Friday, April 28, 2017

"Birkdale" on Lake Davidson...zoning request says maybe...

The Davidson Town Board has been taking a bruising lately both here at aShortChronicle and in local social media regarding its decisions on zoning and development issues.  However, one of the next big things to impact the town could be totally out of its control.

On Thursday, a small number of residents in South Iredell just across the county line and just north of Main Street in Davidson received notice of of a public hearing for the Mooresville Planning Board May 11th meeting.

The letter shown below is for the properties outlined in the following picture.



The three properties in question total just under 140 acres.  Also, to be clear, the letter says the rezoning request is coming from Hinckley Gauvain.  This entity is not the owner of the land.  It is a real estate development outfit.  Here is a link to their website.

aShortChronicle contacted the Mooresville Planning Department to see if we could find out more details.  A return call from Mooresville public information officer, Kim Sellers, did not provide much in the way of additional detail however. Sellers said that this request is just for a rezoning and there is no detail available about any subsequent plans. However, one can be sure that a real estate development company does not go around trying to rezone property it has not purchased unless it has something in mind.  A public records request would likely turn up more information.

Per the Mooresville Planning Ordinance
the requested zoning designations of Neighborhood Mixed Use and Corridor Mixed Use allow the development like the following:

Pictures from Mooresville
Planning Ordinance pdf

140 acres is a huge piece of land.  With this zoning, think "Birkdale" on Lake Davidson.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Davidson Mayoral candidate Rusty Knox supports voter input on public facility spending

aShortChronicle previously told readers about a recent Civics 101 class in Davidson where Town Manager Jamie Justice said putting public facilities spending before the voters was "not recommended". Justice went on to ask (seemingly rhetorically) "What if the voters say no?"

Well, what we didn't say in that original post from March was "who" asked the question of Justice during that class about seeking voter input using General Obligation or GO bonds which require voter approval.  That person turned out to be Rusty Knox, an announced candidate for Davidson Mayor this November.

In light of the eye popping numbers thrown around at Tuesday's Town Board meeting to support the proposed public facilities expansion ($17 million to be exact), aShortChronicle reached out to Knox to see what he had to say.

Here's Knox's response in italics:

The latest news from Town Hall regarding the potential “public facilities” project is a little overwhelming. What started as a genuine need for additional, and greatly needed, space for our police and fire departments plus some additional space for staff has turned into a $17 million dollar soft version of the Catalyst project from 3 years ago. Included in the plan is a total redo of the area that contains the farmers market.  Surprisingly, when surveyed most residents and vendors love the “organic” nature of our farmers market. This plan allows for more food trucks to park within the confines of the market area.  These trucks will come to town, park, make money and leave….taking away revenue from our local restaurants that have banner days on Saturday mornings.

As the process has moved forward “post Catalyst” one thing has been crystal clear, our Mayor and some of our Board members are in favor of ANYTHING that says development.  This latest round of development is something that will cost the taxpayers.  Our space constraints are real; if you don’t think so, go ask to tour the police or fire departments.  Our staff, which is stellar, works in cramped quarters as well.  Is there a need, absolutely?  Should we be moving forward with some form of expansion, yes?  Is that need $17 million?  The last time Davidson spent this kind of money was in 2007 on Mi-Connection.  Expenditures by the town at this level need voter input and support. 

I feel that when you are putting these kinds of numbers out there and we still are shouldering a loss from the cable purchase that represents 9% of our budget, a general obligation bond would serve the town in realizing some of our lofty goals.  The town should know by now that public support is paramount.  From our Core Values “Citizens entrust town government with the stewardship of public funds, so government will provide high quality services at a reasonable cost.”  Most citizens know that the actions of our Mayor, Board and Staff are in the best interest of the town, but at this price tag, the voters need to say yea or nay.

So, there you have it.  At least one person planning to seek public office thinks the public should have a say in these things.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

$17 million initial estimate for new "public facilities" in Davidson.

At Tuesday's 4pm pre-meeting, Davidson Commissioners received an update on the so called "public facilities" project being driven with a consulting team made up of Creech & Associates and Stantec.

After 30 minutes going over a plan that includes renovating the existing Town Hall for public safety operations, building a new 3-story Town Hall on Main Street, and making updates to the public space around the building including modest additions to parking, Commissioners (and citizens) got a glimpse at the price tag - $17,005,740

Yes, you read that correctly.  The town is looking at a bill of just over $17 million if it built out this entire plan as presented.  That number did include a roughly 30-35% contingency, but that still means a $12.6 million base estimate.

Additionally, it would be hard to scale this back much without a wholesale redesign and reduction of the largest portion - the $9.2 million, 25,000 square foot new Town Hall.  The new Town Hall was estimated at costing $360/sqft which may sound high.  However, it was mentioned for comparison that Kannapolis recently completed a new Town hall building that cost $320/sqft and that project was much bigger allowing for significant economies of scale.

So, the obvious question is how to pay for all this if it goes forward.

Crickets...that will be discussed at the May 9th meeting with a possible vote to move forward on any plan as soon as May 23rd.

Remember, aShortChronicle told readers about Town Manager Jamie Justice saying a bond vote was "not recommended"?  Well, not a single Davidson Commissioner even asked about that at the Tuesday meeting.  The Board is looking at the largest spending item since Mi-Connection and not a mention of putting this before the voters.

You can read the whole presentation here and watch the video of the meeting here.  You can email your town Board at board@townofdavidson.org.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Beaty Street RFP opposition explained...the process IS the problem

The last post on the delayed vote for the Beaty Street development proposal received a lengthy response on Facebook giving a lot more detail and color behind "why" locals are opposing this Town Hall initiative.  It comes from Eric Giangiordano of thd Hobbs Hill neighborhood.  Giangiordano was one of the citizen participants in the RFP process, so his is an informed opinion on how this process has gone down.  It is lengthy, and has been edited only slightly to remove a couple extraneous comments.

Giangiordano makes a point familiar to readers of aShortChronicle.  It's often not "what" Town Hall does but "how" it does it that riles citizens.

Here's what Giangiordano had to say.

"Regardless of where residents stand on these various issues including the Beaty Street RFP. I'd like to just clarify one specific, yet very important, point - the reason I object to the current agenda for Beaty Street property, and this mirrors the same basis for objection echoed by numerous reside nts and community groups across Davidson (including Hobbs Hill Neighborhood Alliance/HHNA, which I represent) is due to the significantly flawed process, which was erroneous on multiple levels well before the issuance of the RFP, then carried thru the "selection committee" process rife with issues itself (and for which I and a member from North Main participated - and abstained from any vote due to said issues), and certainly preceded the rush to enter contract with DDP.

The fact is that 2 of the major tenets for citizens' rebuke of the original "Catalyst" project can be generally characterized as: (a) They didn't want to see the town sell publicly-owned land to a private developer for density development (b) They expected appropriate engagement and prior public input on the vision/utilization of such publicly-owned land. NEITHER of those criteria were met with the original Catalyst notion put forth by Town and its staff. Yet the Town received one unsolicited offer from Lake Forest Church (which would have involved Blue Heel) to purchase only SOME of the Beaty property for development, NOT all of the land - and the Town did take the correct step to not arbitrarily engage in such sale of the public's land. Yet astoundingly within just MONTHS of that pause/re-evaluation of Catalyst, where the train ran off the tracks was the Town then issued an RFP that was arbitrary in its requirements, vision and goal for the Beaty Street property, and did so proposing what 2 key tenets? (a) Sell the public's land to a private developer for density development (b) NO prior public input on the vision/utilization of Beaty Street, amongst ALL permitted uses by ordinance.

IF a proper, thorough multi-step "prior public input process" is facilitated by the Town, and the consensus/majority of residents determine a certain vision/utilization of the land, my own position is that then whatever that may be should then be pursued with an RFP and/or other appropriate execution plan for realization of such vision.

And of even greater frustration is that lacking any prior public input vision for Beaty Street property, the FACT (and I repeat, FACT), is that the Beaty Street property was originally purchased 30 years ago "for a park", and EVERY one of the Town's public-input derived plans (adopted or otherwise) including the 2010 Comp Plan, 2012 Station Area Plan, 2014 Parks/Rec Master Plan, etc. most often defined "park/community facilities" for Beaty Street, NOT commercial/mixed-use/density node, and certainly not selling the entire properties for such.  So this whole notion that certain residents and groups that are espousing the Beaty Street vision focusing on park/community facilities are biased for only what they personally deem appropriate - well, again that's grossly misrepresentative.  Sure, many of them (myself included) would prefer to see that be the main component of the property as a "green" asset to ALL residents throughout Davidson and one that is within proximity to downtown, but the true underlying rationale is because lacking the Town's proper prior public input to specifically determine such vision, the evidence clearly shows community park/facilities WAS the most common prior preference of the public by the Town's own plans on file.

Yes, various visions of development on the Beaty St. property have also been outlined in some of those plans - but interestingly, more of that was driven by the Town and certain staff, NOT residents - and again, not the way the RFP and current DDP plan represent. As I stated in a board meeting recently, right now we'll never know exactly what the "true consensus vision" of the public for the Beaty Street properties would be, simply because the Town failed entirely to facilitate ever asking residents for their direct input to answer that very question. And then residents should ask, "Exactly who/what was the motivation for NOT doing that to date?" My own thesis is quite simple; if you don't want a particular answer, avoid asking the relevant question...

Final part of my comments here, which I hope clarify some key things for residents; for those including some Town staff alleging that groups such as HHNA simply don't want anything done or developed with the Beaty Street properties, or to keep "it for themselves" as adjacent neighbors, once again such allegations are unilaterally FALSE.  The FACT is that beginning last year, HHNA, not the Town, initiated dialogue about the ultimate disposition of the Beaty Street property during their initial RFP process, and explicitly informed the Town in writing that "certain development" - specifically concentrated on the Northeast quadrant by intersection of NC115/Beaty Street, was consistent with Town plans on file from public input, and thus not opposed - but that the majority of the property should ideally be both preserved AND improved upon as the last major undisturbed natural parcel owned by the public and in proximity to downtown, which had a dearth of such, so that it's ultimate disposition could be realized after 30 years of not doing so.

It's the "WHO, WHAT, WHY" of such disposition that is in dispute here - i.e, the Process."

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Beaty Street delay...or diversion.

On Friday, Davidson Town Hall published the agenda for Tuesday's upcoming Board meeting.

One expected contentious item was missing however.  That would be the expected vote to proceed with the Beaty Street property sale and development proposal for Davidson Development Partners' "Luminous" project.   The project has been roiling the citizenry these past few months, as has much of what's been emanating from Town Hall.

At roughly the same time, the below email from Assistant Town Manager, Dawn Blobaum, began circulating on local social media.


Eric Giangiordano who has been one of the community leaders opposing the project posted this along with the email.


So, while any delay in moving forward with this effort should be seen as a positive, residents are right to be skeptical.  This show has been seen before...and recently.

Davidson Town Hall recently delayed their vote on the RAP rezoning by a few months, but ultimately passed it after making a few relatively minor tweaks.

What could make this one different is the length of any delay.

Within 90 days, filing for the next election will be over, and those opposing this project and others have been beating the bushes for new candidates.  A delay of more than 30 days puts any vote on this Beaty Street project squarely in the election cross hairs.

While no Davidson Commissioners have said publicly whether or not they will seek re-election, pressure will begin to mount on that front as the July filing period gets closer.

The public deserves to know if the people taking these contentious votes are doing so as lame ducks or are willing to stand behind them while facing the voters.

The clock is now officially ticking on answering that question.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

150 apartments on the way to South Main in Davidson? Maybe.

On March 22nd, aShortChronicle told readers about a rumored new development at the entrance to town on South Main.  While responses to inquiries to those involved with the project have been slim, here's what we've found out since then.

According to public records, preliminary meetings have been held starting in late February for a possible 4 story apartment building with roughly 150 units plus 6000 sqft of retail on the old Davidson Clinic site and adjoining properties.    As of the end of March a full application for the project had not been submitted, but multiple pre-submittal meetings had occurred.  The notes provided from the town did not appear to indicate any showstopper issues being raised by town staff at that point.

Below is the drawing provided by the Town of the potential project.



What may be most interesting to readers is who is involved in the project.

The firm of Cornelius Mayor Chuck Travis, The Housing Studio, is doing the architecture work, and the firm of Davidson Commissioner Brian Jenest, ColeJenest&Stone, is involved as well for planning and landscape architecture.  Records show they were the ones who attended these pre-submittal meetings.  In fact it appears Commissioner Brian Jenest initiated the first meeting with an email to town staff on February 19 requesting one.

The name on the Housing Studio drawing obtained via public records request says Woodfield Investments.  That would appear to be the financing/development entity behind the project.  Mayor Travis has a long relationship with the investment company. His comments are featured on the firm's website as part of its partner references.  This is part of what Travis had to say about working with Woodfield.

"Woodfield Investments has become an industry leader in building apartment communities in the Carolinas and the metro area of Washington, DC. Each community is designed to uniquely address its location - from respecting trees and natural features of a more rural site, to maximizing the existing infrastructure of streets providing connectivity and integration with shopping, dining and offices in urban locations."

The below aerial of the site from the county's Polaris system shows a significant amount of tree canopy that will be replaced by parking if this goes forward.

Does that make Davidson an "urban" location as opposed to "a more rural site"?  If Travis's own words about his long time business parters at Woodside Investments are true, it would appear so.



On Monday, aShortChronicle contacted Travis and Jenest for comment for this story.  The local developer who participated in the meetings was also contacted.

Commissioner Jenest responded Tuesday AM with the following.

"Yes my firm is involved in planning  and landscape arch for the property mentioned.  It is still in feasibility phase.   It is planned as a mixed use with apartments geared to empty nesters."

It should be noted that project proposals come and go often, and not everything proposed goes forward.  However, with the players involved in this one it would seem this one might have a better chance than most.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

More detail on roadwork and Davidson Community Garden

aShortChronicle reported last week on some pinding road work that will impact the Davidsom Community Garden.  Today some more info was distributed by Davidson Town Hall. It should be noted we incorrectly reported that this was being done in conjunction with the Potts-Sloan-Beaty Connector project.  Per the below, this project is separate from that.

Here's the latest info from Doug Wright:



New source for news of Davidson on the way?

When Davidsonnews.net shut down nearly 2 years ago, it was a blow to the community.

We say that in all sincerity even though the positions on issues here at aShortChronicle were often at odds with how that site often presented them.

Soon after DNN ceased publication, there was brief mention locally of an effort to revive something similar to take its place - possibly as a nonprofit.  However, nothing ever came of it.

Recently, we heard some swirl about the possibility of the idea resurfacing for another information outlet - an interesting thing to hear - in an election year.  With so much going on around town, it will be interesting to see if any new source of info takes the same critical eye of Town Hall's actions or will it instead become its unofficial mouthpiece.

Regardless, we say the more the merrier when it comes to getting information about the news of Davidson out to the public.  That's always a good thing.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Sediment pond drains onto greenway at West Branch construction site

With construction grading now in full swing at the West Branch construction site on Davidson-Concord Road, we now have the first "unintended consequence" impacting residents - albeit a minor one compared to the traffic problems to come once the neighborhood is built out.

From the Town:

"The Town of Davidson is actively working to repair a section of the greenway that was flooded by water overflowing sediment ponds. The repairs are taking place along the section of the greenway located between Robert Walker Drive and Davidson Concord Road.

The Davidson Public Works Department and Lennar Carolinas, LLC are aware of the situation and are actively rerouting the water by creating a swale from the sediment ponds to a stream channel. The water redistribution process will take two to five days. The greenway should dry out and be fully passable by April 22.

The safety of our residents is our primary concern and we apologize for the inconvenience. If you have any questions regarding the progress of the repair, please contact the Public Works Department at 704-940-9638 or email Jesse Bouk at jbouk@townofdavidson.org ."

Considering it hadn't rained for several days by the time this release was published, it's hard to know exactly how bad the mess was originally, but here are some pictures as of Thursday evening.

It appears the water flowing from the sediment pond on the south end of the West Branch property did not flow into the river bed as expected, but instead flowed into the part of the field not being developed and the across the greenway.  The dirt swale was in place to divert any more water by the time the Town notified residents of the problem.





This happened after a relatively minor rain storm. One wonders if they are taking grading advise from that landscaping management sage, Carl Spakler from Caddyshack. and thinking "the heavy stuff"  isn't coming down anytime soon.


Friday, April 14, 2017

Davidson Community Garden impacted by road work

Thursday morning, Connie and Eddie Beach sent out the below as part of the weekly message to volunteers at the Davidson Community Garden on Potts Street this week.

"Some of you have asked about the stakes that got placed in the garden recently.  To improve safety and visibility for pedestrians and vehicles, the Town of Davidson is adding sidewalks and crosswalks on Potts and Catawba.  This is requiring some street widening, which will have an impact on the perimeter of the garden.  We met this Wednesday with Doug Wright, Public Works Director for the Town.  Doug reassured us of the Town's intent to minimize the impact on the garden and to help with moving the plants and fences.  The timing of the project is still uncertain, but Doug said he would be happy to send out more information to the volunteers in the next few weeks.  As with any renovation, it will present its challenges, but we feel it will be an asset when it is finished.  It will be safer for the flower-tenders as they work outside the beds, keep the soil from washing, and also make the community garden more of a good walking destination."

aShortChronicle checked with Wright to see if we could find out more.  Regular readers may remember that the town and NCDOT had to do a bit of Three Card Monte to get the funding fully approved for this work.  See "Untangling the Bonus Allocation Riddle" from October 2016.  As part of this, the Town temporarily transferred Potts Street to the NCDOT so it could qualify for Federal matching dollars requiring the project be on a State road.  Once done the road will be transferred back to the Town.

We asked Wright if there were any NCDOT requirements that were impacting the project since this is technically a state road at this point.

Here's what he had to say:

"Potts is now a state-maintained road, to help administer the Potts-Beaty-Sloan project.  When that is done it comes back to the town, as the state is always interested in handing local roads to local municipalities.  I have not even spoken to the state about the project impacting the Community Garden.   Kimley-Horn is designing the PBS Corridor for the NCDOT; Dewberry has designed the Potts-Catawba intersection for the town.  The need for improvements exists now, and the critical dimension is the 5-ft width required for sidewalk."

So, while this project is happenings now largely as part of the larger I77 HOT Lanes Bonus Allocation funded Potts-Sloan-Beaty Connector project, this particular intersection work is apparently being handled by the town.  While aShortChronicle does not disagree this intersection needs some work, we do have to wonder if the town could not do it with less impact to what has become a real gem of Davidson.

If there is any good news out of this, it is that based on the stakes that have been placed, it does not appear the loss of space will significantly impact the garden's production.  The DCG has become the main source of fresh produce for the food pantry st the Ada Jenkins Center, so at least people in need won't be impacted by this project.

Check out the below pictures to see exactly what will need to be moved.  Anything on the street side of the orange flagged stakes will need to go which includes most of the mature flower on the site.










Thursday, April 13, 2017

Davidson set to compete for "Fastest Growing Charlotte Suburb" by 2020

CharlotteStories.com published a story this week about the 10 fastest growing Charlotte suburbs between 2010-2015.

Waxhaw topped the list at 36.87% and Davidson broke the top 10 coming in at 11.61%.  Cornelius and Huntersville came in at the mid-12% range.

Percentages don't tell you anything about the raw numbers, but they do give you a sense of how changes impact the quality of life and the lifestyle of a particular place.  If the population of a place is small a big percentage increase likely has a bigger impact on the "feel" of a community than a smaller percentage increase in a larger town that actually generates more people.

Take Waxhaw for example.

Its 37% growth over five tears certainly would have more of a lifestyle impact by adding roughly 3500 people to a 2010 population of 9900 than say the 12% growth of adding 5600 people to Huntersville's 2010 population of 47,000.  Huntersville was already fairly big so adding a larger number of people may have been less noticeable day to day than the smaller number of people added to Waxhaw.

One has to wonder if Davidson will be challenging for the top spot on the list in 2020 with all the new approved neighborhoods slated to be online by then. (Davidson East 500+ homes, West Branch 300+ homes, Washam Neighborhood 80+ homes).  Then add those projects on the drawing board.  (Davidson Depot 180 appts, Beaty Street 150+ condos/townhomes).  That's 1200 homes right there.

We will also likely know by then if the recently approved RAP rezoning spurs even more growth.

Here is the top 10 list in order from largest percentage increase down to smallest.  The numbers shown are the 2010 starting population.  Notice how the top 2 have a spike in 2010 that kickstarted their growth and rise to the top of this chart.  Davidson has a built in spike likely in 2018-2019 in the already approved developments.

Will that spike launch the town into the top tier of high growth suburbs?  Only time will tell.












Saturday, April 8, 2017

A word on the comment policy....

There's a lot going on that has people upset here in town lately.  Hard feelings are understandable.  However...

If you send in a comment to a story that is Anonymous, it needs to be constructive, asking a question, or if it is pointed it can't be tooooooo pointed.  Put your name on it otherwise it won't get through the "filter".  As it says in the Comment Policy page Anonymous comments that cross the line won't be posted, and I decide where that line is.

Friday, April 7, 2017

I77 Exit 30 project claims Davidson Trees

Have you been wondering about those green bands on all the mature trees at Exit 30 along Griffith Street?

Well, according to an email received here at aShortChronicle they are for trees that will soon be removed as part of the Exit 30 Bridge and Roundabouts being done as part of the I77 HOT Lanes project. 

Back on December 13th, I77 Mobility Partners
I77 Mobility Rep
gave the Davidson Board an update on the project.  To his credit Commissioner Jenest asked about the trees, and I77 Mobility representatives said they might have to remove a few small ones.  Jenest indicated he had experience in these things and was concerned about the larger trees.  (Jenest's firm does work for many Davidson area developers.)

Watch the presentation here at minute 29.

At that meeting Town Manager Jamie Justice indicated the Planning Department was on top of it and working closely with I77 Mobility and NCDOT.

One has to wonder what happened and when the Town knew of this change and why it wasn't communicated to the public.

The new bridge is considerably wider with 5 foot sidewalks and 6 foot bike lanes on each side.  This is something Davidson Town Hall had wanted for years along with more roundabouts.  Cutting down the trees and scarring the entrance to town from the interstate appears to be an unintended, or just unconsiddered, consequence of that desire.






HB514...Municipal Charter Schools on the way?

News of an interesting bill filed last week landed here at aShortChronicle HQ thanks to an eagle eyed regular reader.

HB514 was filed by Matthews Rep Bill Brawley on March 28th.  The bill would allow certain municipalities in Mecklenburg and Union Counties to apply for their own charter schools.  Last year Matthews indicated its intentions to pursue a move for more independence from CMS after frustration with the CMS's reassignment process boiled over.  See that story here.

It's certainly an interesting idea, but as of now Brawley is the only sponsor.  This was filed as what's called a "local bill" and only impacts the towns of Matthews and Mint Hill in Brawley's district.  Typically, local bills need unanimous support from the county delegations to move along, but it is unclear how that might work here since only one district is impacted.

aShortChronicle checked with North Meck Rep John Bradford on where he stands on this bill.  Bradford sits on the House K-12 Education committee where this bill currently sits. Here's what he had to say.

"The bill you reference is designed for two towns, specifically, as a a pilot.

I support charter schools and parent choice. If this bill passes, I would like to see how this works out in the two towns. I think CMS would, at first, be against it but it might be a creative way for CMS to offer some alternatives like a magnet program. If they had their own Charter school(s) then the funding would still stay within the CMS system versus flowing outside the system into a separate Charter program. "

So, while this bill doesn't impact North Mecklenburg for now it is worth thinking about in the context of North Mecklenburg.

If this bill was to pass AND the pilots were successful AND the local towns were allowed to use it, it could become a possibility.   That's a lot of "ANDs", but if it were to happen Davidson, Cornelius, and Huntersville could effectively form a North Mecklenburg "district" and break away from CMS via a local network of charter schools.  The towns would sponsor the schools individually under this legislation, but could possibly operate them as part of some sort of interlocal agreement providing some level of independence from the town boards.

An interesting proposition to say the least.

If you support this bill or would like to see it expanded to include the North Mecklenburg towns, contact Rep Bradford to let him know.

His NCGA email is John.Bradford@ncleg.net.

Davidson Town Hall overseeing divisive time of its own making

Davidson is currently going through a divisive period in town history.

One can hardly turn around - in the virtual world in particular – without running across an organized group opposing something emanating from official Towndom.  One could almost feel sorry for the staff and electeds if not for the fact that most of the various controversies originate from Town Hall itself.

Showing that activism is alive and well in this college town, citizen activists have been pushing back hard against Town Hall initiatives with varying degrees of success.  What makes Town Hall’s actions all the more surprising is that multiple controversial issues are coming to a head in an election year.

Generalized opposition started in September 2015 with the “Paradise Lost” Facebook group forming immediately after the initial ideas for the “Catalyst Project” came to light.  The project to redevelop Town Hall and the surrounding area generated intense opposition.  Ultimately, the Town jettisoned the idea of a multi-use development with significant private sector input.

Fast forward to recent months and one sees Town Hall fending off rising opposition to implementing its Rural Area Plan.  Passed last year, the RAP recommends several changes to development patterns for thousands of acres primarily in the municipal Extra Territorial Jurisdiction (ETJ).  In December, the Town quietly moved forward on the important step of condoning critical water and sewer extensions to the ETJ.  However, rezoning large swaths of land for more intense development has been another matter.

Citizens did not want this mass rezoning to pass.  Nearly 750 signatures were gathered in an online petition asking Commissioners to hold off.  Signs opposing this rezoning dotted yards across town for weeks leading up to the March 28th vote.  So, it was hard to watch as Commissioners brushed those concerns aside, delivered what can best be described as condescending lectures from the dais on why citizen opposition was wrong, and passed the rezonings anyway.

But, that’s not all - not by a long shot.  Other voter-snubbing initiatives are also underway.

Davidson Town Hall is pushing development of 19 acres it owns off of Beaty Street.  That effort has generated another opposition group organizing on Facebook under the “Save West Davidson’s Tree Canopy” page.  This group has been vocal – packing recent Board meetings.  They are upset about the possibility of losing this land to development.  Concerns about traffic, loss of greenspace, negative impact to surrounding property values, and the speed with which this project is moving forward are just some of the problems listed by those who don’t like what Town Hall is selling.

The Town is also in the driver’s seat pushing forward a public facilities project to expand capacity for the Fire and Police departments as well as more parking and significantly more space for staff.  While few would deny the public safety departments need more space, concern about the necessity and potential cost of the other facilities expansions is riling some residents.  Making matters worse, at a recent Civics 101 class put on by the Town, Town Manager Jamie Justice indicated putting these expenses before the voters in the form of a bond referendum was “not recommended”.  “What if the voters say no?” he asked.

Taken together, these two projects might go by another name - “The Catalyst’s Revenge”.

Eighteen months after the original Catalyst Project reared its ugly head and was subsequently beaten back by citizen pressure, these two projects bring together all of the elements which ignited that original controversy.  The scope, size, and cost of these projects as well as expanded Town involvement in increasing development activity all bring back memories of those original Catalyst Project meetings.

Rather than learning from mistakes in how the Catalyst Project was rolled out and with the Board’s recent vote on the RAP as a guide, Davidson Town Hall has chosen a different path than one might expect.  Instead of giving voters what voters want, Town Hall is giving voters what Town Hall wants.

That’s a strange approach any year – stranger still for an election year.  How that turns put will be interesting to watch.

This post first appeared in this week's Herald Weekly at HuntersvilleHerald.com.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

"Why now?" question lingers after Davidson rezoning passes

By now readers probably know, Davidson's Board approved the mass rezoning of large parts of its Rural Area at last Tuesday's meeting on March 28th.

The meeting was hard to watch as a sense of inevitability had settled over efforts to slow or change the overall direction.  If you have the stomach for it, you can see the meeting here.

Once again, speaker after speaker took to the podium to challenge the rezoning - receiving vigorous applause from the audience in the process.  One speaker who owned a small parcel impacted did speak for the rezoning.  Notably, none of the large landowners who stand to benefit most off of this rezoning spoke at all - a sure sign the outcome was a foregone conclusion.

A petition with over 700 signatures opposing the rezoning was delivered to the dais.  It was acknowledged and then politely set aside.

Then, Commissioners spoke.

Commissioner Stacey Anderson started off her comments with what sounded like a swipe at those citizens who had opposed the rezoning. She managed to impugn the citizen opposition by saying lies get around the world before truth has a chance to get its pants on.

Interestingly however, Commissioner Anderson was the only Commissioner to ultimately vote a few minutes later the way aShortChronicle had suggested.  She voted for the planning area text amendments and against the rezoning which is exactly what we recommended here.

Commissioner Beth Cashion gave what might be considered by some to be a lecture to the public.  She also read a lengthy quote.  It was something from Eleanor Roosevelt about great civilizations crumbling or stagnating because they would rather die than change.  She compared Davidson to her home town of Mt Airy saying Mt Airy was bigger in land area but smaller in population than Davidson.  Why that matters is still unclear.

The point seemed to be lost that it was the rapid pace of change, not change itself, the opposition was primarily trying to slow.  Many speakers opposing the rezoning have said repeatedly they supported the RAP as a plan, but were concerned its wholesale implementation at once would have unintended consequences.

Commissioner Cashion closed by saying she hoped people continued the conversation regardless of whether they left the meeting with feelings of anger or happiness.

That's certain to be the case.

Finally, Commissioner Rodney Graham spoke.

Channelling his best John Kerry, Graham explained why he was now for the plan when he was originally against it.  Graham voted against the RAP last year, but for its implementation last week.  He sited some changes mostly to the parts of the plan that would remain rural as to why he changed his position.  When it came to the mass rezoning of the parcels designated for more intense development, the 1300 acres that sparked much of the opposition's concerns, he simply said he disagreed with those concerns about this rezoning accelerating development.

Time will tell.

Graham also touched on the question of "why now".   His reasoning again was focused on parcels that will remain rural.  There are some rural area parcels for sale now so this saved more open space.  This rational of course ignores the fact that adopting the text amendments, but not the map amendments would have achieved the same thing.  If he had voted as Commissioner Anderson did, his reasoning might have made sense.

No.  Commissioner Graham did not answer the question "why now"?

Why vote on March 28th for a plan that won't actually go into effect until July because the town is waiting on a new TIA study?  That was stated repeatedly as part of this debate.  Why vote on it now if as the Commissioners seem to believe it really won't spark development anytime soon?

Here's a practical reason if you are an elected official.

This is an election year and filing for office runs from July 7th to July 21st.  Do you think incumbents would want to vote on this rezoning in the middle of that filing period or just after it when it would become apparent some were lame ducks if they decided to not run for re-election?

To that end aShortChronicle asked the Board on Monday if any of them were able comment on plans to seek re-election.

Commissioners Anderson and Cashion said"no comment".  Commissioner Graham said he wasn't running for Mayor but also had no comment on his plans for another run at Commissioner.  Commissoners Fuller and Jenest didn't respond.

Some things to remember a few short months from now.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Donnybrook a brewin' for Davidson Mayor....John Woods announces re-election bid

In what may come as a surprise to some in town, Davidson Mayor John Woods announced via a blast email Monday afternoon that he would in fact seek re-election this year.

Due to Woods's controversial positions on numerous issues ranging from Mi-Connection, a grow or die stance on development, and his support for the I77 HOT Lanes project, speculation was rampant as to whether or not he would run again this year.

From the announcement, Woods says...

"I am pleased and excited to announce that I plan to run for re-election in November 2017 as Mayor of Davidson.

I have served in public office for 20 years: 10 years as commissioner (with six of those years as Mayor Pro-Tem) and 10 years as Mayor.

It has always been important to me to take each term one-at-a-time, concentrating on the work before us and giving my full attention to making the best decisions for our town.

The formal filing period for the November 8 election is typically during the first two weeks of July. However, because of heightened interest in this coming election, I have been asked whether or not I was going to run again. The answer is definitively YES."
Woods goes on to say he won't be formally campaigning until after the July filing period saying he will be focusing on issues before the Board and to help "make the best decisions for our community".

The fact that Woods has announced this early is rather surprising.  It's a testament to the fact he has some serious competition this time around - easily the most serious of his tenure as Mayor.

Well known native, activist, and son of a former mayor, Rusty Knox has formally announced and is planning a vigorous campaign.  Also, former Commissioners Laurie Venzon has formed a campaign committee and is raising money in preparstion for a run as well.

Woods has proven himself to be a tenacious campaigner when challenged, but with so much water under the bridge on issue after issue one has to seriously wonder if his may be one election too many.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Davidson supports massive rail transit tax increase...

Brian Jenest and John Woods
Davidson Commissioners held an hour long meeting with CATS CEO John Lewis on Tuesday afternoon to hear the sales pitch for a new rail transit study of the North Corridor.

For nearly two decades the North Corridor has been envisioned as commuter rail on the existing Norfolk Southern rail line that runs through the LKN towns.  However, Lewis explained that last year the railroad made clear in no uncertain terms that it would not be entertaining any more shared projects with passenger rail on its lines.

The above screen shot was taken at the exact moment Lewis was explaining this failure to reach an agreement with the railroad for the so called Red Line. Commissioner Brian Jenest and in particular Mayor John Woods have taken the lead in promoting the Red Line over the years.  Their position has always been something like "Oh, the railroad will eventually come around."  Clearly, that has turned out not to be the case and the above picture says it all.

So, what does Davidson's board decide to do when CATS has its hand out for more rail transit study money?  They did what they always do.  Ask softball questions before going along.

Commissioner Beth Cashion took the lead in asking Lewis a series of leading questions.  Really, her questions were more like requests for the CATS talking points on how to respond to citizens who oppose throwing good money after bad when it comes to pursuing rail transit.  Commissioner Fuller raised what seemed like might be opposition to the study by pointing out it was dependent on $6 billion in funding falling out of the sky.  Unfortunately, he failed to call Mr Lewis on the obvious flaw in his answer.

After spending a good bit of time explaining why CATS needed to re-study rail transit in the North Corridor, Lewis explained the financing in response to Commissioner Fuller's question.  In the past, rail transit projects were funded with the following formula - 50% Federal, 25% State, and 25% Local.  However, the State has since put a 10% cap on its spending towards these projects.  Lewis described this reduction in State money as a "15% gap" - minimizing the financial hole as much as possible.

The truth is that it is more like a 40% gap.

That's because the local 25% portion can not be funded out of the existing 1/2 cent transit tax here in Mecklenburg County.  There is no capacity in the existing tax to fund more rail lines.  That's the giant elephant in the room, and every single person sitting at the dias in Davidson on Tuesday knows it.

Instead of calling Mr Lewis on that misinformation, they let it slide.

The end result of the Davidson Board supporting CATS in its continuing endeavor to build more rail lines is the acceptance of higher taxes and/or gutting Davidson's tax base to support it.

That's what Davidson's Board really did by continuing to support CATS.

Friday, March 24, 2017

RAP Armageddon on Tuesday...Commissioners set to vote

§ 160A-75.  Voting.  No member shall be excused from voting except upon matters involving the consideration of the member's own financial interest or official conduct or on matters on which the member is prohibited from voting under G.S. 14-234, 160A-381(d), or 160A-388(e)(2). In all other cases except votes taken under G.S. 160A-385, a failure to vote by a member who is physically present in the council chamber, or who has withdrawn without being excused by a majority vote of the remaining members present, shall be recorded as an affirmative vote.

The above section of Chapter 160A of the NC General Statutes covers voting procedures when it comes to NC municipalities.  In legalese it outlines the state's arcane rules about when a local elected official must and must not vote when there may be a conflict of interest.  We've covered this topic extensively over the years here at aShortChronicle, so we won't rehash it again other than to say it is generally absurdly hard for Commissioners to not vote.


The one exception is for  votes taken under G.S. 160A-385 - votes involving rezoning.


When it comes to rezoning, it is so fundamentally important that the public feel everything is done above board in land use decisions that conscience and good faith is allowed to rule rather than just dollars and cents.  The mere appearance of a conflict is enough for a Commissioner to unilaterally decide to not vote and not have that vote automatically count as a yes.


And that brings us to this coming Tuesday...


At the Davidson Board March 28th meeting, Commissioners are scheduled to vote on the controversial mass rezoning of the town's Rural Area.


Citizens do not want this action to pass.  Over 700 signatures have been captured in an online petition with dozens more captured at the Davidson Farmers Market.  Signs opposing this rezoning have dotted yards across town for weeks.  It has become one of the hottest topics around town in what will certainly be an interesting election year.

When Commissioners vote on Tuesday it will be very important to remember the following.

There needs to be no question this vote has not been structured in a way allowing the letter of the law to be skirted while trampling on the spirit of the law when it comes to conflicts.  aShortChronicle has confirmed with the town attorney that these votes will be taken under G.S. 160A-385 as outlined above.  If a Commissioner chooses to not vote it will not count as a yes.

Secondly, the public will know soon enough if this vote was taken as a "lame duck" by any Commissioner deciding not to run for reelection.   Campaign filing is just a few short months away.  Any problems that arise down the road as a result of passing this rezoning this way will forever be linked to Commissioners who vote for this.  A lame duck vote in support of such a controversial topic will only be seen as tainting that vote even more.

On Tuesday, Commissioners should not vote on the Map Amendments aka rezonings on their agenda, or they should vote them down.  That is what the public wants.  Most importantly, anyone with the slightest chance of a conflict should not vote at all.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

More development on the way for South Main? Rumor mill says maybe.

Another potential large development project may be in the works for South Main.  aShortChronicle has gotten word that the land pictured in this ad may be in play again.


This is the old Davidson Clinic site and the two residential parcels next two it.  They total just under 6 acres.

A couple of years ago these were in play, but nothing ever came of it.  However, a project of this size could be massive.  As a frame of reference, the Town owned land around Town Hall is only 3.5 acres.

While we are still in the information gathering stage on this story, here is what we do know at this point.

When the Town was asked directly if there was a project in the works there,  this was the answer.

"Our planning department has meetings with developers related to potential projects on parcels regularly.  We do not have an application on this site at this time."

This is the standard non-answer received from Town when a plan may be in the works but an official application has not been submitted.  The Town won't say yes or no to that kind of question even though many meetings may occur prior to an official application submission.  A public records request has also been submitted to see if more can be determined.

aShortChronicle also asked the real estate agent listed in the ad the same question.  That answer?

"Let me check with my clients and the developer and I will get back to you..."

That was 5 days ago, and that certainly sounds like something is happening.  A developer would not be involved otherwise.

With so much going on in the development arena - particularly the town-owned Beaty Street property - it may be a good idea for the Town to hit pause on its own public sector development plans until it knows what's happening here in the private sector.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Voter input on public facilities "not recommended"

Davidson is in the midst of collecting public feedback on a proposed set of public facilities including expanded town hall and more parking.

In a press release sent out Friday the town started to make its case.

As Davidson’s population has grown from 4,000 in 1990 to almost 13,000 today, we have outgrown our existing town hall. Ensuring adequate space for our police and fire departments is particularly critical. We need to invest in our public facilities in order to keep pace with our service needs. We will study the approximately 4 acres of town-owned land on which our current town hall sits.

This is not the catalyst project where we were considering private-public partnerships to solve some of our space and parking needs on this land. However, as part of the catalyst process, we heard from hundreds of citizens that recognize our lack of parking downtown and a need for space at town hall.

At their July 12, 2016 meeting, the Davidson Board of Commissioners asked town staff to move forward with planning for our public facilities and to look at parking options.

Town staff have been working with a steering committee comprised of citizen experts in the fields of planning, architecture, construction, etc. to help guide the process and select an architect. Architect Creech & Associates have many years of experience in designing effective town halls, have conducted a space needs assessment of Davidson Town Hall, and will facilitate the public workshops. This spring they will create a preliminary design based on citizen feedback and then provide us with a budget estimate. In early summer, plan options and a budget will be presented to the board of commissioners for a decision on whether to move forward with the project

There is even a survey to gather input (none of the above is not an option).

However, the Town of Davidson likely does not want your feedback on one aspect of this project - how the town will pay for it.

At Thursday's Civics 101 class Town Manager Jamie Justice was asked if the town might use General Obligation Bonds, sometimes called GO Bonds.  GO Bonds require voter approval.

aShortChronicle was interested in the response as we've been trying to get an answer to that question.  In fact, just on March 9th Public Information Officer, Christina Shaul answered that question by saying...

"If the Davidson Board of Commissioners decide to go forward with a public facilities project, once they have a better sense of the cost estimate, they will examine a variety of options to finance it. This will be a topic at multiple board meetings this spring and summer, so we encourage citizens to listen to the discussions and share their thoughts."

So, what did Town Manager, Jamie Justice, say to the Citizen at Civics 101 just a week later when asked if public facilities spending might be put up for a vote?

"Not recommended," was the answer.  While trying to explain that answer Justice asked what he seemed to think was rhetorical question.  "What if the voters say no?"

Painting what will likely be the picture for how the town will strong arm this one through, Justice tried to justify avoiding the voters by playing the public safety card.  Davidson's Police and Fire Departments do in fact need more space.  What would they do if voters turned this down???

That argument however ignores another important fact.  This public facilities study is also looking at parking and significantly expanded space for the rest of Town staff.  Those things could end up being quite expensive and are also less necessary.

Justice did at least close his answer by saying ultimately the decision to seek voter input was up to the Board.  Regardless, citizens and voters should be very wary of any plan not strong enough to face them without reservation.

You can watch this exchange starting at the 15:30 mark of this video.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Rezonings make critical water extensions more likely

This past week aShortChronicle told readers about the massive amount of money in the land involved in the mass rezoning Town of Davidson staff and elected officials are pushing as part of implementing the Rural Area Plan (RAP) -$70,000,000, give or take a few million.

One of the reasons the large amount of money involved is important became a little more clear at the February 27th Commissioner work session during a discussion led by Town Manager Jamie Justice.  That discussion centered on how water and sewer extensions to support development could move forward.

First a little background...

Water and sewer via CMUD is critical to development.  For many years Davidson effectively prevented any significant development in the Rural Area by withholding approval for these extensions.  That is until last year when Commissioners voted to allow extensions to be put on CMUDs 5 year Capital Improvement Plan or CIP.  This was a critical step in implementing the RAP that went relativy unnoticed by the public at the December 13th, 2016 Board Meeting.

The importance of this action when it comes to the on-going discussion about the controversial mass rezoning can not be overstated.  In fact, in a lengthy back and forth on Facebook regarding the rezoning, Davidson Commissioner Rodney Graham said people who oppose major development in the Rural Area should focus on water and sewer, not the rezoning.  It's kind of hard to do that however when the Board has already taken what may be the most important step by allowing these extensions onto the CMUD CIP.

Effectively, without water and sewer extensions, major development can not and would not happen.  See here. for the CMUD CIP

(To his credit Commissioner Graham voted against the CMUD action.  However, he has since become a strong proponent of the proposed rezonings.)

Now, back to that February 27th meeting...

At this meeting Town Manager Justice explained how these water and sewer extensions would be paid for to support development.  In what would seem to be an important point, Justice said the extensions the Board approved in December were in year 5 of the 5 year CMUD CIP, but that does not guarantee they would be built in that time frame.  These extensions would only be built as "reimbursable" projects Justice explained.  This means they would only happen if a developer comes forward and requests them and signs a reimbursement agreement with CMUD to actually pay for them.  Basically, development itself pays for the extensions.

aShortChronicle asked the town what exactly this means.  Could this actually speed up development by speeding up water and sewer?

Here is he answer from Public Information Officer Christna Shaul, copying Justice.

"A reimbursable project could come forward at any time, including before year 5 of the 5-year CIP. If a proposed development were to come forward, a timeline would be determined at that time however, working out the details and then the actual construction would take some time – it could be years to come to fruition."

At the February 27th meeting, another point was made - repeatedly - by Justice and Commissioners.  Any extensions would still have to be approved by Commissioners.  Again, giving the appearance the town would maintain control.

aShortChronicle also asked the Town a question on this.  What would be a reason the town might not grant such approval.  The answer was surprising.  Again, from the town PIO...

"Some possible reasons to not approve a sewer extension would be that the property has not been annexed into the town limits or the zoning has not been approved." (Emphasis added.)

Think about that for a minute.

If a developer comes forward with a project requiring water and sewer extension one reason the town might not approve the extension is that the zoning for the project has not been approved.  Yet, giving pre-approval to more intense zoning is exactly what the Town of Davidson staff and Commissioners are pushing to accomplish.

Alternatively, if the town grants this pre-approved more intense zoning it is effectively making it more difficult to say "no" to future requests to extend water and sewer.  They will have already asked to put it on the CMUD CIP.  They will have also approved the required zoning.  A developer or landowner with a by right project under the new zoning would have a very good case to say the town would be treating them unfairly if it did not approve the water and sewer extension when all of its previous actions show it intended for more intense development to occur.

Finally, we go back to the money.  With the land involved in this rezoning worth tens of millions of dollars, there will be more than enough money available to help fund these extensions.  One can easily see a scenario where a developer offers to buy land for a significant sum, but asks the land owner to chip in on the water and sewer extension.  If the land is worth significantly more with these extensions, there will be incentive to take deal.

Between the money involved with the land and the town's previous actions on water and sewer it is certainly possible these critical infrastructure extensions happen sooner rather than later - particularly if the Town moves forward with the RAP rezoninng.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Huntersville leading the charge against CATS new train dreams

In a follow up to Thursday morning's post, aShortChronicle got a quick email from Huntersville Mayor John Aneralla.

Mayor Aneralla pointed out some interesting notes from Monday's H'ville town board meeting as it relates to the CATS plan to spend $6 billion on three simultaneous light rail projects.

Check out the last item under section "IX Other Business".  The notes are in bold.

Discussion on Charlotte Area Transit System request to study a fixed rail alternative to the current Red Line plan.(Mayor Aneralla)

General consensus of Board to have Mayor prepare resolution for the Board's consideration rejecting the current CATS budget proposal for a Red Line alternative and instead endorse a plan to use the study money for improved bus and related transportation needs.

This shows a great deal of common sense, and it would be great to see the other North Mecklenburg towns join in this effort through the newly formed North Meck Alliance.  While among the three towns, Cornelius often takes the lead in opposing bad ideas, it's nice to see Huntersville jump in on this one.

Getting Davidson to do the right thing will likely be the heavy lift however - as it always is when it comes to regional boondoggles.

Davidson Mayor Woods has been the staunchest of defenders of the failed Red Line.  Back in 2011 he won the "Citizen of the Year" award from the Lake Norman Citizen for his Don Quixotesque efforts to push that project forward.  When listening to the Parsons Brinkerhoff consultants running that show back then, one got the distinct impression Davidson staff spent a lot of time and energy on that failed effort.

Here's hoping Davidson's Board doesn't allow that kind of thing to happen again.

Will North Mecklenburg be fooled again by the CATS rail transit pushers?

Everyone has heard the saying “Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.”  But what is the saying when someone tries to fool you three times?  Something along the lines of “Do you think I’m stupid?!?!” comes to mind.

Yet, that’s exactly what the transit planners at CATS appear to be thinking when it comes to their rail transit plans.

CATS recently launched a new attempt to breathe life into its stalled long range rail transit plan with a proposal to simultaneously build three light rail corridors out Independence Blvd, to Charlotte Douglas, and yes, to North Mecklenburg.

The catch?  No money is left in the original half cent transit tax to pay for any more lines, and using “back of a napkin” math, this new plan comes in at a whopping $6 billion, or roughly $2 billion per line.

If there is anything good about this idea, it is that the long planned Commuter Rail idea for North Mecklenburg (aka The Red Lline) which would have used Norfolk Southern’s tracks appears to be officially on the back burner and likely off the stove all together. (Commuter Rail and light rail while both being trains use different technology and track gauges.)

Transit planners and elected officials who have supported the Red Line never understood something very fundamental about dealing with the railroad.  Railroads are probably the only companies that aren’t afraid of the government.  A longtime friend told me that years ago when he was the head engineer on a major construction project in Washington, DC impacted by a railroad.  It is nearly impossible to use eminent domain against railroads due to rights granted when the railroads were originally built.  Also, just about any change to a railroad can be construed as impacting interstate commerce.  That makes forcing them to do something they don’t want to do nearly impossible.  The Red Line never really had a chance because of this.

However, just because Commuter Rail to North Mecklenburg may be dead that doesn’t mean Light Rail is the next logical idea.  Here are a few reasons why.

The most obvious reason is the cost.  For CATS to raise just its portion of a $6 billion effort it will require significantly increasing the existing ½ cent transit tax, gutting the future property tax base through some form of massive tax increment financing or special assessment districts, or some combination of all three.

Other reasons to be skeptical of this plan can be seen in a series of articles run in The Charlotte Observer since the plan’s February 17th announcement.  These articles weren’t written as a series, but the sum total of their message really throws cold water on the idea of spending $6 billion on more trains.

On the 18th, there was an opinion piece by the leader of Sustain Charlotte advocating making parking in Charlotte more difficult by eliminating minimum parking standards for development. Scarce parking equals mass transit riders goes the thinking.  On the 22nd, there was an article about long term falling mass transit ridership.  Compared to 2012 when ridership and average annual gas prices hit all time peaks, CATS 2017 ridership is down 13% year to date when compared to that peak. Then on the 24th, there was an article outlining the looming competition from self-driving cars.  Again in 2012, when Randall O’Toole of the CATO Institute came to North Meck to caution against the Red Line he mentioned self-driving cars and local officials snickered.  Now, a few short years later these vehicles are seen as a real possibility and real competition.

After being mislead about the real prospects for the Red Line in the transit tax and tax repeal votes of 1998 and 2007, North Mecklenburg voters should take a clear message from these data points.

In light of the costs and the all but certain tax increases, considering the decreasing ridership of local mass transit options and increasing competition from more convenient technology driven choices, is investing $6 billion in more rail transit the right thing to do?  The answer to that should be obvious.

Bonus Observation: Self driving buses are on the way.  If a few years they could likely form a core for a new, more flexible, and les expensive form of mass transit.

Self-driving bus with no back-up driver nears California street

Self driving bus that talks and listens to passengers coming to US cities within months

This post first appeared in this week’s Herald Weekly at HuntersvilleHerald.com

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Davidson rural land for rezoning possibly worth $70 million?!?!

That's a HUGE number for all the land that has been under discussion as part of the Town of Davidson efforts towards implementing its Rural Area Plan (RAP).  However, the number can be reasonably implied from the tax stamp shown here.  It's the tax stamp on the deed for the old Westmoreland Farm property which is now under construction by Lennar for its West Branch neighborhood off of Davidson-Concord Road.

According to the Mecklenburg County Register of Deeds, Lennar Carolinas, LLC bought the 165 acre Westmoreland Farm on January 20th, 2017.  While the county's Polaris system does not list a sale price, the excise tax stamp of $21,000 would indicate a sale price of $10,500,000 - coming out to $63,646 per acre of raw land.  Excise tax is $1 per $500 of value.

$10,500,000 / $500 = $21,000

That's a whopper of a sum to be sure, but now let's take that $63,636 per acre and apply it to the land Davidson Commissioners and Staff want to rezone for more intense development as part of implementing the Rural Area Plan.  Under the latest plan unveiled at the February 27th work session, roughly 1100 acres will be rezoned from Rural to Neighborhood General, Neighborhood Edge, or Neighborhood Services.  That's about 150 acres less than earlier versions of the proposal.

The Westmoreland Farm property was rezoned to Neighborhood General in 2015 as part of the rewrite of the Davidson Planning Ordinance. While not all acres are created equal when it comes to development, this provides a good comparison.  Much of the land Lennar bought will remain open space as part of the West Branch project - roughly 50%.  Much of that open space is due to existing floodplain and reserved viewshed which make the land economically undevelopable.  That 50% open space is more than required for the proposed rezonings in the RAP.  Neighborhood Edge for example requires 45% open space under the proposed plan.

Take all of that together, and the 1100 acres of raw land the town wants to rezone could eventually be worth $70,000,000 (give or take a few million).

1100 x $63,636 = $70,000,000

Eventually being the operative word in that calculation.

There is one thing the Westmoreland property had that much of the proposed rezoned land does not have at the moment - access to water and sewer.  That is critical to any large scale development. However, the town has already approved CMUD putting these extensions on their 5 year Capital Improvement Plan.

How long it might be before these are actually built is the subject for another post.  Just being on a 5 year plan doesn't ensure it takes that amount of time.  It could be longer - or shorter.

Check back later this week for more on that.

Lennar West Branch  Construction