Friday, August 19, 2016

Controversial Davidson Developments Part 1: Davidson Depot

Davidson residents who care about the small town character of the community have more, much more to worry about than just the Catalyst Project.

The worst aspects of Catalyst appear to have been beaten back.  Those would be the inclusion of a Hotel and a large amount of residential on the Town Hall site and surrounding area. Instead, that project has slowly morphed into a project for various civic uses.

However, the sentiment behind those proposed uses which people disliked at the town center are about to resurface just along historic downtown's edges.

Davidson Depot and an Exit 30 Hotel loom large in the immediate future.

Here is what aShortChronicle has found out recently.

The long wait for movement on the proposed Davidson Depot site appears to be over.

Davidson Depot proposes 180 apartments on the site along Eden Street across the tracks from Jackson and down Depot Street.  It's on the site of the Metrolina Warehouses occupied by Eden Street Market and The Rumor Mill.

View From Jackson/Depot Intersection

View down Depot Street

View towards Main Street
where 180 apartments are proposed

Developers gave an FYI presentation to the Design Review Board (DRB) on Tuesday.   It's safe to say by the reaction of the DRB, the project architects have a long way to go before getting that group's approval.

However, via a public records request, aShortChronicle has learned this was just one of a series of planned meetings worked out in conjunction with Town Hall staff.  The next will be as part of a closed session during the 8/23 board meeting.

The discussion per the records requests will include a representative from the NC DENR.  That's the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for the state.

It's unclear why a meeting with NCDENR would qualify for a closed session.  When asked, Town Public Information Officer Christina Shaul responded by referencing the general statute...from § 143-318.11.  Closed sessions.

(4) To discuss matters relating to the location or expansion of industries or other businesses in the area served by the public body, including agreement on a tentative list of economic development incentives that may be offered by the public body in negotiations, or to discuss matters relating to military installation closure or realignment. Any action approving the signing of an economic development contract or commitment, or the action authorizing the payment of economic development expenditures, shall be taken in an open session.

Without more information its difficult to know exactly what they are planning to talk about behind closed doors.  The bold part added for this article is a likely clue - economic development incentives.  When you add the point that NCDENR will be there it logically follows there may be some discussion on incentives from the town to help clean up the brownfield on the site.

The warehouse site used to be used for manufacturing asbestos tiles and that needs to be cleaned up.  The cost of that cleanup is a major reason the site has not been redeveloped earlier.

The state environmental agency + closed session + economic incentives = possible big $$$ from the town to help clean up a mess for private owners.

When asked if the town was considering Tax Increment Financing for the project, Shaul only said this.

"We are not ruling out any TIF at this time."

Tax Increment Financing is a method whereby the additional taxes brought in by a development are dedicated to paying off some specified need.  While that can be positive, it hollows out the tax base and can leave little money left to serve the residents of the new development, thus shifting the tax burden to the rest of the town.

Oh, and judging by the logo on this landscape plan, Commissioner Brian Jenest's firm appears to once again be involved.  So, if/when the Board votes on any possible incentives he would once again have to recuse himself.

Keep an eye on this one.

Up next Exit 30 Hotel.

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