Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Big night for property rights at Davidson Town Hall - Affordable Housing simplified, Narrow Passage approved

Davidson had two unanimous votes on Tuesday night showing solid moves towards more respect for property rights and landowners.

In the first vote, commissioners voted 4-0, with Commissioner Rodney Graham recusing himself, to allow developers to fully buy out of the affordable housing ordinance requirements.  Graham asked to be recused from voting because he is a developer who has built affordable housing in the past and likely will be in the future.

After Tuesday's vote developers can now buy out of all of all fordable housing requirements at the reduced rate of just over $26,000 per required unit.  In the past, they could only buy out of the lowest tier in the program for those making less than 50% of the area's median income.

By passing this change, the town seems to have finally recognized that forcing every developer in every situation to do the same thing does not work.

In the second big vote of the evening, the board voted unanimously 5-0 to approve the Narrow Passage development off of Rocky River Road.  The neighborhood will be built by local developer Karl Plattner on land owned by the Mayes family for over 120 years.

After more than a year of discussion, requests, and revisions - including bringing in nationally renowned rural development expert Randall Arendt - Davidson's board finally did the right thing and approved this project.

Every Commissioner spoke passionately about how difficult the process had been for the Narrow Passage. There was obviously a lot of concern for how the public would perceive this vote.

Commissioner Brian Jenest gave away the surprise early in the discusssion when he indicated he was a 'yes'.  Jenest had been seen as the most likely swing vote by those who had watched this debate unfold.  With him on board, the outcome was not really in doubt.

But, in what may have been a surprise to many, Commissioner Rodney Graham also gave away early in the discussion that he now looked favorably on the project.  He said that if you had asked him four weeks ago what he thought, he would likely have been leaning the other way.  However, with changes that include improved efficiency standards for homes, some affordable housing on site, and a move towards achieving 70% open space in the development or making a payment to buy land elsewhere, Graham changed his mind.

He genuinely seemed excited about the project.

However, the evening was not without a bit of drama.

The main sticking point in public hearings as well on the Planning Board and among town staff has been the desire to do a rural area plan for the entire rural area prior to approving this or any development project.

To that end Commissioner Fuller put forth a motion to table the decision for five months until a rural plan could be completed.  That motion failed 1-4 with Fuller being the only 'yes' vote.

After it was clear, no further delay would occur.  The Board voted unanimously to approve the project.

On Narrow Passage, the Planning Board had previously voted 9-2 against the project.  Town staff also recommended delaying firther and doing a plan first.  Fortunately, town commissioners recognized there were other principles at play in this decision.  Ideological purity was not the primary concern.

Since all evidence pointed to the likelihood of this neighborhood being approved now, or six months from now, commissioners used common sense and made the right decision.

That's what they were elected to do.

Good work!

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