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.