Once again, the Town of Davidson's aggressive approach surrounding all things planning oriented has landed the Town in court. This time the Town "won", but it is impossible to say that justice was served.
Readers may remember the Board of Adjustment hearing back in October regarding the new Green School in Davidson. The hearing covered challenges to administrative approval for the school from the Davidson Planning Department. In that hearing the Board of Adjustment sided 3-2 with the Green School administrators over long-time local resident, John Burgess.
Mr. Burgess is a member of the Town's Design Review Board and has detailed knowledge about the town's planning ordinance. He's not one to raise issues lightly or without doing the proper homework. After what was certainly a divided opinion on the Board of Adjustment, the issue proceeded to Mecklenburg Superior Court back on January 28th.
Some details still need to be verified, but after what appears to have been stalling tactics by the Green School's attorneys and Town Attorney, Rick Kline, the case was finally decided today. The case was stalled because multiple motions to dismiss were filed - dragging out the case for several weeks.
The first motion to dismiss claimed a lack of standing on the part of Mr. Burgess to bring the case. That one was denied last week.
The second motion to dismiss claimed that instead of suing the Board of Adjustment, the suit should have been brought against the Town of Davidson itself. It may seem odd to have a defense team that included Davidson's own Town Attorney, Rick Kline, actually trying to have one part of the "town" sued instead of another part of the "town". However, that motion was granted. Very conveniently, it is now too late to actually add the Town of Davidson to the lawsuit because too much time has elapsed. In reality, that motion appears to have been nothing but a move to run out the clock and not have the case decided on its merits.
Here's the thing...
Winning a case on a technicality does not serve the interests of justice. This issue may be over, and the Green School appears to have survived. However, it is now pretty clear that something is rotten in Town Hall when it comes to these types of planning decisions and that the Town is willing to go to any length to defend them. This isn't the first time the town has landed itself in court - wasting taxpayer money in the process.
It's one thing for the Green School to do what it can in attempts to get the facility it wants in the location it wants. They are a private entity, and in a sense this is just business. It's another thing entirely for the Town government itself to jump through hoops and bend rules to help one group achieve its goals over the rights of others.
That's not how government is supposed to work, and the Town should be ashamed of itself.
Will we see any actions at Town Hall to remedy this type of situation? Not likely. It's much more likely to see a circling of the wagons and a continuation of business as usual. One can even expect a little gloating over this "victory".
Regardless of today's ruling, Mr. Burgess should be commended and congratulated on standing up for what he thought was right. That doesn't always work out, and today was unfortunately one of those days.
However, people have to continue standing up if things are to change for the better in the pursuit of transparent government.
There is obviously much work to do.
Update: After hearing back from DNN regarding this post, we understand that they will be looking into this story. Please be on the lookout at DavidsonNews.net for more info.