Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Catalyst Project up for discussion Monday night

About twenty residents gathered at the the Allen Tate office on Davidson's Main Street Monday evening to discuss their concerns with the proposed Catalyst Project to remake the town owned property on and around Town Hall with a potential mixed use development.

Also in attendance were Davidson Commissioners Rodney Graham and Beth Cashion.

After host Rusty Knox kicked off the meeting with his recollections of what it was like growing up in Davidson when it was much smaller place, he quickly outlined what are the major concerns with the project held by many in attendance - the project's size, location, and perceived rapid schedule.

The last item, concern with the schedule for the project, definitely rang true with many in the room.  It also brought out some of the evening's more interesting comments.  With one participant citing a media report saying the project was anticipated to be completed in the "next for years", Commissioner Cashion responded with "we're not sure where that came from".

Where that "four years" came from was a WSOC TV report that hit the airwaves last week.  The report featuring Mayor Woods can be seen here.  The accompanying article concludes with the following line:

"While there are no set deadlines yet, the town spokesperson says the goal is to try and get the project finished in the next four years."

Interestingly, that line is not actually in the video report.  It is only in the accompanying article.  Also, the "spokesperson" is not specifically named.

In a follow up conversation with Commissioner Cashion to find out what she meant when she said "we're not sure where that came from", Cashion indicated that both town public information officer, Christina Shaul, and economic development manager, Kim Flemming, denied telling WSOC that schedule.

The good news for opponents of the project is that regardless if anyone actually said that or if the WSOC report simply got it wrong, it does not appear to be the case.

Graham and Cashion also attempted to clarify what Commissioners really endorsed in their last meeting with consultants.

Much has been made of the introduction of the possibility of adding a 128 room "boutique" hotel to the plan - an idea that first appeared during the last discussion with the UNC SOG consultants.  What the commissioners "endorsed" during that meeting was not a plan that would definitely include a hotel, but rather the idea that plans for further investigation would include tearing down the current town hall rather than simply trying to modify/expand town hall and adding some parking.

The difference may sound subtle, but considering that much of the recent angst surrounding the project involves be inclusion of the hotel, it could be significant.  While the consultants indicated there was a lot of developer interest in a hotel project, if that concept generates a lot of community discontent, it seams that it could end up being a deal breaker.

There was also a good bit of discussion about other potential developments along South Main, the increase in traffic any development in that area will cause, and concern of the town getting into the development business.

The Commissioners indicated the town will have another public meeting on the project.  The tentative schedule for that is October 20th.  They also indicated the possibility of other community meetings to ensure all concerns are sufficiently aired.

As the first hour of the meeting wrapped up, this blogger had to head home, but one thing was clear - there will be a LOT more discussion before anything happens with the Catalyst Project.

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