Saturday, October 10, 2015

Davidson's Planning Ordinance Re-Write Leaves Some Holes

For two years, the Town of Davidson worked on rewriting its planning ordinance.  Consultants were hired.  Maps were drawn and re-drawn.  Multiple hearings were held..

In the end, it culminated in April when Davidson’s Board approved it with a 4-1 vote.

But after all that work, did the effort catch everything it should have?  Recent history would say “No. No, it did not.”

In fairness, that is no surprise considering the planning ordinance rewrite was also one of the largest rezoning efforts in the town’s history.  Rezonings and turmoil often go hand in hand.

The recent controversy over development in Davidson’s rural area would be one place where a lack of change in the ordinance may have contributed to the issues.  A rural area plan had been recommended years ago, but had not been completed.  The lack of that plan ultimately became the main issue in approving the Narrow Passage neighborhood.  While that work could have possibly been rolled into the ordinance rewrite, the Narrow Passage project forced the issue.   It got ugly before it was all over.

Another missed opportunity to address problems before they became issues is now unfolding on South Main.

In a column last February, readers learned of a proposed new development at the old Davidson Clinic site.

That project never came to fruition – falling apart this past summer.  However, as large as it was – at least 110 residential units plus retail housed in a four story building – it is likely small compared to what could go on the site if the parcels next to it are rezoned as well.

That potential rezoning of additional land should concern people, and not just because of the additional development it would allow.  It should concern people because land owners were put in the position of feeling they had to seek the rezonings in the first place.

After seeing the potential for what could be developed on the Davidson Clinic property next to their homes, the two adjacent homeowners on South Main recently sought to have their property rezoned to the same higher density designation.  To give you an understanding of why they would want this, the previously mentioned failed plans for the clinic site had that four story building just 12 feet from the property line – and one homeowner’s back porch.

In an August conversation with Jay Wade, the property owner immediately next to the site, Wade indicated that they had always intended on staying in the house where they have lived for over thirty years.  However, he felt they had no choice but to seek the rezonings after seeing what could potentially be built - literally right off their doorstep.

Frankly, regardless of how you feel about development in Davidson, any property owner put in that position would likely do the same thing.

So, when the recent deal for the clinic site fell apart, Wade and his neighbor went in with its owners to have all three properties advertised for sale as a package with a total acreage of 5.86 acres – making it a prime site for a very major development.

The add for the combined property even contained this line.  “Town of Davidson would look favorable on the rezoning of the property with the right parameters.”  Town records received from an earlier records request would seem to back up that optimism with planning department staff showing enthusiasm for the possibilities such a large parcel would provide.

However, this past week when this issue went before the town Planning Board, that optimism was certainly tempered.  Multiple people present at the meeting indicated the Planning Board did not think too highly of the idea.

The day after the meeting, the optimistic language was removed from the ad.  By the end of the week, the rezoning petitions had been withdrawn.

Where this one goes from here is anyone's guess, but it would sure seem Davidson’s planning ordinance rewrite missed another opportunity to influence development while also protecting existing land owners property rights.

This article first appeared in this week's Herald Weekly at

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