Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Save Davidson to present results of independent Beaty Street land appraisal on Thursday

Save Davidson is taking it up a notch in their challenging of Davidson Town Hall's handling of the Beaty Street RFP.  The activist group has commissioned their own professional appraisal of the Beaty Street Property to see if the initial one done by the town passes the smell test.

Thursday night the group will reveal the results at the Homewood Suites in the Circles@30 area.  Here is what the announcement had to say.

As a sign the Town of Davidson knows its original appraisal conducted as part of the RFP process may be flawed, it is currently having it re-done.  As part of the Town initiated appraisal citizens have been encouraging the Town to hold off to ensure it includes the sale of the property for the "Potts Street Project" at the intersection of Potts and 115.  The Potts Street parcel is about the same size as the Beaty Street land and is rumored to be undeter contract for considerably more per acre than Beaty.

While the Potts Street project is also controversial and there are also citizen efforts underway to stop it from going forward, if that sale was to go through it would provide an excellent comp for any sale of the town owned Beaty St.

Regardless, the Beaty Street land is about to get multiple new looks at it from a valuation perspective.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

BREAKING NEWS: Exit 30 Hotel land owner reportedly revokes CSD parking lease

In a move that shows the true importance of parking for the proposed Hyatt Place hotel next to the Community School of Davidson, the land owner for the project has apparently revoked the parking arrangement currently in place with the school.   Tuesday morning the below was posted to the school's Facebook page by CSD's Joy Warner.  This notice comes on the same day Davidson's Board is scheduled to receive an update on the project at its monthly 6pm work session.

Click to enlarge for clear text

aShortChronicle has been telling readers for months that parking would be the major issue in this project.  However, the notion that the school administration has been opposing this project over parking is a complete farce.  If anything, the school has been conspicuously absent from the public discussion on the impacts of this hotel proposal.  Clearly, this is more a move to deflect the conversation from the real impacts of major development on this property.

As aShortChronicle told readers in this piece, the developer has the opportunity to put its money where its mouth is over the parking issue by voluntarily signing a parking sharing agreement with the school.  That would have been a show of good faith that the project team truly felt its parking was adequate and primarily needed after hours when it would not conflict with the school.  Instead, the project has chosen to take this route.

Absent a parking sharing agreement, the loss of access to this parking lot for the school has likely been a forgone conclusion since the beginning of this proposal.  However, after this action while project negotiations are ongoing, any Commissioner who supports this project is also effectively condoning bullying.

Let's hope Davidson Commissioners are better than that.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

First cut of new NC House and Senate districts impacts North Mecklenburg

Saturday, the first cut of court ordered new proposed maps for NC House were released on the NCGA website.  Sunday, saw the release of the new NC Senate  districts.  As aShortChronicle told readers previously, these changes were likely to impact North Mecklenburg and now that the possible new maps are out, we can see that they do.

Below is the current set of districts followed by the proposed new districts for both chambers of the General Assembly.

Here are the proposed changes to the NC House.

Current Districts

New Districts

On the NC House side, the current District 92 is totally redrawn meaning those North Mecklenburg residents represented by Democrat Chaz Beasley no longer would be.  Instead, they will move to the new NC House 107 currently represented by Democrat Kelly Alexander.  While Alexander would still technically still be in the 107th, that district has been completely redrawn, and there are relatively few voters in the new 107 who were also in the old 107.   The new district may lean Democrat, but Alexander will still have to make the sale to a lot of new voters in 2018.  He ran unopposed in 2016.

The current District 98 represented by John Bradford appears to gave become a bit more Republican leaning.  It lost Democratic precincts on the south east portion of the old district in north Charlotte and gained Republican precincts on the southwest side of the old district that used to be in the old 98th.  These changes combine to solidify the Republican position in this district.

Here are the proposed changes to the NC Senate.

Current Districts
New Districts
The current NC Senate 41 is represented by Republican Jeff Tarte  of Cornelius and very likely will remain in Republican hands after the proposed redistricting (though it could be closer than the current setup).  However, the interesting thing here is that the district still runs from the north to south of the county but now runs down the west side of Mecklenburg rather than the east side.

Also of interest is that, the current NC Senate 38 seat holder Joel Ford is barely carved out of the district to remain in the new NC Senate 38.  Ford is currently running for Charlotte Mayor, but in the event he loses he would still be in good shape to run for the same Senate seat he currently holds.  If the new NC 41 had been drawn differently to put Ford and Tarte in the same district, that would have been a closer but still very hypothetical contest.

So, all in all, while there are impacts not too much actually changes for voters here in North Mecklenburg under the new maps.  You can see the whole set across the state check

Exit 30 Hotel stakeholder provides data to Board prior to update on Tuesday agenda

At Tuesday's Board meeting Davidson's electeds are scheduled to get an update on "stakeholder" feedback regarding the current proposal for the new hotel on Griffith Street next  to Community School of Davidson and Davidson Day.

Since the last update staff has met with various stakeholder groups including:

▪ 8/4/17 - Site Walk
▪ 8/4/17 - Lunch & Learn
▪ 8/10/17 - West Davidson
▪ 8/10/17 - Spinnaker Cove
▪ Various - Additional Stakeholders [Calls, Emails, Meetings]

While these meetings certainly garnered feedback on things like safety, traffic, and parking, most people haven't heard too much feedback on the need for a hotel in the first place.  To that point, aShortChronicle wanted to pass along some information provided to the Board on Friday.  It comes from an individual with years if experience in the hotel industry and raised some serious questions about the very need for a new hotel on top of the numerous safety issues of the site itself.

It seeks to answer the question "Is there sufficient demand in the market to justify increasing the supply in the face of so many risks?"

Information was collected using Smith Travel Research ( data from the 24 hotels within a competitive proximity to the proposed site. The average hotel size in the sample was 91 rooms with a combination of full service, select service and extended stay brands. Year to date through the end of July, this competitive set has averaged a 73.5% Occupancy with a $95.40 Average Daily Rate (ADR). Occupancy is down -6.4% from prior year, representing a loss of -23,113 room nights from just the first 7 months last year. On this pace, the competitive set (Comp Set) hotels are projected to lose -39,622 room nights in 2017 as compared to 2016. At the current ADR, this represents a forec asted revenue loss of nearly -$3.8M to the immediate areas hotels this year compared to last year. 

For this proposed site to be considered a successful and profitable hotel venture, one needs to look at market share. A Revenue Generation Index (RGI) is the measure of market share for a hotel. A hotel with less than 100 RGI has less than its fair share, an RGI over 100 has more than its fair market share. To reach fair market share, this hotel would need to meet or exceed the market average occupancy and/or rate. This hotel would need to generate over 30,000 room nights at the current market occupancy at the prevailing ADR to be considered successful in industry standards. 

In support of my own data research, the most recent Hotel Horizons report from CBRE Hotels' Americas Research (formerly PKF) ( forecasts a continued decline in occupancy for the Greater Charlotte Area (which includes Davidson) every year for the next five years through 2021. The Northwest Charlotte Sub-market as defined by Smith Travel is not immune to this decline and as a result developers have only 3hotel projects currently in the pipeline! This Smith Travel Research defined Sub-market extends from Huntersville to Davidson and also includes Gastonia to Lincolnton. 

Considering the location of the proposed hotel project in regards to limited access, highway visibility and distance from corporate demand generators in Mooresville, Huntersville and Lake Norman, the 30,000 room nights would need to be generated primarily from new demand coming into the Davidson market as it would be unlikely to pull room night production from those other markets which offer supply well in excess of the demand available. 

Is the current Homewood Suites turning away 30,000 room nights per year because it has reached capacity?
Is the the current occupancy trend at the Homewood Suites in contrast to all available industry statistics, averages and forecasts for this market?

For this hotel development project to be feasible and considered a financial success, several statistically unlikely things must take place:

1. The Davidson market would have to create the demand for an additional 30,000 room nights per year, nearly doubling the existing estimated average for the city. Who or what would be the source of this additional demand?
2. This hotel would have to defy all current market data, trends and forecasts in both the immediate area, the Northwest Sub-Market and the Greater Charlotte Area. What would be the differentiating factor for this hotel that would give it such a market advantage?
3. The developer would have to maintain the current business levels at his existing property. Even if the Homewood Suites is averaging an occupancy at 15% higher than the market average, it is consuming at most 40,000 room nights per y ear. Can the city of Davidson attract or create the demand for over 70,000 consumed room nights that this developer would need to be successful? 

If this proposed hotel beats all these insurmountable odds, the highest possible net growth to occupancy tax generated for the city would be approximately $220k. Is this doubtful and highly unlikely gain sufficient to offset the known risks and negative impact to the area?

What is interesting about this above analysis is that it clearly shows additional data is available to assess the need for this hotel.  It is not just taking the developer's word for it like the Town is doing with the parking needs for this project.  It also shows the Town staff clearly has more work to do on the economic development front to appropriately educate itself and the Board.  Staff, not the developer, should also vet the following:

  • Exactly how many FTE does the developer plan to employ?  How does this compare to the FTE and similarly sized hotels in this area?  The developer can not be allowed to inflate this number for the purposes of a "job creation" sales pitch.
  • How exactly did the developer calculate its parking need?  How many sold out dates were sampled? What times were sampled on those days? What is the most common mode of transportation for those rooms that don't have cars? 

The same exact types of analysis would apply to the Luminous project and its hotel proposal which is even bigger.

Yes, the private sector has the right to risk its own money on these ventures, but in both cases Davidson elected officials truly have the final say in whether or not these projects go forward.  With that final say comes responsibility.  In turn Davidson Staff has the responsibility to provide them the information needed.  To date, it looks like the Town is relying on the developer to do that job for them and that is not a to be.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

West Branch "moonscape" on Davidson's Tuesday agenda

For months, heavy machinery has been hard at work grading the old Westmoreland Farm into what will become the new West Branch neighborhood.

However, in recent weeks large numbers of trees have come down to make way for the new project, and that has really gotten local residents' attention. It has become crystal clear this new neighborhood will have a negative impact on the town's Greenway and residential tree buffers for existing homes, and that has people up in arms.

What used to be dense groves of trees has become steaming piles of compost.  What used to be a walk in the woods, will soon become a walk next to a road.  What used to be a view of nature will soon be a view of other houses.  What used to be...

Davidson Commissioners will hear an update on this project at their Tuesday work session.  See agenda here.  The meeting starts at 6pm, but this is the last item on the agenda so arriving a bit late will still allow you to see the update in person.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Davidson launches new video system at Town Hall

If you've become a regular watcher of Davidson Town Hall meetings this one is for you.

Starting earlier this month recordings of these meetings were integrated with the Novus Agenda software that hosts the meeting agendas.  Desktop url here.  Smartphone url here.

The new system is an upgrade from the previous ustream channel for these meetings at Town Hall for a few reasons.

  • The sound quality is much better.
  • The agenda and video are integrated so after live recording you can go directly to the portion of the video that matches the agenda rather than hunting for it.
  • The minutes are integrated once approved, so everything is in one place.
If there is a downside it is that the camera is fixed in the upper back right of the auditorium which removes flexibility in the camera angles.  Think how less powerful this video of Ralph Clontz explaining the history of the Beaty Street sale if the camera had been behind him.

aShortChronicle was an early proponent of video for these meetings.  It is nice to see the Town investing in this.  It is a great way to let people get more involved.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Laurie Venzon sets fundraising pace in Davidson mayoral race

Mid-year campaign finance reports were due at the end of July for transactions through June.  However, they are only due for campaigns that had opened committees and had begun fundraising prior to June month end.

According to those rules, in Davidson's race for mayor that means only Laurie Venzon had to file a report this reporting period.  As aShortChronicle told readers in February, Venzon opened her account late last year and began raising money.  That means she has to file paperwork on a going forward basis.  Incumbent John Woods has committed to spending less than the $1000 threshold meaning he does not have to file paperwork, and fellow challenger Rusty Knox didn't open his account until filing this July after the reporting deadline.

That leaves the Venzon campaign as the only mayoral campaign required to report at this point.  See reports here.

To date, this election cycle the Committee to Elect Laurie Venzon has raised a whopping $8,839.48.  The campaign has also spent $6,001.55.

So, where did this money come from and where did it go?

So far, Venzon has not committed significant personal funds to her campaign, less than $600 for "in kind" contributions.  In kind contributions are for things of value other than cash.  The bulk of the cash continuations have come from a relatively small number of higher dollar donors, $500 - $1000 each.  The campaign has snagged three $1,000 checks, two of which were from donors in Kanapolis and Concord.  Overall, cash contributions to date came from 18 different donors for an average of over $450 per contribution.

On the expenditure side of the equation, the Venzon campaign has spent $2500 on a website with a Huntersville firm named BNR Branding Solutions.  She has also spent money on paid campaign support, $800 with Savvy Strategies of Davidson and $1000 with April Byrd Consulting.

The money for Savvy Strategies went for something called  "campaign operations".  Savvy Strategies is operated by Tami Kincer of Davidson.

As for the other $1000 going for consulting, rumors had been floating around for quite a while that Venzon may use the same political consultant enlisted by Davidson Mayor Pro Tem Beth Cashion in her 2011 campaign, Neil Orr.  Orr is a popular consultant in local GOP circles.  However, going with April Byrd Consulting appears to be essentially the same thing. Orr and Byrd are partners in a venture called ABNO Group.  ABNO, April Byrd Consulting, and the website firm BNR Branding all share the same office building address in Huntersville.

Byrd appears to be well connected into the Republican establishment.  She is also affiliated with a political consulting outfit in Georgia called ConnectSouth.  Here's what her profile on that site says.

"In 2002 she had an opportunity to work in the Salisbury Campaign office for Elizabeth Dole’s successful US Senate Campaign. Two years later April worked in Lima, OH for the 2004 Bush/Cheney campaign. In 2010 Republicans won the majority in both chambers of the NC General Assembly and in 2011 April was selected to be a preferred fundraising vendor for the NC House Republican Caucus. She stepped down from her family business and started April Byrd Consulting. April has raised money for over a dozen NC House Members including the former House Majority Leader, Rep. Mike Hager. In addition to successfully raising money for NC House Members she has been a fundraising consultant to a NC Supreme Court Justice, a NC Court of Appeals Judge, Three US Congressional Candidates, The Jesse Helms Center, and NC House Legislative Partners (an Independent Expenditure Committee). In 2016 April had the opportunity to work with Ed Broyhill, the Finance Committee Co-Chair for North Carolina to successfully raise $1 million plus for Trump for President/Trump Victory Fund."

While small in the grand scheme of politics, the dollars  Venzon has raised and spending them on these types of things and professional personnel are a big deal when it comes to Davidson.  Money and more formalized campaigns always changes the dynaimics of elections. Later in campaign season when Rusty Knox files and Venzon submits her next reports at the end of the next filing period, this is likely to be (if it already isn't) the most expensive race in Davidson history.