Monday, March 7, 2016

West Branch public hearing Tuesday March 8th...more conflict of interest questions on the way.

The public hearing for requested changes to the size of the commercial district in the proposed West Branch neighborhood on Davidson-Concord Rd will take place at Tuesday's Davidson Town Board meeting.

This issue came before the Planning Board at its meeting last month.  However, citizens should not expect the Town Board to take action on Tuesday.  Per town Planning Director, Jason Burdette,...

"The Planning Board did not take action. The public hearing for the map amendment is on the agenda Tuesday night. The Board will not take action without a recommendation from the PB, per the ordinance."

What this means is that if citizens have a real issue with the change, they have until next month to lobby elected officials.  However, due to the way this has played out opposing this change may be a moot point.  Opposing this change may just result in some funky looking townhomes as part of the project.

Per town planner Chad Hall...

"Based upon the current design, the map amendment would have bearing on three single family lots and 54 townhomes. The Neighborhood Services Planning Area does not allow single-family, so those three single-family lots are dependent upon the rezoning. The Neighborhood Services Planning Area also does not allow townhomes, so the 54 townhomes also are impacted by the rezoning request. However, it should be noted that the Neighborhood Services Planning Area does allow for Storefront and Live/Work units and the Ordinance will allow for residential on the ground floor of those units, but their architecture would need to be in keeping with the storefront or live/work design, meaning that ground floor fa├žade transparency regulations would apply.

Therefore, the rezoning decision does impact the site plan, particularly for the three single-family lots. It would not necessarily require changes to the site plan for the live/work and/or townhome units, though, but it would alter the architecture. At present, the site design does not illustrate any storefront buildings, but we should recognize it as being an option. Storefront buildings could have residential units above, so it is difficult to determine the actual net unit count increased/lost by the proposed map amendment."

It will be interesting to see how the Town Board once again handles the question of a conflict of interest with this project.

Commissioner Brian Jenest has indicated to aShortChronicle that he plans to ask to be recused from voting on this map amendment if/when it comes before the Town Board.  Previously, when the Historic Designation change for this property came before the Board last month, the Board forced Jenest to vote on the issue saying he didn't have a conflict even though his firm is doing the design work on the neighborhood.  Only Commisioner Beth Cashion voted to allow Jenest to be recused.  Read previous coverage on that vote here and here.

One would think the Board would see this conflict, but after the previous vote it's hard to be sure what this Board will do.

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