winter months.  From December through March volunteers transport, feed, and provide shelter for people in need.

To give you a sense of the numbers involved, at just DUMC here in Davidson, last winter the church provided transportation, meals and overnight shelter for 603 homeless neighbors over 50 nights.   In the Charlotte region there are dozens of churches involved in the program.

Volunteering for this effort gives you an up close and personal view of one of the most intractable problems in our society.  Homelessness is a challenge every large city faces.  However, through volunteering with RITI, one gets the  chance to break some of the stereotypes surrounding who makes up this population.  You will see the "working poor" - people who have jobs but for one reason or the other don't have housing.  You will see veterans.  You will see families with young children.  You will see lots of people that you may see on the street at any other time and not recognize as someone who doesn't have a place to sleep that night.

What you won't see in the RITI program are the hard core homeless, people with serious mental or substance abuse issues.  RITI has strict rules for its applicants and  goes to great lengths to ensure a safe environment for volunteers.  (This part is mentioned in case that's a concern for potential volunteers.)

I have been a driver for the program over the past several winters, and can attest it is definitely something that can change your outlook.  I will never forget dropping off a family with a young boy the same age as my own son at the transit center in Uptown on one of the coldest mornings of the year a couple winters ago.

So, here is a personal request, or maybe consider it a challenge.  If you are interested in helping out in some small way this winter, there is always a need for more helping hands.  Consider volunteering for RITI.  The DUMC program in Davidson has open spots.  People are needed to drive, prepare food, and stay the night.  It works great if groups can cover an entire evening, pick up through drop off in the morning, though drivers are available if that is the piece that can't be filled.  Volunteers need not be church members.

If you are interested in helping out, contact me here or on Facebook.

Monday, December 4, 2017

NEWS FLASH - Santa scouts Davidson on 12/13 and 12/14

DAVIDSON, N.C. – Santa Claus will be in Davidson for a brief pre-Christmas Eve visit to review his route with the Davidson Fire Department. Santa will transfer from his sleigh to a fire engine for a ride about town on Wednesday, December 13 from about 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. (for Town of Davidson locations EAST of the East Rocky River roundabout) and Thursday, December 14 from about 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. (for Town of Davidson locations WEST of the East Rocky River roundabout).

Santa’s time is limited and turning around in cul-de-sacs and dead-end streets is difficult for the fire engine. If you live on a cul-de-sac or dead-end, please observe from the entrance of your neighborhood, so you can see Santa on his route. 

“We look forward to driving Santa around town to scope out his Christmas Eve route,” said Davidson Fire Chief Bo Fitzgerald. “Please come out and wave to Santa as we pass by.”

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Davidson Fire Station #2 update

The groundbreaking for Davidson's long awaited Fire Station #2 on Davidson-Concord Road happened in October 2016 with actual construction starting soon afterwards.

Since initial projections were that it might be open sometime during this past summer, aShortChronicle checked in with the Town to see what the holdup was on finishing the project.  Here is what Town Public Information Officer Christina Shaul had to say.

"Thanks for reaching out about the new fire station. We’re very excited about it and when it’s complete, it’s going to be a wonderful facility that will provide improved fire and medical service to the eastern part of our jurisdiction.

Yes, we have had two major setbacks:
  1. We had a very wet spring. The site is shady, so it takes a long time to dry out after a rainstorm. In order to pour concrete, the site needed to be dry.
  2. We had a big thunderstorm this summer that blew off the roof, so it had to be re-built.

We are trying to pin down a completion date this week, so we can schedule the ribbon-cutting/grand opening ceremony and an open house for all citizens to attend. It will likely be on a Saturday in the new year. After the ceremony, there will be tours, demonstrations of equipment and trucks, and food. We hope you’ll join us to celebrate this addition to our fire department and town."

A bit of good news in spite of the delays is that the project is still on budget.

If you are interested in supporting the fire department and it's new location, there is a fundraiser open to the public at the River Run county club this Sunday from 1 - 3:30pm.  See here for details

CATS Red Line survey works against idea of Red Line

It has been regularly in the news recently that CATS is once again studying the possibility of bringing rail transit to North Meck.  Cornelius and Huntersville recommended against the study this past summer in favor of spending the money on improvements to bus service, but predictably, Davidson went along with the new spending.  See this earlier story on that here.

CATS is paying $2.3 million for consultants from WSP (formerly Parson Brinkerhoff)  to study (again) the idea of rail transit to the Lake Norman region.  Long-time readers of aShortChronicle will remember that Parsons Brinckerhoff consultants have long been involved in studying the Red Line, raking in millions in fees with little to show for it.  Check the Red Line Chronicle for all that detail.

As part of this study the consultants put up an online survey that ended sometime last week.  aShortChronicle took the survey and screen captured the below results asof November 19th, shortly before it went offline.  What's funny is the results seem to indicate a significant amount of inconsistency in what respondents want out if a North Mecklenburg mass transit option.  In particular the results indicate that the long planned commuter rail option may be the least effective at meeting those desired uses.

Take a look at the results.

  • Taken all together, time appears to be the biggest driver with speed/reliability being the top ranked criteria in the Tradeoffs and Transit Priorities rankings.
  • Travel to Uptown for work was the top corridor priority.  That is not surprising.  It also works against rail as an option because any planned rail line will likely terminate at the Gateway Station being built on West Trade street - far from where most Uptown workers actually work.  That will require transferring to the Streetcar which will add time and inconvenience.
  • Two of the other top ranked Corridor Priorities by the number of respondents were for Events and Entertainment and connecting to Charlotte Douglas Airport.  The long planned commuter rail would likely not run at night and weekends for things like going to a Panthers game or a night on the town.  The Gateway Station location works against these uses as - again - it isn't near these areas.  Also, spending a couple billion on a rail solution so people can go out drinking seems like a terrible use of public money.  As for connecting to Charlotte Douglas, does anyone really believe business travelers or families will catch rail to Uptown, transfer to another train or mode of public transit and go to the airport with luggage and kids in tow?  It sounds nice, but likely not practical. 
  • It also seems interesting that while people responded that they wanted to drive to stations they also said they wanted stations in mixed use developments.  As a ten year bus rider, one has to wonder if respondents thought about the fact that driving to a stop and being part of a mixed use development may be inconsistent with time being a top priority.  If stops are in mixed use developments, the parking will have to be in garages and not flat lots meaning added time going to/from the station and likely added cost to use a parking garage.

The solution to all of these points is simple, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT).

With the I77 HOT lanes expansion underway, CATS is already planning on expanding commuter bus service to the Lake Norman area.  This will be true even if the anti-toll efforts succeed and the "complete and delete" option removes the tolls.  BRT would allow for more flexible service to meet the above concerns.  It would allow for seamless no-transfer rides to Uptown and down Trade Street to the main business district just as the express buses do today - making it faster.  It would allow for multiple direct routes to Uptown and Charlotte Douglas.  Interestingly, with the type of Transit Vehicle being the lowest ranked priority that seems to burst the long-standing canard used by rail advocates that white collar workers prefer trains over buses.  In reality, this survey says that doesn't matter much.  It would also be less intrusive on the North Mecklenburg towns yo construct and significantly less expensive and faster to build.

With all that said, CATS's latest rail study - at least from the perspective of potential users - seems to say rail isn't the best option.  As this goes forward it will be interesting to see how the rail transit proponents spin this.  You can be sure they will try.