Friday, April 28, 2017

"Birkdale" on Lake Davidson...zoning request says maybe...

The Davidson Town Board has been taking a bruising lately both here at aShortChronicle and in local social media regarding its decisions on zoning and development issues.  However, one of the next big things to impact the town could be totally out of its control.

On Thursday, a small number of residents in South Iredell just across the county line and just north of Main Street in Davidson received notice of of a public hearing for the Mooresville Planning Board May 11th meeting.

The letter shown below is for the properties outlined in the following picture.



The three properties in question total just under 140 acres.  Also, to be clear, the letter says the rezoning request is coming from Hinckley Gauvain.  This entity is not the owner of the land.  It is a real estate development outfit.  Here is a link to their website.

aShortChronicle contacted the Mooresville Planning Department to see if we could find out more details.  A return call from Mooresville public information officer, Kim Sellers, did not provide much in the way of additional detail however. Sellers said that this request is just for a rezoning and there is no detail available about any subsequent plans. However, one can be sure that a real estate development company does not go around trying to rezone property it has not purchased unless it has something in mind.  A public records request would likely turn up more information.

Per the Mooresville Planning Ordinance
the requested zoning designations of Neighborhood Mixed Use and Corridor Mixed Use allow the development like the following:

Pictures from Mooresville
Planning Ordinance pdf

140 acres is a huge piece of land.  With this zoning, think "Birkdale" on Lake Davidson.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Davidson Mayoral candidate Rusty Knox supports voter input on public facility spending

aShortChronicle previously told readers about a recent Civics 101 class in Davidson where Town Manager Jamie Justice said putting public facilities spending before the voters was "not recommended". Justice went on to ask (seemingly rhetorically) "What if the voters say no?"

Well, what we didn't say in that original post from March was "who" asked the question of Justice during that class about seeking voter input using General Obligation or GO bonds which require voter approval.  That person turned out to be Rusty Knox, an announced candidate for Davidson Mayor this November.

In light of the eye popping numbers thrown around at Tuesday's Town Board meeting to support the proposed public facilities expansion ($17 million to be exact), aShortChronicle reached out to Knox to see what he had to say.

Here's Knox's response in italics:

The latest news from Town Hall regarding the potential “public facilities” project is a little overwhelming. What started as a genuine need for additional, and greatly needed, space for our police and fire departments plus some additional space for staff has turned into a $17 million dollar soft version of the Catalyst project from 3 years ago. Included in the plan is a total redo of the area that contains the farmers market.  Surprisingly, when surveyed most residents and vendors love the “organic” nature of our farmers market. This plan allows for more food trucks to park within the confines of the market area.  These trucks will come to town, park, make money and leave….taking away revenue from our local restaurants that have banner days on Saturday mornings.

As the process has moved forward “post Catalyst” one thing has been crystal clear, our Mayor and some of our Board members are in favor of ANYTHING that says development.  This latest round of development is something that will cost the taxpayers.  Our space constraints are real; if you don’t think so, go ask to tour the police or fire departments.  Our staff, which is stellar, works in cramped quarters as well.  Is there a need, absolutely?  Should we be moving forward with some form of expansion, yes?  Is that need $17 million?  The last time Davidson spent this kind of money was in 2007 on Mi-Connection.  Expenditures by the town at this level need voter input and support. 

I feel that when you are putting these kinds of numbers out there and we still are shouldering a loss from the cable purchase that represents 9% of our budget, a general obligation bond would serve the town in realizing some of our lofty goals.  The town should know by now that public support is paramount.  From our Core Values “Citizens entrust town government with the stewardship of public funds, so government will provide high quality services at a reasonable cost.”  Most citizens know that the actions of our Mayor, Board and Staff are in the best interest of the town, but at this price tag, the voters need to say yea or nay.

So, there you have it.  At least one person planning to seek public office thinks the public should have a say in these things.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

$17 million initial estimate for new "public facilities" in Davidson.

At Tuesday's 4pm pre-meeting, Davidson Commissioners received an update on the so called "public facilities" project being driven with a consulting team made up of Creech & Associates and Stantec.

After 30 minutes going over a plan that includes renovating the existing Town Hall for public safety operations, building a new 3-story Town Hall on Main Street, and making updates to the public space around the building including modest additions to parking, Commissioners (and citizens) got a glimpse at the price tag - $17,005,740

Yes, you read that correctly.  The town is looking at a bill of just over $17 million if it built out this entire plan as presented.  That number did include a roughly 30-35% contingency, but that still means a $12.6 million base estimate.

Additionally, it would be hard to scale this back much without a wholesale redesign and reduction of the largest portion - the $9.2 million, 25,000 square foot new Town Hall.  The new Town Hall was estimated at costing $360/sqft which may sound high.  However, it was mentioned for comparison that Kannapolis recently completed a new Town hall building that cost $320/sqft and that project was much bigger allowing for significant economies of scale.

So, the obvious question is how to pay for all this if it goes forward.

Crickets...that will be discussed at the May 9th meeting with a possible vote to move forward on any plan as soon as May 23rd.

Remember, aShortChronicle told readers about Town Manager Jamie Justice saying a bond vote was "not recommended"?  Well, not a single Davidson Commissioner even asked about that at the Tuesday meeting.  The Board is looking at the largest spending item since Mi-Connection and not a mention of putting this before the voters.

You can read the whole presentation here and watch the video of the meeting here.  You can email your town Board at board@townofdavidson.org.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Beaty Street RFP opposition explained...the process IS the problem

The last post on the delayed vote for the Beaty Street development proposal received a lengthy response on Facebook giving a lot more detail and color behind "why" locals are opposing this Town Hall initiative.  It comes from Eric Giangiordano of thd Hobbs Hill neighborhood.  Giangiordano was one of the citizen participants in the RFP process, so his is an informed opinion on how this process has gone down.  It is lengthy, and has been edited only slightly to remove a couple extraneous comments.

Giangiordano makes a point familiar to readers of aShortChronicle.  It's often not "what" Town Hall does but "how" it does it that riles citizens.

Here's what Giangiordano had to say.

"Regardless of where residents stand on these various issues including the Beaty Street RFP. I'd like to just clarify one specific, yet very important, point - the reason I object to the current agenda for Beaty Street property, and this mirrors the same basis for objection echoed by numerous reside nts and community groups across Davidson (including Hobbs Hill Neighborhood Alliance/HHNA, which I represent) is due to the significantly flawed process, which was erroneous on multiple levels well before the issuance of the RFP, then carried thru the "selection committee" process rife with issues itself (and for which I and a member from North Main participated - and abstained from any vote due to said issues), and certainly preceded the rush to enter contract with DDP.

The fact is that 2 of the major tenets for citizens' rebuke of the original "Catalyst" project can be generally characterized as: (a) They didn't want to see the town sell publicly-owned land to a private developer for density development (b) They expected appropriate engagement and prior public input on the vision/utilization of such publicly-owned land. NEITHER of those criteria were met with the original Catalyst notion put forth by Town and its staff. Yet the Town received one unsolicited offer from Lake Forest Church (which would have involved Blue Heel) to purchase only SOME of the Beaty property for development, NOT all of the land - and the Town did take the correct step to not arbitrarily engage in such sale of the public's land. Yet astoundingly within just MONTHS of that pause/re-evaluation of Catalyst, where the train ran off the tracks was the Town then issued an RFP that was arbitrary in its requirements, vision and goal for the Beaty Street property, and did so proposing what 2 key tenets? (a) Sell the public's land to a private developer for density development (b) NO prior public input on the vision/utilization of Beaty Street, amongst ALL permitted uses by ordinance.

IF a proper, thorough multi-step "prior public input process" is facilitated by the Town, and the consensus/majority of residents determine a certain vision/utilization of the land, my own position is that then whatever that may be should then be pursued with an RFP and/or other appropriate execution plan for realization of such vision.

And of even greater frustration is that lacking any prior public input vision for Beaty Street property, the FACT (and I repeat, FACT), is that the Beaty Street property was originally purchased 30 years ago "for a park", and EVERY one of the Town's public-input derived plans (adopted or otherwise) including the 2010 Comp Plan, 2012 Station Area Plan, 2014 Parks/Rec Master Plan, etc. most often defined "park/community facilities" for Beaty Street, NOT commercial/mixed-use/density node, and certainly not selling the entire properties for such.  So this whole notion that certain residents and groups that are espousing the Beaty Street vision focusing on park/community facilities are biased for only what they personally deem appropriate - well, again that's grossly misrepresentative.  Sure, many of them (myself included) would prefer to see that be the main component of the property as a "green" asset to ALL residents throughout Davidson and one that is within proximity to downtown, but the true underlying rationale is because lacking the Town's proper prior public input to specifically determine such vision, the evidence clearly shows community park/facilities WAS the most common prior preference of the public by the Town's own plans on file.

Yes, various visions of development on the Beaty St. property have also been outlined in some of those plans - but interestingly, more of that was driven by the Town and certain staff, NOT residents - and again, not the way the RFP and current DDP plan represent. As I stated in a board meeting recently, right now we'll never know exactly what the "true consensus vision" of the public for the Beaty Street properties would be, simply because the Town failed entirely to facilitate ever asking residents for their direct input to answer that very question. And then residents should ask, "Exactly who/what was the motivation for NOT doing that to date?" My own thesis is quite simple; if you don't want a particular answer, avoid asking the relevant question...

Final part of my comments here, which I hope clarify some key things for residents; for those including some Town staff alleging that groups such as HHNA simply don't want anything done or developed with the Beaty Street properties, or to keep "it for themselves" as adjacent neighbors, once again such allegations are unilaterally FALSE.  The FACT is that beginning last year, HHNA, not the Town, initiated dialogue about the ultimate disposition of the Beaty Street property during their initial RFP process, and explicitly informed the Town in writing that "certain development" - specifically concentrated on the Northeast quadrant by intersection of NC115/Beaty Street, was consistent with Town plans on file from public input, and thus not opposed - but that the majority of the property should ideally be both preserved AND improved upon as the last major undisturbed natural parcel owned by the public and in proximity to downtown, which had a dearth of such, so that it's ultimate disposition could be realized after 30 years of not doing so.

It's the "WHO, WHAT, WHY" of such disposition that is in dispute here - i.e, the Process."

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Beaty Street delay...or diversion.

On Friday, Davidson Town Hall published the agenda for Tuesday's upcoming Board meeting.

One expected contentious item was missing however.  That would be the expected vote to proceed with the Beaty Street property sale and development proposal for Davidson Development Partners' "Luminous" project.   The project has been roiling the citizenry these past few months, as has much of what's been emanating from Town Hall.

At roughly the same time, the below email from Assistant Town Manager, Dawn Blobaum, began circulating on local social media.


Eric Giangiordano who has been one of the community leaders opposing the project posted this along with the email.


So, while any delay in moving forward with this effort should be seen as a positive, residents are right to be skeptical.  This show has been seen before...and recently.

Davidson Town Hall recently delayed their vote on the RAP rezoning by a few months, but ultimately passed it after making a few relatively minor tweaks.

What could make this one different is the length of any delay.

Within 90 days, filing for the next election will be over, and those opposing this project and others have been beating the bushes for new candidates.  A delay of more than 30 days puts any vote on this Beaty Street project squarely in the election cross hairs.

While no Davidson Commissioners have said publicly whether or not they will seek re-election, pressure will begin to mount on that front as the July filing period gets closer.

The public deserves to know if the people taking these contentious votes are doing so as lame ducks or are willing to stand behind them while facing the voters.

The clock is now officially ticking on answering that question.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

150 apartments on the way to South Main in Davidson? Maybe.

On March 22nd, aShortChronicle told readers about a rumored new development at the entrance to town on South Main.  While responses to inquiries to those involved with the project have been slim, here's what we've found out since then.

According to public records, preliminary meetings have been held starting in late February for a possible 4 story apartment building with roughly 150 units plus 6000 sqft of retail on the old Davidson Clinic site and adjoining properties.    As of the end of March a full application for the project had not been submitted, but multiple pre-submittal meetings had occurred.  The notes provided from the town did not appear to indicate any showstopper issues being raised by town staff at that point.

Below is the drawing provided by the Town of the potential project.



What may be most interesting to readers is who is involved in the project.

The firm of Cornelius Mayor Chuck Travis, The Housing Studio, is doing the architecture work, and the firm of Davidson Commissioner Brian Jenest, ColeJenest&Stone, is involved as well for planning and landscape architecture.  Records show they were the ones who attended these pre-submittal meetings.  In fact it appears Commissioner Brian Jenest initiated the first meeting with an email to town staff on February 19 requesting one.

The name on the Housing Studio drawing obtained via public records request says Woodfield Investments.  That would appear to be the financing/development entity behind the project.  Mayor Travis has a long relationship with the investment company. His comments are featured on the firm's website as part of its partner references.  This is part of what Travis had to say about working with Woodfield.

"Woodfield Investments has become an industry leader in building apartment communities in the Carolinas and the metro area of Washington, DC. Each community is designed to uniquely address its location - from respecting trees and natural features of a more rural site, to maximizing the existing infrastructure of streets providing connectivity and integration with shopping, dining and offices in urban locations."

The below aerial of the site from the county's Polaris system shows a significant amount of tree canopy that will be replaced by parking if this goes forward.

Does that make Davidson an "urban" location as opposed to "a more rural site"?  If Travis's own words about his long time business parters at Woodside Investments are true, it would appear so.



On Monday, aShortChronicle contacted Travis and Jenest for comment for this story.  The local developer who participated in the meetings was also contacted.

Commissioner Jenest responded Tuesday AM with the following.

"Yes my firm is involved in planning  and landscape arch for the property mentioned.  It is still in feasibility phase.   It is planned as a mixed use with apartments geared to empty nesters."

It should be noted that project proposals come and go often, and not everything proposed goes forward.  However, with the players involved in this one it would seem this one might have a better chance than most.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

More detail on roadwork and Davidson Community Garden

aShortChronicle reported last week on some pinding road work that will impact the Davidsom Community Garden.  Today some more info was distributed by Davidson Town Hall. It should be noted we incorrectly reported that this was being done in conjunction with the Potts-Sloan-Beaty Connector project.  Per the below, this project is separate from that.

Here's the latest info from Doug Wright: