Friday, November 27, 2015

Davidson growth set to catalyst needed.

As staff and elected officials in the Town of Davidson continue to ponder the proposed Downtown Catalyst Project, there is a looming wave of explosive growth just on the horizon.  This is growth that will happen whether or not the town's own project "catalyzes" anything.  Frankly, knowing this is going to happen it is hard to believe the Town itself is looking to promote even more growth through its own efforts.  Maybe the town should change the Catalyst's name to something like Accelerant.

The first project if it materializes could have the most direct impact on the supposed need for something like the Catalyst project in the town center.  In the past we've told you about potential development at the old Davidson Clinic site on South Main.  That previous development plan fell through this past summer, but that property - as well as the adjacent two parcels - are now showing as "active contingent" on real-estate sites - meaning a sale and new development could be imminent.

At almost six acres this site is nearly double the size of the Town-owned land proposed for the Catalyst Project. Whatever this site on South Main eventually becomes, it will certainly be big (and controversial), but it will also achieve the town's goals of 'connecting' South Main in ways the Catalyst never would by creating a center of gravity at that end of Main Street.  Also, there will almost certainly be a significant retail/commercial component of any development that size which meets another stated town goal for the Catalyst.

As of last week, a proposed development plan had not been submitted according to Planning Director, Jason Burdett.  There is also nothing on the town website as of this writing.  However, this is definitely something to keep a close eye on.  Things appear to be in the works and could move fast.

The second major development is closer to coming to fruition.  That regards what is going on out at Westmoreland Farm.  We originally told you about surveying activity at the site almost three months ago.

A records request to the town turned up some additional information.

The below picture called a "bubble diagram" was put together by staff at Commissioner Brian Jenest's firm during the discussions leading up to passage of the planning ordinance rewrite earlier this year.  The purpose of the diagram was to provide a conceptual picture of what could be built under the new ordinance.  To be very clear it is not a proposal.  However, it does give a sense of the scale of any development that could be on the way.


A week after the Town Board passed the planning ordinance rewrite back in April, a planner from ColeJenest & Stone contacted Town staff saying "we are working towards a schematic site plan for the Westmoreland property along Davidson-Concord Road and have a few questions/requests".

That combined with the work seen recently and the counts on that bubble diagram would indicate another development with potentially hundreds of units is on the way.

While again, like the South Main project no site plan has been submitted, it is clear something is in the works.

Finally, this coming Monday, November 30th, the Davidson Planning Board will hear a request from the developers of Summerswalk regarding removal of the planned neighborhood retail at the front of the neighborhood along 73 to be replaced with more townhomes.

The proposal, also submitted by ColeJenest & Stone, appears to have the approval of the Town Planning Department.  The staff recommendation says "this master plan amendment is appropriate and in line with the town’s current development policies".

One of the stated reasons for the Catalyst Project is to increase the commercial tax base for the town.  Removing a planned commercial area - even if it may not be built out for some time would seem to run counter to that goal.

If the recent pushback from town residents was not enough to convince Town Hall that the Catalyst Project is not needed or should be drastically scaled down, maybe this looming wave of growth will do it.

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