Monday, July 8, 2019

Entire Davidson Board files for re-election!

aShortChronicle has received word that the entire five Davidson Board members along with Mayor Rusty Knox filed for re-election at the Board of Elections on Monday around lunch time.

This answers at least one of the questions from this earlier post.  "Will there be any open seats?"  The answer to that one is now "No".

Mayor Pro Tem Jim Fuller will be seeking his 5th term on the Board.  Commissioners Matthew Fort, Jane Campbell, Autumn Michael, and David Sitton along with Mayor Rusty Knox all will be running for their 2nd terms. 

Congratulations to the current electeds on their decision to run again.

Challengers have until noon on Friday, 7/19, to file.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Filing for the next Davidson Election starts this Friday!

It is hard to believe, but it has been two years since the historic 2017 election here in Davidson.  That contest saw the rise of Save Davidson as a major force on the local scene, catching the old line power structures in town by surprise and resulting in major turnover among elected officials.

Former Commissioners Beth Cashion and Brian Jenest chose not to seek re-election and former Commissioners Stacey Anderson and Rodney Graham lost their bids to return to the dais.  Former Mayor John Woods lost in a three way competition for Mayor against former Commissioner Laurie Venzon and political newcomer Rusty Knox.

Taking their places in a landslide were Commissioners Matthew Fort, David Sitton, Autumn Rierson Michael, and Jane Campbell.  Mayor Rusty Knox cruised to a major victory in the Mayor's race, capturing nearly 57% of the vote.

Commissioner Jim Fuller is the only incumbent from the previous Board.

With only one incumbent, there was a perceived risk among some in the community that a lack of "experience" on the Board would be a detriment to the town.  However, nothing has been proven to be further from the truth.  In less than 2 years in office this Board composed of newcomers has:
  • Moved the Beaty Street Park forward
  • Purchased the old IB Middle School property for future town needs and preserved a piece of town history
  • Confronted policies former that encourage runaway development 
  • Moved the Mi-Connection "problem" towards resolution earlier than expected sith the company now up for sale.
These accomplishments and others are reflected in significantly improved Citizen Survey scores in areas like fairness and town direction.  See here for the details on that.

Two years is a short time in politics though, and filing for this year's municipal elections starts this Friday, July 5th, and runs for two weeks ending on July 19th.  See the Board of Elections site details.

Will the old guard make a run at retaking control of the Board?  Will there be any open seats with sitting Commissioners stepping down?  Will the electorate that turned out last time become complacent and sit this one out?  What will be the big issues that drive this election?

This are all questions that will start to be answered on Friday.  Stay tuned here at aShortChronicle for coverage on all of them over the next few months.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

New office building proposed for Exit 30

A new mixed use commercial building proposal has popped up on the Town Planning site for the Exit 30 area along Gateway Drive.

Regular readers will remember the post about a new hotel proposal from back in May.  This new office building will be near that site and adjacent to the Davidson Clinic building as pictured below.

Limited information is available and documents are noted as preliminary.  The Town website  says:

The property owner proposes an individual 3-story building with rooftop event space (4-stories total). Proposed uses include a restaurant and office space. Total building square footage is +/- 40,157 square feet. This site is subject to the 1998 Southeast Quadrant Master Plan.

Link to the project page here.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

BREAKING NEWS: Griffith Hotel ruling upheld by Appeals Court

After months of waiting the NC court of appeals posted it's opinion on the Griffith Street Hotel lawsuit Tuesday morning.

In a unanimous decision, the Court decided for the Plaintiffs that the rezoning allowing the Griffith Street Hotel was invalid!

"Because the pleadings show that the Town of Davidson failed to post notice of a public input session in conformity with its own planning ordinance, the trial court did not err in granting Plaintiffs judgment on the pleadings and declaring the rezoning void ab initio."

As reported previously, the Appeal was heard back in February by a three Judge panel including Judge Lucy Inman, Judge Allegra Collins, and Judge Chris Dillon.  Judge Collins wrote the opinion with Judge Inman concurring.  Judge Dillon wrote a separate concurrence that was even stronger than the main one. The main opinion upheld the ruling based on the signage not meeting the DPO requirements.  In the second opinion by Judge Dillon, he added that the order of the procedural steps with the Planning Board meeting being prior to the hearing was mandatory as well.

While this is certainly good news for the Plaintiffs fighting the hotel project, it is not quite over.  The Defendants could file a letter asking the NC Supreme Court to take up the case.  If the Court denies this request, or if a request doesn't happen, then the main part of the case would effectively be over.

To read the whole opinion, click here.  It is the first opinion under the "unpublished" opinion section of Tuesday's opinions.  According to the understanding here at aShortChronicle, the "unpublished" just means this opinion won't be part of the legal register of NC law.  That's likely because this decision did not break any new legal ground.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Lake Forest Church seeks rezoning for a permanent home in Davidson

On Tuesday, Davidson Commissioners (and citizens) will get a preliminary look at a proposal from Lake Forest Church to rezone a piece of South Main property for a new church facility.

From the agenda item...

"The applicant proposes a Conditional Planning Area Map Amendment for +/- 3.9 acres currently zoned Village Edge and Village Infill Planning Areas (Parcel IDs: 00324111, 00324107, & 00324170). The Davidson Planning Ordinance (DPO) allows the Conditional Planning Area as an option for developers/property owners to ask for exceptions from the ordinance in a manner that is mutually agreeable to the developer and the Town of Davidson. The purpose of tonight’s discussion is to determine if the Board of Commissioners would like to see this proposed conditional rezoning move through the formal Conditional Planning Area Map Amendment (i.e. rezoning) process."

So where are parcels 00324111, 00324107, & 00324170?  These are along South Main including the old Davidson Clinic site.

Lake Forest Church Davidson Proposal

Long-time readers will remember, this site has seen proposals before - including a 150 apartment unit high density proposal that came and went in 2017.  See story here about that.

From the documents provided with the current request from the church, the church is looking to assess the Board's appetite for exceptions to the following under conditional zoning.

  1. Religious Institution Separation Requirement (DPO 3.2.31): ̵  Condition to allow a religious institution to locate within ¼ mile of another religious institution (Davidson United Methodist Church)
  2. Religious Institution Use in Village Infill Planning Area: – Condition to allow the religious institution use in the Village Infill Planning Area
  3. Religious Institution Use in a Detached House: ̵ Condition to allow church offices to located in the existing detached home at 496 South Main Street
The proposal includes a 30,000 square foot church facility, a three story 25,000 commercial and office building fronting Main Street, and re-use of the house onnthe property for church offices.  140 parking spaces will be included.

This proposal is at least the second site Lake Forest has saught for its permanent home in Davidson.  The church currently meets at Davidson elementary. The first attempt was an inquiry about a portion of the Beaty Street Property which ultimately kicked off the flawed Beaty Street RFP leading to the swirl of 2017 and the formation of Save Davidson.  Ironically, if the former Board had taken the church up on its original request, rather than using it to force the flawed Beaty Street RFP, those elected officials would likely still be in office.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Development approvals on Tuesday's Davidson Board the wrong place

Davidson's Board agenda for Tuesday, the day after a holiday weekend, includes a lengthy number of items in the "consent agenda" portion of the evening.

Per the UNC School of Government, "a consent agenda is used for board approval of matters that do not require individual consideration or discussion. Matters are listed and voted on as a group, and the single vote constitutes legal action on each matter." 

The website describes items typically appropriate for consent agendas this way. (Emphasis added.)

The types of items that appear on a consent agenda are non-controversial items or routine items that are discussed at every meeting. They can also be items that have been previously discussed at length where there is group consensus. The following items are typically found on a consent agenda: 

  • The meeting minutes
  • The financials
  • CEO report
  • Program or committee reports
  • Staff appointments
  • Volunteer appointments
  • Committee appointments
  • Correspondence that requires no action
  • Perfunctory items-formal approval of items that had much past discussion

On the Davidson agenda document itself it actually defines the consent section as follows

"CONSENT - Consent items are non-controversial and routine items. Prior to the board's adoption of the meeting agenda the request of any member to have an item moved from the consent agenda to old business must be honored by the board. All items on the consent agenda must be voted on and adopted by a single motion."

By the above definitions it was a surprise to many in town who regularly pay attention to these things, to see two critical votes for two new development projects tucked away under consent.  These were for two new development projects requiring Board approval for water-sewer extensions under the recently clarified policy.

One extension is for a roughly 81 unit townhouse project on the old Hoke Lumber site between Jetton Street and Catawba Avenue.  The other is for an extension to support 15 single family homes off of Kistler Farm Rd on the east side of town.

Considering the effort the Board took just last year to clarify the policy for how these extensions are approved, it is hard to see any such extension vote would be considered appropriate for a consent agenda.  It is particularly hard to see this for the Hoke Lumber site which is near the Potts Development currently in the court system over just such an extension vote.  In that case the Board did not approve, sparking a litigious response from the developer.  Almost by definition the proximity makes the Hoke site controversial for a project of this density.

More importantly, there is the issue of trust.  Slipping these kinds if things into consent agendas is damaging to the public trust.  It just shouldn't happen.  Even if there is no ill intent, it looks bad.

The Board has the opportunity to correct this on Tuesday by pulling these from the consent agenda and addressing them separately, and aShortChronicle guesses that will likely be the first order of business. 

It is time to end the Mi-Connection Tax

The last Board meeting on May 14th saw a spirited discussion among Commissioners about the possibility of addressing what has become a long-standing sore point in the Town budget - the exorbitant solid waste fees charged in Davidson - fees that were implemented in the early days of the Mi-Connection debacle to free up money to pay subsidies needed to keep an ill thought out idea afloat.

Those fees have become known to many as the "Mi-Connection Tax".

Commissioner Jane Campbell raised the subject of these fees as the Board began discussing the proposed budget presented by Staff.  Commissioner Matthew Fort then suggested an overall budget approach of first achieving a revenue neutral tax rate of 28.1c versus the 29c proposed by staff, and then adding roughly 4c to the rate to cover solid waste while eliminating the solid waste fee itself.

Technically, this approach doesn't eliminate the "Mi-Connection tax" because it brings in the same overall dollars to the Town.  Only eliminating the fee and keeping the tax rate at revenue neutral would get rid of the "tax" entirely.  However, getting rid of the fee does return the Town to a less regressive tax setup similar to what it had before Mi-Connection came along.

aShortChronicle has long followed these solid waste fees and the ill feelings they've generated and has endorsed getting rid of them.  See the below stories for that history.

Seeing the idea of removing this fee being given serious consideration is refreshing.  However, it remains unclear how much support there is among Board members for doing it now other than Commissioner Fort. 

There was talk of making this year the last year before addressing next year.  There was also concern about impact to the 50 some odd lower income/elderly households currently exempt from the fee who would pay a something if this was added to the property tax rate.  There was also concern raised that commercial properties would be impacted more significantly by this approach since they would be paying higher rates on top of much higher average valuation increases from the latest reveal, and they already pay for their own solid waste separate from the Town service.

The argument for doing it now espoused by Commissioner Fort was that rates are already changing this year anyway due to the revaluation and packaging this change into that will reduce the number of future changes needed to the tax rate.  Those future changes include the potential relief from the sale of Mi-Connection and the likely need to adjust for paying any bonds issued for mobility and public facilities projects.

Mayor Knox, while pointing out the tax value increases facing commercial properties, also gave the reason, maybe unintentionally, why this probably should not be a deciding factor.  Mayor Knox, whose family owns multiple Main Street properties, mentioned that rents will likely need to be raised to cover the increase in taxes.  This highlights the fact that commercial property owners have more options in dealing with taxes than most individual homeowners.  While obviously nobody likes tax increases, commercial properties can pass along these costs to be disbursed across the business operations.  Homeowners don't have that option.

Finally, the concern was also raised about the relatively small number of people currently exempt from the solid waste fee who would actually pay something if this was transferred to the property tax rate.  The numbers, 50 homeowners totalling a $3,000 impact were mentioned.  Finding a way to address this would need to be part of any solution, but with such small numbers citizens should expect staff to be able to figure something out.

Here at aShortChronicle, the sincere hope is that this Board finds a way to make this change happen.  Previous Boards haven't been able to do that.  However, if this gets done it would be another significant accomplishment for this Board's first term in office together.