Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Never Forget

Like most people old enough to remember, I can picture exactly where I was and recollect almost every moment of September 11, 2001.  In 2015, I wrote this post about my memories from that day.

As we all take a moment to remember that solemn occasion, here are some pictures from.this morning's ceremony in Uptown.

The memorial this year was divided into sections with pictures of each person who perished that day attached to individual flags.  More than one person could be seen clearly looking for specific flags, bringing home the human cost and the personal impact this tragedy had on so many.  The sections for the first responders who lost their lives rushing to help the victims were particularly poignant.





While the vast majority of those who died that day came from the US, this was also a tragedy for the world symbolized by the display of flags from around the globe.




Never Forget



Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Beaty Park Property to Close During the Removal of Invasive Plants (press release)

DAVIDSON, N.C. – The Davidson Lands Conservancy, along with Town of Davidson funding, is coordinating and underwriting the professional removal of some invasive plants growing on the Beaty Park site.  Invasive species stress ecosystems by slowing the growth of a diversity of native plants optimal for wildlife.

Native Roots, an Asheville based ecological services firm, is scheduled to cut the invasive plants along and back from the main pathways September 4-5, with September 6 as a rain date. According to best practices, Jeff Stewart, owner of Native Roots and project coordinator, will chemically treat the cut stumps in order to penetrate the roots.  Cut plants will remain on site until a later date when they will be either chipped or moved off of the path corridors.

Natural Assets and Sustainability Coordinator for Davidson, Charlene Minor, says, “Having Native Roots treat the invasives at Beaty Park is a great first strike in what will be an ongoing effort to keep these plants at bay.”

Residents can volunteer to help continue the effort on October 5, 2019 by signing up here.  

Town staff will be posting signs at the park alerting residents and visitors to avoid using the trails while work is ongoing.

For more information or if you have questions, contact Charlene Minor at cminor@townofdavidson.org or 704-892-3349.  

Monday, September 2, 2019

Could vs Would vs Should...Regarding Town communications on Public Facilities and Mi-Connection referendums

The "apolitical" Facebook page "Positively Davidson" recently dove headlong into the political realm by asking the below fundamentally political question.

We've always stayed apolitical on Positively Davidson, and this post isn't meant to break that streak. With the (likely) impending sale of Continuum, and the subsequent payoff of outstanding debt and the elimination of Davidson's annual $1 million subsidy, we'd like to get your opinion on what Davidson should do in the upcoming budget season.

Option 1 is to basically give the subsidy back to the citizens via a property tax reduction. Based on 12,000 citizens, this would work out to a little less than a quarter a day for each citizen. 

Option 2 would be to utilize the freed up subsidy on infrastructure projects such as sidewalks, greenways, and roundabouts, and also to invest in affordable house. Let us know your thoughts. Please only take the poll if you are a resident of Davidson. Thank you!

Below are the results.  Take them for what you will based on the small sample size of 71 responses.

The results appear overwhelmingly one-sided if you take them at face value.  However, here at aShortChronicle we think the poll presents a false choice by only providing the options it does in the way it does.  The options are clearly presented in a way to get the result received.  The impact of Option 1 is presented as minimized benefit to citizens, and the impact of Option 2 is presented as outsized.

Whether this poll is fairly worded or not though is somewhat irrelevant.  Private citizens or groups have a lot of flexibility in how they promote their positions.

The same can't be said about how the Town itself must handle communications on things - election related items specifically. Davidson's Town board had an extensive discussion on the topic of how to spend the money freed up by the pending sale of Mi-Connection at last week's Town Board meeting.

Interestingly, the options on the Board agenda didn't directly include possibility of lowering taxes as the Positively Davidson poll implied.  Instead, the Board discussed possible plans for the money and the tax impacts that might come along with various spending plans.  These plans include some of the "investing in Davidson" that the Positively Davidson poll mentions, but also includes covering costs for the public facilities (aka New Town Hall) proposal Positively Davidson left out.

Here are those options from the Board agenda:


It should be noted, neither Positively Davidson nor the initial Town Hall list mentioned eliminating the Town solid waste fee which was implemented years ago to free up money for Mi-Connection subsidies.  Frankly, that should probably be at the top of the list.

Specifically, last Tuesday's conversation was mostly around how to direct Staff in communications with citizens on the possibilities for addressing a number of Town spending priorities.  Much of the conversation was driven addressing Commissioner David Sitton' s concerns that the Board was even discussing this at all in light of the fact that the Mi-Connection/Continuum sale is not finalized yet, and therefor, the actual money available is not known.

Sitton's position was essentially that the Board was putting the cart before the horse discussing how spending any potential freed up money from a Mi-Connection sale could/would/should be communicated when voters haven't even weighed in yet.  Sitton stated repeatedly that the Town should just stick to communicating  the facts and tell citizens the new Town Hall project will cost 2 cents on the tax rate while the sale of Mi-Connection will save the Town 4 cents on the rate.  Rather than muddying the waters by commingling subjects that will be voted on separately the Town should be as succinct and clear as possible.

aShortChronicle wholeheartedly agrees with that position.

Not only should the Town always strive to be clear, it is the opinion here at aShortChronicle that commingling all these topics into a single communications plan in an election year when all Commissioners are also up for election gets seriously close to breaking the restrictions on the Town advocating for the referendums.  The NC General Statues prohibit the Town from doing that sort of advocacy.

Here is why this gets murky.

The cost of the new public facilities bonds on the ballot will be two cents, but by implying in any way the Town could or would use the savings from a Mi-Connection sale to offset these costs, it makes it look like the cost of those Bonds is really zero. That would be misleading.  What if a future Town Board uses the freed up Mi-Connection money to lower or eliminate the solid waste fee which was implemented years ago to free up money to help subsidize Mi-Connection?  (Commissioner Campbell mentioned that as a concern that exists in the community.)  The Board very well might not have enough money to cover what is mentioned in any communication if the messages are commingled.

Add to this the fact that all Commissioners are also on the ballot with these referendums, and it gets even more muddled.  As a voter, if you want to ensure whatever is communicated as a "could happen" with the Mi-Connection money, the subtle implication is that you better vote for all the current Board members as well.

To be very clear no Commissioner implied that, and it probably didn't even cross anyone's mind.  However, it is a logical conclusion.

By commingling the communications to citizens around these issues it could be seen as promoting a certain outcome for both referendums on the ballot as well as the election for the Board itself.   aShortChronicle suggests the Town look at this information from the UNC-SOG before deciding exactly what and how to communicate with citizens.

Keeping it simple, could also keep the Town out of hot water with the Board of Elections.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Mi-Connection albatross is about to be lifted...towns receive $80 million offer

Friday afternoon saw some of the biggest news in recent years for Davidson as the Town  announced Mi-Connection (doing business as Continuum) had received an $80 million offer for the sale of the company.

Save Davidson broke the news on its blog and with a newsflash email.  Re-printed below with the group's permission.

NEWSFLASH: Continuum Cable Company (Formerly MI-Connection) Sale Moves a Step Closer to Reality Towns of Davidson and Mooresville set to enter a contract to sell Town-owned Continuum Cable Company. 

A buyer has been identified and the Towns of Davidson and Mooresville are set to enter into an agreement to sell the cable company owned through an interlocal agreement between the towns. According to the Town of Davidson, the contract price is $80 million. The sale is contingent upon citizen approval via referendum on the November 2019 ballot.

Details of the Deal
Commisisoners David Sitton and Matthew Fort were instrumental in the negotiation process. The pair have worked for more than 18 months with the larger team including Mayor Knox of Davidson, Mayor Atkins of Mooresville, legal teams, the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) team, as well as Continuum representatives.

David Sitton brings business accumen to the project as CEO of a global logistics company he co-founded in 2002. Matthew Fort brings a host of corporate finance experience to this project. Together, they played a significant role in negotiations with the Town of Mooresville to agree to sell, the selection of RBC; a preeminent investment bank, and ultimately shaping the structure of the deal.

Background Information
In August 2007, The Davidson Town Board: Mayor, Randy Kincaid, Commissioners Cary Johnston, Bruce McMillan (absent), Evan Webster, Margo Williams, and John Woods voted to purchase the recently bankrupted Adelphia Cable Company despite strong citizen scrutiny and opposition. As concerned citizens suspected, the Town has incurred more than $1M annually to subsidize Continuum's debt service. For a town the size of Davidson, that debt represents nearly 10% of the Town's $12M budget and has hindered capital improvements, parks & recreation endeavors, staffing, and other important Town initiatives.

The Numbers 
In addition to the Continuum subsidy paid by taxpayers over the last 12 years, as of July 31, 2019 the total outstanding debt principal is $60.4 million. Davidson's share of the debt is 30% of the total amount. Davidson also owes a deferred liability of approximately $1.8 million to Mooresville.

Citizen Action Required on November 5
Moving forward, while a referendum was not required  to purchase the company, it's important that citizens are aware that a referendum is required to sell the asset. Town Manager, Jamie Justice indicates, "There will be a public hearing to consider approval of the sale of the Continuum Communications System. If we vote to approve the sale, eligible voters will have the opportunity to support or oppose the sale at a referendum election on November 5." It will be extremely important that citizens get to polls to vote in favor of selling this asset.

Save Davidson's View
Save Davidson is beyond ecstatic and proud that three of our top tier candidate endorsements from 2017 have worked to make this happen for the all citizens of Davidson. We strongly encourage citizens to vote to sell Continuum on November 5 . Save Davidson recommends the referendum be worded in clear and simple language so that citizens understand what is trying to be achieved.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Hotel lawsuit over? No appeal filed to NC Supreme Court on Griffith Street Hotel

Based on the best information available received here at aShortChronicle, the Griffith Street Hotel lawsuit appears to be over...at least as far as the possibility of legal action to overturn the Superior Court decision effectively preventing the proposed hotel being built as planned sandwiched between CSD and the Westside neighborhood, and across from Spinnaker Cove.

Earlier this week saw the last day pass where defendants could ask for discretionary NC Supreme Court review of the case after losing in the NC Cpurt of Appeals in a unanimous 3-0 decision.  See previous story on that here.  That NC Appeals Court decision entered on June 18th became final on July 8th.  Defendants had 30 days to ask for Supreme Court review and that date passed as of Wednesday of this week.  While certainly a relief for those concerned about this project, it would have been surprising if Defendants had appealed since the likelihood of the NC Supreme Court accepting the request was very, very slim.

Assuming nothing changes, this means the case is over in practical terms.

No hotel can be built without the proper zoning and that zoning does not exist at this time.  However, according to Davidson Town Hall, as of Wednesday afternoon the developer had not contacted the Town about formally withdrawing the project.  The sign for the project on the property has come down, but the project is still listed on the Town's website.  That's not an uncommon thing to happen, but with a controversial project such as this, aShortChronicle will be checking back regularly for any new information.

While no hotel can be built without a complete redo of the zoning process (and there is no indication at this time that is in the works), that does not mean the action on this controversy is completely over.

After winning the initial decision and prior to the Defendants filing an appeal, the Plaintiffs had previously filed a motion seeking attorney's fees for this action.  That was more than a year ago on July 11, 2018.  That motion was set aside pending the Appeals Court decision.  With a unanimous decision in the Plaintiff's favor, there is no reason to believe that a motion for attorney's fees will not go forward now.

Stay tuned.  This story is not completely over.

However, for a controversy that started more than three and a half years ago and cost citizens a significant amount of time and money, it does seem to be winding down.  You can read the whole history here at aShortChronicle.

Friday, July 26, 2019

New West Branch neighborhood near 50% of 305 unit total

The West Branch neighborhood by Lennar on Davidson's east side of town, has likely reached 50% of its planned 305 units.  That's per an informal count conducted by aShortChronicle which tallied more than 153 units either complete or in various phases of construction.  There were also a few "purchased" signs on lots not yet started.  Combined, that puts the neighborhood well on its way.

The neighborhood includes lots of spec homes built by the company, but judging by the number that are occupied, things must be selling pretty well.

When West Branch began home construction in the first quarter of 2018, 305 homes seemed like a lot.  A mere 16 months later, not so much.  At this rate it would not be surprising to see it near completion before the end of 2020.

There have already been impacts to the greenway. aShortChronicle has covered those stories earlier here and here.  Recently, there have also been more impacts where the connecting road up to Hudson Place will go though.   In the below pictures one can see the greenway alignment has changed to cross at grade with the connecting road.







Per the Town Planning Department, this realignment was always part of the master plan.

Within the past couple of weeks the project has also cleared the trees up to Hudson Place for the connecting road.



According to information provided by the Town the work to complete the connection road will take several more weeks of work going into September.

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.