Friday, November 16, 2018

Public Invited to Learn about Local Historic District Expansion: 11/28 6pm

DAVIDSON, N.C – The Town of Davidson invites all community members to a meeting with Historic Preservation Consultant Mary Ruffin Hanbury on Wednesday, November 28 at 6:00 p.m. at the Davidson United Methodist Church fellowship hall, located at 233 S. Main Street, to learn about the historic district designation process.  She will explain the benefits of designation, discuss the process, and answer questions.

The Town of Davidson is exploring the expansion of its local historic district, which currently includes the two to three blocks that comprise downtown. The goal is to preserve and protect historically significant structures in Davidson.  Historic preservation helps retain our sense of place, our small-town character, and links to our community’s past.  Designating areas of town as a local historic district is beneficial to both the community and the property owner.

The current local historic district was designated in 1989.  In 2009, a much larger area of “old Davidson” was designated as a National Register Historic District. 

“We encourage property owners, especially those in the National Register Historic District, to attend this meeting, since neighborhoods in that district have the most intact historic integrity and will be the most likely candidates for an expanded local historic district,” said Assistant Town Manager Dawn Blobaum. “Historic preservation is one of the Davidson Board of Commissioners’ goals in their 2018-2019 Strategic Plan, so we are interested in exploring the benefits of expanding our local historic district.”

The town hired an historic district expert, Mary Ruffin Hanbury of Hanbury Preservation Consulting, to determine which neighborhoods are appropriate for local historic district designation.

Background

A local historic district is a zoning overlay that is an amendment to the planning ordinance and must be approved by the Davidson Board of Commissioners.  Prior to a vote by commissioners, a public hearing is required.  The historic preservation commission and the planning board also review the overlay district and relay their comments to the board of commissioners.  We are adding Mary Ruffin Hanbury’s educational session this fall, and will include an additional opportunity for citizen input in the spring, after she has completed her documentation and has a recommendation for expansion of the district.

Local historic districts protect the investments of owners and residents of historic properties. Insensitive or poorly planned development can make an area less attractive to investors and homebuyers, and thus undermine property values. In contrast, in a local historic district, historic district design guidelines and review by the historic preservation commission of major, substantial changes to a property encourages people to buy and rehabilitate properties because they know their investment is protected over time.  The historic preservation commission also has the authority to delay demolition of a structure for up to one year, giving the town, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Landmarks Commission, or another entity the ability to purchase and protect the property.

Properties within local historic districts appreciate at rates greater than the local market overall as well as faster than similar, non-designated neighborhoods. Findings on this point are consistent across the country. Moreover, recent analysis shows that historic districts are also less vulnerable to market volatility from interest rate fluctuations and economic downturns.

Please contact Assistant Town Manager Dawn Blobaum atdblobaum@townofdavidson.org or 704-940-9615 with any questions.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Appeal documents filed in Griffith Street Hotel case

The ongoing saga of the Griffith Street Hotel project crept another step forward this week with the Plaintiffs against the project filing their Appellee brief in the appeal that is currently underway at the NC Court of Appeals in Raleigh.  The developer Defendants filed their Appellant brief last month.

It should be noted, the Defendants behind the appeal do not include the Town of Davidson.  After the Plaintiffs won a decision in Mecklenburg Superior Court earlier this year based on the Town admitting it did not follow its own Davidson Planning Ordinance, this appeal is being driven by the developer Defendants in the case.

In the briefs filed by the parties, the Defendants-Appelants' attorney argues that the lower court erred in its decision and that the Town not strictly following the DPO doesn't matter.  The Plaintiffs-Appellees attorney argues that strictly following municipal zoning procedures has already need decided by the Court and that should be the case here.

Ultimately, this decision will boil down to the answer to this question.

Do planning ordinances need to say what they mean and mean what they say, or can they be interpreted at the whims of municipal planning departments and the attorneys involved in development?

Whether or not the Griffith Street Hotel project has a chance to move forward hinges on the answer.

Readers can find all the documents for the case here at www.ncappellatecourts.org.  No date has been set at this point for further action on the case.



Saturday, November 10, 2018

Trump, not Tolls, caused Mecklenburg Republican electoral wipeout

The days since Tuesday's disastrous showing by Mecklenburg Republicans has already seen a lot of second guessing and finger pointing as to "why" this happened.

Here in North Mecklenburg, a lot of that has centered around the I77 tolls issue and the impact of losing MeckBOCC Commissioner Jim Puckett, Sen Jeff Tarte, and Rep John Bradford.  Some social media commentary links the toll issue and divisions in the anti-toll movement as the main cause of these losses by driving single issue voters to the Democrats.  However, after looking at the data available so far, it's more likely North Mecklenburg was just caught up in the same anti-Trump "blue wave" that swept suburbs across the nation on Tuesday.

That data answers the questions from this post during early voting that indicated such a wave might be building locally.

Before getting to the data though, one should ask this.

"Does blaming tolls and divisions in the anti-toll movement for the election outcome even make sense?"

Not really.  Did South Mecklenburg Republicans Andy Dulin and Scott Stone lose their NCGA House seats because of tolls?  No.  Moreover, they lost their seats by wider margins than John Bradford. Did Democrats sweep the MeckBOCC because of tolls?  No, that doesn't make sense either.  Yet, Republicans Matthew Ridenhour and Bill James both lost as well as Jim Puckett.

The only answer that makes sense for these other races is that energetic and well-funded anti-Trump sentiment drove higher vote totals for Democrats.  It was that sentiment, not tolls, that had a negative effect, creating a blue wave in urban/suburban areas of Charlotte that swamped these candidates.

So, what does the data tell us about the races in North Mecklenburg?

First, as pointed out in above linked post, Tarte was in trouble from the beginning due to redrawing the NC Senate 41 district to be much more Democratic than it had been previously.  Turnout of registered Democrats in North Mecklenburg was also higher in early voting meaning Tarte really had no chance to overcome this structural disadvantage on election day.  In the new district Tarte would have had to win overwhelmingly in the northern precincts to overcome the advantage Democrats have in the southern precincts.  This didn't happen and realistically probably never would, tolls being an issue or otherwise.  In a wave election scenario like the one just experienced, outside issues made this comeback even less likely.

In the race for MeckBOCC District 1, the toll issue probably helped Jim Puckett, but it was not enough to overcome the increase in Democrats heading to the polls.  Of the three North Meck Republicans who lost, Puckett was the most consistently anti-toll.  Both Bradford and Tarte had been hit in previous elections with the flipflopper label on the toll issue due to not being ardently anti-toll from the very beginning.  Jim Puckett never had that problem as he was one of the original anti-toll warriors.  The benefit he received from this showed in the election results.  Puckett won multiple precincts that Tarte and Bradford narrowly lost.  Puckett's loss rested primarily on major increases in the margin of victory for Elaine Powell in precincts that were already Democratic.  Those would be precinct 206 in Davidson and the Charlotte precincts along the district's southern edge.

As surprising as it was to see Jim Puckett lose this race it really probably shouldn't have been.  In 2014, the last time Puckett had a challenger, he only beat his challenger by roughly 4000 votes.  So, while the district had long been in Republican hands, it didn't take much momentum to close that gap.

It doesn't make a lot of sense to argue these new Democratic voters came out to vote against Puckett because of tolls.  These were "new" mid-term voters because of the "blue wave".  It should also be noted that this district did not have redistricting changes.  The precincts in it have been the same for past two elections as this one.  Puckett actually got 5000 more votes in 2018 than he did in 2014 during the last mid-term election.  That increase just got swamped by the blue wave.  So while tolls was an issue in this race, Puckett didn't lose because voters abandoned him because of it.

Finally, there is Bradford's loss in NC House 98.  aShortChronicle took a close look at this race.  In this race, redrawing the district should have actually helped John Bradford, not hurt him. A couple Republican precincts were added while Democratic precincts were removed since the 2016 election cycle.  Bradford won the previous 2 elections in the old district by wide margins, so it stands to reason he would do better in the new one.  That didn't happen. Why?

Here is what the data tells us.

  • During early voting, 45% of early voters in this race did not vote at all in the last mid-term in 2014.  These "new" voters broke pretty significantly for the challenger giving Clark an 1800 vote lead when early voting was counted.  This dynamic of "new" voters for a given type of election was very similar to what happened in Davidson last year when Save Davidson brought in a lot of new voters for a municipal election.  Those voters broke heavily towards the challengers.
  • If you compare the precincts in the new NC98 with how those precincts voted in the NC House election in 2016, something is very clear.  The Democrats maintained Presidential election year totals or better in these precincts while Republican totals fell off significantly.  See the chart below for that detail.

Both of these data points indicate high voter enthusiasm among Democrats and lower enthusiasm among Republicans.  That level of enthusiasm among one party to vote was not driven by tolls - a bi-partisan issue that has been around for several election cycles.  It does not seem reasonable that Democrats suddenly came out en masse to vote over this issue or that unaffiliated voters suddenly turned on Bradford and Puckett specifically because of tolls.  That's true no matter how many television ads were run on the issue.  aShortChronicle would argue if it wasn't tolls, some other issue would have gotten all that ad money.

Instead, it makes a lot more sense to say that type of enthusiasm gap was driven by anti-Trump sentiment that turned out a lot of Democrat voters.  In a race like NC98 that enthusiasm gap wiped out the big lead Republican candidates normally have in that district.  In MeckBOCC District 1 it easily overcame the smaller structural advantage Republicans have had in the past.  In NC Sen 41 it made the results a foregone conclusion.

The most you can say about the impact of tolls on these races is that the divisions in the anti-toll community probably put Clark over the top in NC98, but it wasn't the driving factor why the race was close enough for that to matter in the first place.  For that matter, the ridiculous attack ad flyers used in response to her TV ad campaign sent out by the NCGOP may have backfired and cost Bradford enough votes to cover her margin of victory.  Those flyers turned off a lot of people.  The tone of them could also be seen as an impact from Trump.  Regardless, in a race as close as that one, any number of small campaign mistakes could be seen as the deciding factor.

Trump, not tolls, caused this debacle for local Republicans, and while the party picks up the pieces and tries to regroup, the ongoing impact of national issues will likely make that more difficult.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Town of Davidson’s Veterans Day Program

DAVIDSON, N.C. – The Town of Davidson invites all citizens to Davidson Town Hall on Monday, November 12 at 11:00 a.m. to commemorate Veterans Day. The program features keynote speaker Robert Lutz., the Hough High School Wind Ensemble and Junior ROTC, and the participation of many community members.

Veterans Day was originally known as Armistice Day, which marked the end of World War I in 1918. The armistice that ceased the fighting was signed on the 11th day of the 11th month at 11:00 a.m. The tradition of having a ceremony on that date and at that time has endured. Armistice Day eventually evolved into Veterans Day, which honors veterans of all wars.

The ceremony will be on the front steps of town hall. Chairs will be provided for attendees. Please join us.

FLAG PLACEMENT:

In honor of Veterans Day, please gather on Sunday, November 4 at 1:30 p.m. at Mimosa Cemetery on South Street to place flags on veterans' graves. Volunteers from Hough High School’s Junior ROTC and others will visit all town cemeteries. All are welcome to participate.

For questions, please call the Parks and Recreation Department at 704-892-3349 or email Leslie Willis at lwillis@townofdavidson.org.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Town Hall kicks off comprehensive plan with "What's next Davidson?"

DAVIDSON, N.C. – This fall the Town of Davidson is kicking off a comprehensive plan, its first such effort since 2010. The Davidson Board of Commissioners identified the comprehensive plan as a priority in their 2018-2019 Strategic Plan. Generally, comprehensive plans are updated every five to ten years.

A comprehensive plan is the leading policy document and tool to help a community create a vision and guiding principles for decision-making for their town. It covers a lot of topics ranging from housing and transportation to land use, economic development, environment, health, and other areas. It brings all these topics into one document that is then used by elected officials, town staff, and citizens to guide decisions about our community, such as: How to prioritize what facilities to improve or construct (buildings, parks, streets); what types of land uses are appropriate for different areas of town; what types of programs should we encourage or offer (from government to businesses to institutions and nonprofits); and, how to ensure that our community’s values are represented in each decision made.

The comprehensive plan is a community-centered initiative. The planning process entails an extended community conversation that intentionally engages all stakeholders – residents, neighborhoods, businesses, the college, town government, non-profits, and institutions. Led by a consultant team comprised of Clarion Associates and Planning Next, the planning process will feature a variety of events, tools, and meeting formats to encourage community members to share insight into our community via in-person meetings/workshops, email, and online as well as hard-copy surveys. Whereas this fall will focus on background research and gathering input “where people are,” in the winter and spring of next year the town will host a series of community-wide events in which all are invited to participate. Together, each of these exercises will gather input essential to forming a community-wide vision and set of policies to support our aspirations. Below is a summary of the process and anticipated timeline:

  • October - December 2018: Initial public engagement + community research;
  • January 17, 2019: Community meeting to present findings;
  • March 2019: Multi-day workshop/event(s) to solicit feedback on policy direction and framework for future comprehensive plan;
  • Summer 2019: Drafting of the comprehensive plan; § Fall 2019: Presentation of draft plan and making revisions;
  • Winter 2019-2020: Consideration of adopting new comprehensive plan;
  • Winter/Spring 2020: Drafting/review/approval of implementation plan to guide execution of the comprehensive plan.

We’ve assembled two groups of community members to help us with this process:

The Plan Advisory Group, which will play a role in shaping the comprehensive plan process and serve as a sounding board to guide the development of the plan; and The Publicity & Outreach Committee, which will leverage our community members’ personal networks, communications and marketing skills, and ability to get the word out about upcoming engagement opportunities. “We’re looking forward to this process and want you to know that all community members are invited to participate,” said Senior Planner Trey Akers. “You’ll see us around town at a variety of events – the farmers market, Davidson College athletics events, the grand opening of the new park, etc. – to share information, encourage people to take our online survey, and invite the community to our town-wide workshops in the early part of 2019.”

We encourage you to participate in the following ways:

Visit the project-specific website and complete our online survey at www.WhatsNextDavidson.com and Sign up for our new “What’s Next?” eCrier to receive news and information at www.townofdavidson.org/eCrier (type in your email and click the “What’s Next?” list at the bottom), and Mark your calendar to attend the “Conversation on What’s Next” on January 17 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the Lilly Gallery at Davidson College

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Grand Opening of Plum Creek Park 11/10 at 11am

DAVIDSON, N.C. – Community members are invited to the grand opening ceremony for Plum Creek Park, located near Bailey Springs on November 10 from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. This phase of the park includes a basketball court, two tennis courts, and a playground.

Grand opening events will include:
  • Activities for the whole family
  • Tree planting with Trees Davidson (volunteers needed)
  • Basketball and tennis clinics
  • North Carolina Wildlife Federation activities for children
  • Bartlett Tree Clinic with tree doctor
  • Food and more!
To volunteer with Trees Davidson, interested residents can use the SignUpGenius link:

http://www.signupgenius.com/go/30E0A4CA4AE29A64-newpark

Parking is limited so please consider walking or biking by using our greenway system or carpooling with a friend or neighbor.

“One of the goals of the 2018-2019 Strategic Plan is to increase the physical and mental health of Davidson community members, specifically by preserving open space and providing opportunities for play and discovery,” said Town Manager Jamie Justice. “We are so excited the first phase of this park is ready for all to enjoy.”

For more information about this new park and event, please call the Davidson Parks and Recreation Department at 704-892-3349.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Early voting midpoint data shows strong turnout by Democrats

With early voting at the half-way mark, data from the MeckBOE website shows turnout favorable to Democratic candidates in the NCGA races for current Republican seats covering North Mecklenburg.  Specifically, this analysis covers NC Senate 41 currently held by Jeff Tarte and NC House 98 currently held by John Bradford - both of Cornelius.  It does not cover NC House 107 held by Democrat Chaz Beasley.

North Mecklenburg has long been a Republican stronghold.  In fact, Davidson Precinct 206 has been the only consistently blue area in Lake Norman for years.  aShortChronicle posted about that previously in this post from 2012.  However, since that time the I77 Hot Lanes controversy has turned some races on their heads with more voters crossing party lines in response to that controversial project.  The most notable being the Governor's race in 2016 with 10's of thousands of LKN voters who had previously voted Republican going for Democrat Roy Cooper over Republican Pat McCrory.  See the details of that here.

While so far the I77 controversy hasn't trickled down in an impactful way to recent General Assembly races, there are vocal anti-toll voices both for and against the incumbents who have been working, to date unsuccessfully, to negate the tolling contract.  That could be important if these races become close for other reasons.

Those other reasons potentially impacting these races include the known fact of legislative redistricting and potential fact of a so called "blue wave" being driven by national issues.

Redistricting will definitely impact the outcome of these races.  Read about the details of that here. In NC Senate 41 currently held by Republican incumbent Jeff Tarte against Democrat challenger Natasha Marcus, the new district lines shift the race in favor of the challenger.  In this race, the southern half of the district shifted from eastern Mecklenburg to western Mecklenburg.  In the NC House 98 district currently held by Republican John Bradford against Democrat challenger Christy Clark, the new district became slightly more Republican with some shifts on its southern edge.

Those redistricting impacts will have an effect and can be seen in the early turnout numbers.  The impact of any "blue wave" remains to be seen, but the turnout numbers so far indicate something may be in the making.  Check out the below analysis of data from the MeckBOE website.


There are a few things to note on these numbers.  This data goes through voting on Friday, 10/26 - the midpoint of early voting this election.  The early vote turnout (EVT) numbers include all ballots cast and requested.  It is assumed that the vast majority of mail in ballots requested will eventually be returned.  The totals may look off slightly if one tries to reconcile them to the BOE raw data because these numbers don't include smaller party registration numbers and people in unincorporated areas for the North Meck totals.  The North Meck totals for the towns only include Davidson, Cornelius, and Huntersville minus voters in NCH107, unincorporated areas, and the smaller parties as previously mentioned.  Overall, these things won't change the overall outcomes of the analysis much if at all.

Here's what these numbers tell you.

First, Democrats are, so far, outperforming by a pretty significant margin in the North Mecklenburg towns relative to their voter registration percentage.  That's could be taken as a sign of voter enthusiasm among Democrats.  Since North Mecklenburg is heavily Republican, one would expect a bigger turnout lead for their candidates.   Also, the overall turnout at North Mecklenburg polling sites is running significantly ahead of early voting in the last mid-term election in 2014.  These things speak to the possibility of a blue wave, at least locally.

Second, the turnout totals by electoral district show the major impact redistricting is having, particularly in NC Senate 41.  The overall turnout lead the Democrats are building in this race is being driven entirely by the newly included southern portion.  In NC House 98, redistricting, as expected, is helping Republican totals, but instead of significantly expanding a lead it is just helping them keep pace.

Obviously, the big unknown is how unaffiliated voters break.  There are some reasonable assumptions that can be made here.  The most basic is that most UNA voters consistently vote one party or the other.  Few actually are true ticket splitters.  Based on that, it would be safe to assume that if registered Democrats are outperforming, that Democrat-leaning UNA voters are too.  These assumptions, if true, may narrow the historical gap enjoyed by Republicans in NC House 98 race.

In the NC Senate 41 race, the UNA votes cast so far are almost evenly split between the portions in the three northern towns and the southern part of the district.  If one assumes the UNA voters in the northern part of the district are more Republican leaning and the UNA voters in the south are more Democratic leaning, that would mean they likely cancel each other out to a large part and won't close the 2000+ turnout gap the Democrats currently possess.  If the trend continues, the Republicans will have to close that gap on election day when Republicans tend to turnout at higher rates.  The larger the gap, the harder that will be to do.

Finally, there is the unknowable impact national events and negative ads will have on these state level races.  Will recent national events spur more turnout or ticket splitting than expected?  Will the economy help Republicans?  Will the negative ad flyers that have been landing in local mailboxes lately gin up the base or will they backfire?

While early turnout data tells quite a bit, it's the answers to these unknowable questions that will likely determine the final outcome.