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."

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