Friday, January 17, 2020

Continuum sale update from Tuesday's Davidson Board Meeting

On Monday, aShortChronicle reported on the update expected at this week's Board of Commissioners meeting.  In that earlier post information indicated the dollar amount cleared for Davidson may be smaller than many expected due to some previously undisclosed (or at least undetailed) post sale expenses.  The update Tuesday shed little light on that.

However, here is where the numbers land as of now.

After paying off the outstanding debt, the deferred liability to Mooresville, and the known transaction costs, Davidson's portion of the net proceeds from the sale equals just over $2.5 million dollars.  There is $2.75 million in two different escrow accounts to cover any post sale items that pop up.  This includes:
  • $750,000 in operations contingency to cover Bill's that my need to be covered by the Towns within the next 90 days.  
  • $2 million indemnification escrow
If the escrow money is not used, that money eventually would be split between Mooresville and Davidson based on the 70%/30% ownership.  If zero of it is used, an unlikely scenario, it would bring Davidson's likely highest dollar amount from the sale to $3.325 million.

There was a very brief mention of the other possible costs mentioned in Monday's post.  These are
 still being addressed involving claims by Cornelius, Mecklenburg County, and the State Retirement Plan.  Specific dollar amounts were not mentioned, but obviously if any of these need to be covered they will eat into the net amount on the transaction.  It is the understanding here at aShortChronicle that these costs are not directly related to the sale of the company to TDS, but related to agreements that created Mi-Connection in the first place more than a decade ago that may need to be met if the company was sold.

Aside from these things, Mi-Connection/Continuum cost Mooresville and Davidson taxpayers a net loss overall since 2007 is estimated to be between $31m - $39m over the life of the project.

See the whole presentation here under the first agenda item.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Town of Davidson Hires First Town Arborist (press release)

DAVIDSON, N.C. – The Town of Davidson announces the hiring of Peter Grisewood as the first Town Arborist. Peter will serve as the subject matter expert for all municipal tree efforts, arboriculture, public tree planting and management, tree removal, and urban forest management, including development and interpretation of regulations through the town’s newly revised tree ordinance. He will also lead community outreach efforts, build partnerships, and coordinate public education.

With extensive experience, Peter comes to us most recently from the City of Charlotte, where he has served as Urban Forestry Supervisor since 2016. Previously, Peter worked as an arborist, engineering technician, and tree climber mainly in the Charlotte region. He brings over 20 years of leadership in Urban Forestry and Arboriculture, 10 years of public service at the federal, state, and local levels, and has also been at the top of the industry as an ISA Board Certified Master Arborist for 10 years.  He is currently pursuing a Masters in Public Administration at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Originally recommended by a resident-based advisory committee (livability board), the creation of this position is vital to the successful implementation of the town’s tree ordinance, which is a priority identified by the mayor and board of commissioners. It also equally executes the strategic vision the community set forth in the new Davidson Comprehensive Plan, which calls for the town to create an effective tree canopy management plan. This ultimately enables the community to best preserve and enhance tree canopy throughout town - something that has long been a priority for both Davidson residents and town staff alike.

“We are excited about the level of expertise Peter will be able to bring to the town,” said Davidson Town Manager Jamie Justice.  “We are looking forward to how he will help us build upon the critical work we have been doing to preserve our tree canopy and educate everyone in the community about this important issue.”

Peter begins in his role on January 27th and may be reached at pgrisewood@townofdavidson.org.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

NorthMeck bus route changes on way with MetroRapid service starting Feb-3

NorthMeck bus riders will be getting some new options and a couple of new routes in early February to speed commuter traffic to/from Uptown.  The service, branded as "MetroRapid", features the following:
  • a new 290 local circulator will serve the Davidson-Concord Rd area of Davidson between Main Street and the Rocky River Road roundabout
  • a new 63x direct from the Huntersville Gateway Park and Ride with mid-day service to Northcross.
  • a modified 48x serving only the Northcross Park and Ride
  • a modified 77x serving the Davidson and Cornelius Park and Rides
  • 53x unchanged on the NorthMeck end
  • Uptown dropoff/pickup points significantly changed to use Church and College streets utilizing the Express Lanes direct access ramps on 277.  This will primarily impact riders to the Gateway/Johnson &Wales side of Uptown.
This service all starts on February 3rd.  Routes and schedules below.  This information was obtained at the Tuesday open house event in Uptown at the Main Library.
















Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Town should go slow on Davidson Commons East development to avoid another "Griffith Street Hotel" situation

Tuesday evening, the Davidson Town Board is set to vote on a water/sewer extension for a proposed Saussey Burbank project called "Davidson Cottages".  aShortChronicle strongly encourages the board to hold off on this decision.

To be clear, the proposed development itself is not at all a bad one.  Saussey Burbank is a quality builder and a residential project in that location makes sense with its proximity to services and transit.  However, this project is also part of the larger Davidson Commons East development site that includes Woodies and the former Griffith Street Hotel parcels.  Considering the very recent history of flawed process and procedure on other parcels of this development, those formerly intended for the hotel, it is imperative any further development at DCE be done with absolute transparency.

To date it is hard to say that test has been passed.

There are multiple complicated zoning/planning concepts that potentially come into play with the remaining parcels of Davidson Commons East.  These include vested rights, built upon area (BUA) limitations due to watershed, and density averaging.

Any development on the parcel for the "Davidson Cottages" project potentially impacts the other possible development on the remaining two parcels (the former hotel parcels) because of BUA limitations for the entire DCE master plan that includes the former hotel parcels, Woodies, and now this Davidson Cottages project in question.  The developer of Davidson Cottages has indicated in multiple public meetings that they may use something called "density averaging" to allow them to build a higher density of footprint on their project.  Density averaging allows a developer to use some of the permitted built upon area from a non-contiguous parcel elsewhere in the same watershed to allow more density on their development.  The unbuilt BUA on the donor parcel is then permanently protected.  It is a relatively new and gimmicky tactic to benefit developers, and Davidson's Planning Department and Town Attorney don't have much experience in it.  To the best of aShortChronicle's knowledge, density averaging has not been previously used on an approved project in Davidson.  Importantly in this case, by saving some BUA on the overall DCE project if density averaging is used on Davidson Cottages, that allows more density on the remaining DCE parcels.  The public deserves to know what that might be built on these remaining parcels and if anything else is in the works for these remaining parcels.  Transparency into this would also prevent the sequencing of projects on the DCE property by Town Staff to avoid unwanted public scrutiny - something which has been a problem on this property in the past during the hotel debacle.

To that point, aShortChronicle has for months been trying to find out from Town Hall exactly what might be buildable on the former hotel pieces of this development now that the former hotel project is defunct.  To say we've been "getting the runaround" is putting it politely.  Starting in August of last year, a request to Davidson's Town Attorney, Cindy Reid via the Communications Director, Amanda Preston, aShortChronicle asked some simple questions to get at what can be built on those parcels now.  After months of saying more research needed to be done, when a response was finally received in early December it was nothing more than a copy and paste of a section of the original July 2018 court order invalidating the hotel zoning - information the Town Attorney clearly had for a year and a half which does not even really answer the question.  A follow-up question regarding how any supposed vested rights for this zoning has been calculated has yet to be answered.  Vested rights is a legal term in land development identifying a legal permission to build/develop something on a piece of land.

Finally, after the December Board of Commissioners meeting where the Davidson Cottages was again on the agenda, in an attempt to get to the bottom of all of this before any votes are taken, aShortChronicle filed a public records request where the results will very likely shed some light on all these things.  The Town has yet to respond with anything.

Confused and concerned yet?  You probably should be.  These are complicated zoning issues being handled by the same Planning Department leadership and Town Attorney that landed the Town in court on the Griffith Street Hotel.

With all this in mind, while tonight's scheduled vote on water/sewer is just the first of multiple votes required for Davidson Cottages, prudence dictates going slow on any approval for any project on any parcel of Davidson Commons East until the community feels comfortable everything is being done with 100% transparency.  This community should not be put through another situation like the Griffith Street Hotel, and it is the current Board's responsibility to make sure that does not happen.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Big fish chasing Continuum sale proceeds?

The sale of Continuum in late 2019 was arguably the most positive financial decision in Davidson town history.  It freed taxpayers from endless $1 million per year subsidies.  It extracted the town from the cutthroat telecommunications industry where there was little likelihood of long term success.  It also allowd the town to focus its financial energy where it needs to be in the future - providing critical public services such as Police, Fire, and Parks.

For all these reasons voters approved the sale of the company this past November with 94% voting yes to getting the company off the books.

However, that doesn't mean discussion of the company and its various financial impacts is quite over at Davidson Town Hall.  On Tuesday's agenda, the Board is set to hear an update on the disposition of proceeds from the sale.  aShortChronicle has received information that this may not be the entirely positive discussion that most people would expect.

The word received here at aShortChronicle is that multiple outside government bodies as well as some private entities are looking to get what they see as their respective pieces of these proceeds, and the numbers are not small - potentially running into the millions.

If true, this would significantly eat into any one-time infusion of cash Davidson receives from the proceeds of the sale.  This of course would not make the decision to sell Continuum a bad idea.  Getting into the cable business was the single worst and most damaging decision in the town's history, so getting out of that situation was an imperative at any reasonable cost.  However, it would be highly disappointing and should lead citizens to wonder why this wasn't known to the public before the referendum.

aShortChronicle contacted the Town last week in an attempt to confirm this information.  Town Communications Director, Amanda Preston, declined to provide that confirmation stating only that the Board would be receiving an update on Tuesday.

So, Tuesaday it is.

This is one post where aShortChronicle really hope's the information received was off the mark, but if it was not, then Town Staff will certainly have some explaining to do.  Citizens should be on watch to see how forthcoming Staff is in this update.  aShortChronicle certainly will.

Monday, January 6, 2020

2019 saw major "cleaning" in Davidson, but 2020 poses further work to do.

Belated Happy New Year and welcome to the 2020's!

After taking a few weeks off from covering Davidson Town Hall, it is time to get back at it here at aShortChronicle.  For those keeping track, 2019 was a "slow" year for what this blog does, generating only 52 posts for the year.  That was the fewest by far of any year since the blog's inception at the beginning of 2012...down from an average of over 150 posts per year.  When things are going well, the regular news media can tell the story.  We're glad to let them do it since they get paid and we don't!  From that perspective, a slow year here at aShortChronicle means likely a good year for things here in town.

However, with 2019 now firmly in the rear view mirror, aShortChronicle wanted to take a few minutes to reflect back on what was accomplished last year in Davidson before looking to the challenges of 2020.

2019 was the year when the general mess left by the former administration(s) at Davidson Town Hall finally go cleaned up.  Is it "eat-off-the-floor clean" yet?  No, that would not be recommended.  But, for many there is no longer the sense Davidson Town Hall has a significant "sanitation problem" either.

Here is just some of the "cleaning" that happened during 2019.

  • Beaty Street Park became a reality with the land now protected under a permanent conservation easement.  This is a big one and is the culmination of the Save Davidson citizen uprising of 2017.
  • The Griffith Street Hotel saga came to an end with citizen plaintiffs settling with the Town to re-coup a portion of their attorney's fees.  The Town Planning Department and Town Attorney should now be on notice that they actually have to follow the rules.
  • The Public Facilities Bonds passed with just under 70% support.  This was slightly higher than Bonds passed in 2017 and a firm rebuke of the position the former regime held that citizens could not be trusted with a vote for something as important as Police/Fire and a new Town Hall.
  • Davidson and Mooresville sold Mi-Connection/Continuum and got the Towns out of the cable business.  More than a decade ago, citizens were not allowed to vote on purchasing the cable operation.  When Davidson citizens were allowed to vote on selling it, they voted 94% FOR the sale.
As a result of these things and others, Davidson's elected officials were all re-elected with minimal opposition.  There wasn't a divisive election season and the year ended on a high note with the closing of the Mi-Connection deal.

2020 may be a different story though as the cleaning crews over the last decade just hit the main public areas.  There's still unfinished work to be done in the garage, a junk drawer to clean out, and we won't even talk about the attic.

With the economy hitting on all cylinders managing growth will be a constant pressure and stopping bad smelling projects a consistent worry.  Here are some of the things that will likely swirl in the next 12 months that could make things messy again.
  • The Potts Street massive apartment complex still in legal limbo will likely get some sort of resolution.  This project if it goes forward will be something that forever changes that area of town.
  • Ditto for the Hoke Lumber redevelopment proposal.
  • The Davidson Commons East sites will also see more action with a new residential proposal already in the works on the south side of Woodies Auto. The former Griffith Street Hotel parcels also need to be watched now that they are back on the market.
  • Commercial projects like the ones already proposed at Exit 30 and on South main also need to be watched closely to make sure the designs mesh with the surroundings.
Citizen efforts like the one at this blog and to an even  greater degree the efforts of the group over at Save Davidson to keep things clean are often mischaracterizing as being "anti-development", but nothing really could be further from the truth.  Instead, these efforts are all about ensuring the right developments happen in the right places.  If that means working to sanitize some truly bad and foul smelling ideas when they come up, so be it.

Take a look sometime at the Town Planning Department page.  There are currently 30 projects on that page ranging from big to small, from residential to commercial.  The majority of them have never warranted even a mention by citizens much less organized opposition.  Why?  Because they are reasonable.  Because they are good.  Because they fit with the character of the town.

Now think about this.  What if citizens had never stood up against efforts like the Catalyst Project, or developing the Beaty Street land instead of keeping it as a park, or stopping the Griffith Street Hotel?  What would Davidson look like then?  Would it be recognizable as a picturesque small college town?  Or, would it be something much different.

All of those things were stopped in the last years of the last decade.  Things were kept clean by citizen cleaning crews.  It wasn't easy work, but things look pretty good now...on the outside.  In the 2020's it will be time to tackle the garage, the junk drawer, and maybe even that attic.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

#GriffithSreetHotel saga quietly comes to an end...New Davidson Cottages begins

Tuesday night, at around 7pm, the long-running Griffith Street Hotel saga quietly came to an end at Davidson Town Hall.

As part of the "consent agenda" of uncontested items needing Board approval, the Davidson Board approved a settlement with plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the Griffith Street Hotel thus ending the citizen effort to prevent this unwanted hotel project sandwiched between CSD's K-7 building and residential neighborhoods.

See this link for posts on the entire 4 year history of this hotel proposal.

This settlement will pay the plaintiffs $17,300 to cover their outstanding attorney's fees.  The original motion filed by plaintiffs sought over $43,000.  To that effect, a memo from Town Manager Jamie Justice to Commissioners included the following:

"The Town of Davidson has reached a settlement agreement in the case of Charde et. al. versus Town of Davidson. The settlement is in the amount of $17,300. The town has made the determination that it is in the best interest to settle the claims for attorney’s fees as applicable under state law. The town makes this business decision in the best interest of the taxpayers by evaluating the risks, analyzing the cost-benefit, and seeking final resolution to the case. This would be the last action that concludes all matters related to Charde et. al. versus the Town of Davidson."

Readers may remember that both the Town and developer were defendants in this lawsuit.  This settlement is being paid by the Town, but aShortChronicle has verified with lead plaintiff, Luke Charde, that this concludes all legal action involving the plaintiffs regarding this lawsuit.

In a related item, aShortChronicle has confirmed with the Town why the hotel project has been removed from the Town website.  Per Town Public Information Officer, Amanda Preston, "regarding the Davidson Commons East hotel project, our understanding is that the developer no longer intends to build a hotel on that site."

For those who have been fighting the ill conceived idea of a hotel at this location since early 2016, all of this is certainly welcome news.

Finally, as another sign development in this section of the Circles@30 area is moving on, the Board also heard an update on something called the Davidson Cottages o  Tuesday.  This project recently showed up on the Town website after first being mentioned back in March.  See this post on that original public conversation.  The Davidson Cottages project is on the other parcel in the overall development including Woodies and the parcels previously slated for the hotel.

The Davidson Cottages project by Saussey Burbank, proposes 30 single family homes and two duplexes on the parcel up Davidson Gateway on the other side of Woodies furthest from Griffith Street.  These will be narrow footprint, 3-story homes.  When this project was discussed back in March, the developer was inquiring about the possible need to use density averaging to build the project.  This was presumably because if the hotel project had gone forward, this tool would be needed to be allowed to build at this density due to the impervious surface limits on the overall Davidson Commons East site including all of these parcels.

At the time, the Board indicated this project should come up again when the Hotel issue was resolved.  It should not be lost on readers that this developer wasted no time doing so, bringing it up in the same meeting as the hotel lawsuit settlement.  While theoretically density averaging should no longer be needed since this project can utilize some of the built upon area previously designated for the hotel, as of Tuesday, it was the impression at the Planning Department that density averaging was still a possibility on this site.   Per Amanda Preston...

"Davidson Cottages is a conditional planning area map amendment. The developer has indicated that they will need to use Built-Upon Area (BUA) Averaging (density averaging). Per the ordinance, BUA Averaging can only occur after the board of commissioners has approved the conditional master plan."

This project if it goes forward will require multiple approvals, any if which could derail it.  It needs an approval for water and sewer.  It needs a conditional map amendment approval.  It also needs an approval from the Board of Adjustment if density averaging is ultimately used.

So, as one development project wraps up, another begins.  aShortChronicle will be following this one as well all...along...the...way.