Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Mi-Connection subsidy drop stalls in new budget

The long march towards profitability for Mi-Connection appears to be stalling.

On Tuesday, the Town of Davidson sent out a release on the municipally owned cable company providing the latest numbers and projections for next year's budget.  In FY2018 Mooresville and Davidson will have to pony up $2,931,038 to subsidize the company.

Under the current agreement with Mooresville, Davidson pays a maximum of $1,000,000 per year in subsidy and anything over that based on the Town's 30% ownership percentage accrues with Mooresville.  If there is good news in the current numbers it's that the Davidson's share for just the current year is below the $1,000,000 mark.  30% of $2,931,038 equals $879,311.  However, Davidson will still pay a $1,000,000 subsidy this year due to past accruals on its Mooresville credit card.

Even though it doesn't help Davidson's actual budget this year, that annual amount under $1,000,000 is the lowest since Mi-Connection first went into the red back in FY2010 when Davidson owed just $181,000.  After that year the deficits and subsidies exploded.  All told, including the upcoming FY2018 budget, Davidson will have subsidized Mi-Connection a total of over $11.5 million over the years.

That's the good news.

The bad news is that the a annual drop in overall subsidy appears to have stalled going into FY2018.  aShortChronicle delved into its email archives for these annual budget announcements from the Town to compile the below chart.

Notice, the projected drop in overall subsidy of just $118,636.  That's a significantly smaller drop than in recent years.  The announcement from the Town did not offer a reason for this slowdown going into FY2018.  aShortChronicle also noticed that previous announcements included the previous year numbers as well to highlight the significant year over year drops.  The announcement for FY2018 did not, a possible sign this much smaller drop was not lost on the Town either.

If the pace of improvement had continued at the previous rate, Davidson was in for a bit of a "windfall" in coming years as the annual subsidies would have dropped well below the $1 million mark and the Mooresville credit card was paid off.  That would start freeing up money for tax relief or other needs.

Now, it looks like that date is put off at least another year.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Davidson Commissioners to send ironic letter opposing Mooresville's Lake Davidson neighborhood

"The one thing I don't see in here is this whole concern about the intensity of the neighborhood - how big it is; how many houses it is; how many people you're trying to put in that space compared to the R3 zoning it was.

It seems a little bit like it's not strong enough.  It's like we have some concerns, but basically, we don't like it at all."

That was Davidson Commissioner Stacey Anderson referring to a draft letter put together by Planning Director Jason Burdett on behalf of the Board.  At last week's Board meeting the Board discussed sending the letter to Mooresville expressing their concerns around the proposed Lake Davidson neighborhood in Mooresville's ETJ right on Davidson's border.  Anderson's comment came as the discussion opened.  See video at minute 160 here.

Commissioners spent several minutes critiquing the Mooresville project.  There were questions and concerns about Mooresville's process, by right versus conditional zoning, and whether this plan fit within the stated plans for the area.  Mayor Woods told of speaking to area land owners and there being little detail on the actual future plan at this point.  They also danced around the fact that it's a bit unusual for one local Board to offer direct criticism or even suggestions to another elected Board.

However, what may have been the most unusual thing of all was the level of seemingly unnoticed irony in this discussion considering that what Mooresville is doing is effectively the same thing as what Davidson just recently did itself with its mass RAP rezoning. To allow for more density in major portions of its rural area, Davidson uptiered the zoning of 1100 acres from Rural to Neighborhood Edge, Neighborhood General, or Neighborhood Services - all of which allow much more density than Rural.

During the RAP debate, many of the concerns expressed by Davidson's citizens were the exact same ones expressed by Davidson's Commissioners in the discussion about the Lake Davidson neighborhood.  One has to wonder if Davidson Commissioners could hear themselves as they expressed them.  Did they hear the irony?

When the citizens expressed them about the RAP, Davidson Commissioners rammed through their plan anyway.  Those same Commissioners shouldn't be surprised if they get the same treatment from Mooresville on June 5th.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Beaty Street: Lawyers, threats, and karma at Davidson Town Hall

Davidson Town Hall was the set for some high drama last Tuesday - drama worthy of an episode of Matlock or even the climactic scene from a John Grisham novel.  The action included:
  • Three very southern lawyers sitting around a Town Hall conference table sort of sizing each other up while being unfailingly polite.
  • A threat to clear the room when the gallery got a little vocal.
  • A closing argument one-liner that will forever live in Davidson's collective memory.
The scene starts at the 1hr16min mark of this video from Town Hall.  It has already shattered records for the number of views of anything Davidson Town Hall has on file.

In what appeared to be an orchestrated event intended to finally quash opposition to Town Hall's plans for the 19 acre Beaty Street property, former Town Attorney Rick Kline was summoned to Davidson Town Hall on Tuesday as an "expert witness" of sorts.  Kline was the attorney when the Town of Davidson bought the majority of the Beaty Street land back in 1985.  He should know if the land was intended as a park, right?

Over several minutes of questioning, mostly by Commissioner Jim Fuller, himself an attorney and former judge, Kline recounted the history of the purchase as he remembered it and according to "his file".  Meanwhile, there's a gentleman in the back of the room who has stood multiple times throughout it all as if asking to be recognized.  Who was he?

As the story began to unfold, Kline said he didn't remember the land being purchased with any "strings attached", either "legally or non-legally".  He said that in spite of his own documents referencing a park multiple times.

At that point the attendee in the back of the room who had stood speaks up and says, "I just wanted to let you know I'm here.  I'm Ralph Clontz.  I was there."  To that, the room erupts into applause. Who is Ralph Clontz?  Well, he turns out to be none other than Ralph Clontz III, the grandson of Venie Clontz who sold the property to Davidson over 30 years ago.

Kline proceeds to say all the documents that mention a park were from him as if to parse the fact that references to a park were just his and that there was no obligation for a park because he didn't remember it that way.  That of course flew in the face of at least one document aShortChronicle showed readers in this piece from Tuesday AM.  That document had been circulating  on social media for days.  The crowd grew restless at these conflicting statements by Mr Kline coming on behalf of the Town's position.

In response to the restless audience, one can hear Commissioners tell the crowd to settle down. One of them blurts out "we'll clear the room if we have to!!"  (Has that actually ever happened in Davidson - a real threat to throw the public out of Town Hall???)

Doing the right thing, Commissioner Fuller asks if the Board would "suspend its rules" of normal procedure and allow Mr Clontz to speak.  Having little choice with a room full of people, they allow it.  If the room had been empty who knows what would have as happened.  One can easily see Mr Clontz being asked to "set up an appointment with staff" to discuss in detail - a tactic sometimes employed to keep uncomfortable discussion out of the Board Room.

Instead, the public heard several minutes of quote unquote "testimony" that directly contradicted the Town's star witness, Mr Kline.

Mr Clontz, now the third attorney in the discussion, recounted clearly knowing his grandmother intended to sell that property to Davidson for use as a park.  Saying :  "I know.  It was important to her.  She believed that this was going to be used for a park."  When describing the negotiations between his grandmother and the Town, Ralph Clontz told of the sale being at "somewhat of a discount", saying "she was trying to do something very wonderful for the Town of Davidson - that being a park.  That's what we thought was going to happen."

There were a few more minutes of discussion, then Mr Clontz says  "I just hate for my grandmother to have been so generous and then...poof."

To that Commissioner Jenest interjects that all the proposals discussed include at least some park uses.  After acknowledging that as "good to know" Mr Clontz goes back to the original intent of the sale with this closing line.

"You can decide to ignore the wishes of a little old lady who was very generous if you want to, but...(dramatic pause)...that's some bad karma."

Being legally required and following the original intent of something aren't necessarily the same things.  So, it looks like the Town of Davidson has a decision to make - do what's legal or do what's right.

Whichever one it chooses, the jury (aka the citizens) will be watching closely.

Friday, May 26, 2017

100s of multufamily units coming to Potts Street per application

The hurricane of development pounding Davidson just went from a Category 3 to a Category 4, and it unfortunately shows no signs of stopping.

An application dated Monday 5/19 showed up on the town website this week - exactly when is unclear - for something simply name the "Potts Development".   The application proposes 19 townhomes and 276 multi-family units.  Whether those would be condos or apartments is also unclear, but recent development patterns would say apartments are likely.

The developer is Crescent Communities, the development spinoff of Duke Energy.  The rest of the development team includes all too familiar names on big developed projects in Davidson.  Local attorney Susan Irvin filed the application, and once again the firm of Davidson Commissioner Brian Jenest did the land planning.

Per the application, this appears to be a "by right" development which likely means Davidson Commissioners won't vote on it.

Also per the application, the traffic impact analysis is underway, but one can be sure the TIA will say impact from this project is being "mitigaged" by both the Potts Sloan Beaty corridor an the reconfiguring of the Potts/115 intersection currently being planned.  Both of those projects are being made possible with I77 HOT lanes "bonus allocation" dollars.  Incidentally, Commissioner Jenest has been a staunch supporter of that controversial effort to expand I77 with the toll lanes that also generated those bonus dollars.

aShortChronicle noticed something interesting about this plan when looking at the pictures that came with the application.  They made us ask the question "why does this development not use the entire property?"  Readers will notice the bottom several acres next to the BMP pond are not being developed.

Why would that be?  Developers tend to use every square inch of land to squeeze out more profits.

A close examination of the main parcel in question appears to give the answer.  When bringing that parcel up in Polaris, it is 00320511A and 00320511B. Part A is in Davidson and Part B is in Cornelius.  Part A is zoned by Davidson as Village Infill which allows this kind of high intensity development.  Part B is zoned by Cornelius as Neighborhood Residential which only allows 2-4 residences per acre per the Cornelius planning ordinance.

From Cornelius Zoning Map
It would seem, the correct way to look at this is that Cornelius's zoning has saved Davidson from this project being 50% bigger and creating a true traffic disaster at this entrance to town - at least for now.   Davidson is allowing this while Cornelius would not. Remember that the next time you hear Davidson Town Hall crowing about the awards won by the town Planning Department.  

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Public Facilities cost trimmed, still requires 15% tax bill increase

In a jam packed agenda on Tuesday, Davidson Commissioners heard an update on Town Hall's new public facilities plan - the plan Commissioners are unlikely to let citizens vote on via a GO bond.

Here's what changed as far as costs go.

Not much in the way of change as far as the cost of the plan. (Note: The first cut at preliminary analysis has a 35% soft cost number.  These use 30%.)

This slide compares the Davidson plan with the Cornelius Town Hall project from 1999.

Notice, Davidson is building a bigger Town Hall than Cornelius for a 20 year projected Davidson population that will still be significantly smaller than what Cornelius has now.  That means for the next 20 years Davidson Town Hall will have some relatively palatial digs on a per capita basis compared to its more thrifty neighbor.

And how much will this cost the taxpayer?

"Payment of debt service relies on 15% increase in ad valorem tax revenue due to 2019 revaluation"

That statement came from the finance impact presentation for the project.  Here's what that means.

In 2019 Mecklenburg County will do its required property tax revaluation.  Per Piet Swart, the Town Finance Director, Davidson expects the reval to say property values in Davidson have gone up well more than 15% since the last valuation.  He didnt give a more exact number.

If Davidson was to keep its property tax collections revenue neutral, it would have to lower its tax rate to bring in the same dollars based on the new higher valuations.  Currently, Davidson is at 35c/$1000 in value.  To pay for the new Town Hall without a rate increase Davidson will have to "capture" at least a 15% increase in revenue by not lowering the rate enough to keep tax collections revenue neutral.

So, let's be very clear...

If you ever hear someone from Town Hall say the new Town Hall project is being paid for without a tax increase, they are lying to you.

The tax rate might not go up.  It might even go down slightly after the revaluation, but if it does not go down enough to keep collections revenue neutral, then it is a de facto tax increase.  You will be paying 15% more on your Davidson tax bill to pay for the public facilities project as it was presented Tuesday - all without being allowed to vote on it.

However, also to be very clear, even if you were allowed to vote on a bond for this project, if the costs didn't change, the same math would apply.  Bonds aren't free money.  They have to be repaid, so the same tax increase would be needed.

What voters would really be voting on (if allowed) is this question.

Does Davidson Town Hall really need a facility this size and scope when compared to its neighbors?

If the answer is "no", then Town Hall just has to come up with a better, more economic plan.  If the answer is "yes" then the taxes go up.

To his credit, Commissioner Jim Fuller seems to be the only Commissioner willing to ask that question to voters.  Last week, aShortChronicle asked the five Commissioners if they supported putting the New Town Hall funding up for a GO bond.  Four of them replied, all saying "no" to that question.  The one who did not reply to the email was Jim Fuller.

On Tuesday night, Fuller was the only one to broach the subject of putting this up for a GO bond.  He pointed out that this project is bigger than the Town's annual budget as justification.  That's the same point made in this post from aShortChronicle - "GO Bonds: Where is the line?"

Regardless of how this ultimately turns out, and frankly it's not looking good for voters, it's nice to see at least one of the electeds seems to "get it".  For that, aShortChronicle would like to thank Commissioner Fuller for standing up for voters when the rest of the Board clearly will not.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Beaty Street: Newly disclosed documents conflict with Mayor Woods's Statements

Last week just hours before Davidson Town Hall hosted a roundtable discussion in hopes of quieting opponents of the Beaty Street RFP process, documents began circulating online that appeared to contradict the Town Hall party line that no documentation existed showing the property was originally intended to be a park.  Opponents of the RFP process and the planned "Luminous" mixed use project at the 19 acre Beaty Street site have long been saying this property was intended to be a park.  Some have even taken to calling the property "Promised Park" in reference to that original intent, so these documents came as a welcome vindication of that position.

In addition to the documents flying around, the below video of Mayor John Woods from what appears to be a Chat at the Egg was also posted.  In the video after being asked directly about the Beaty property being purchased by the town for a park, Mayor Woods very clearly says no such documentation exists.

Click HERE for video
Mayor Woods's statement that no documentation exists flies in the face of these documents that say otherwise.  These refer to the deed and the purchase contract when the largest portion of the property was purchased by the town in 1985.

Even more revealing of the intent is this letter from December 1984 from the son of the former landowner to the town.

Then, there is also this email from Town staff obtained via public records request.

In an attempt to get some clarity on the issue aShortChronicle asked the Town the following question last Thursday.

"Can the Town comment on the inconsistency between these documents and Mayor Woods's statement in the video."  (Note: at the time of the question, just the first documents were sent.)

Here is the response from Town Attorney Cindy Reid.

"The purchase offer from the Town of Davidson to the seller stated: “There must be no restrictions, easement, zoning, or other governmental regulations that would prevent the reasonable use of the real property for park, play ground or other public recreational purposes.” While this requirement was for the singular purpose of making sure that restrictions did not exist that would prevent the property’s use as a park, no requirement for use as a park was included.  By no means does that language require or commit use of the property as a park.  Conditions requiring no restrictions on property are standard. The property was deeded to the Town of Davidson  without restrictions which means it can be used for any purpose (as long as that purpose meets the underlying zoning requirements)."

You'll notice this response does not really address the question asked, but it does give a lot of insight into how this Town Hall does business.

Also, take a look closely at the above documents regarding the deed and the letter.  The note regarding the deed and the letter are from/to former long-time Davidson Town Attorney, Rick Kline.  Kline resigned his position at the end of June 2016.

Additional public records show Kline was consulted on the Beaty Street RFP before he left.  Furthermore, aShortChronicle has learned through researching this post that the Town has "paid Rick Kline $10,453 since July 1, 2016 for projects related to the planning department, town attorney, and real estate."

So, not only are there documents regarding the intent of this property to be used as a park, but those documents involve a former Town Attorney who has been involved in this project from the RFP stage.

Davidson Commissioners will discuss the project at tonight's Board meeting.  The question before them should be if they will honor the original intent for this property, or will they do what they want?

Monday, May 22, 2017

Buildings, Budget, Beaty, and Bonds...Major items on Davidson agenda Tuesday

In what could be the most impactful agenda in years, Davidson Commissioners will discuss major items at the Tuesday board meeting.

They will receive updates on the following:
  1. Town Budget and Capital Improvement Plan
  2. Beaty Street RFP
  3. Public Facilities Plans
  4. GO Bonds (non Public Facilities)
Commissioners will also discuss a letter to Mooresville expressing concerns over Mooresville's plans to approve zoning for the massive Lake Davidson neighborhood.

All of these topics have been covered extensively here at aShortChronicle.  Seeing them on the same agenda gives the distinct impression this Board is trying to wrap up its overall agenda for Davidson rather quickly.

There is only one more meeting in June prior to filing for the November elections.  Filing starts July 7th.

The Commissioner work session starts at 4pm with the regular meeting at 6pm.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

$10-15 million in GO bonds under discussion by Davidson Board

 Saturday morning's post told you how Davidson's Board doesn't plan to allow voters to vote on a new Town Hall - the largest single expenditure since Mi-Connection.  However, the Board does appear ready to proceed on a bond package to handle a whole slew of other items.

As far as aShortChronicle can tell, the first time this bond package was discussed in any detail at a televised Board Meeting, was just last week on May 9th.  It will also be discussed at their upcoming May 23rd meeting.  If the Board moves forward with it Commissioners will have to vote to start the process at their June 13th meeting by passing multiple resolutions needed to get it on the November ballot.

That would seem to be lightening fast movement for something like this.

The bond presentation included in the Tuesday agenda shows 2 options

The presentation also includes a list of possible projects for the money - emphasis on the word possible.  The reason that's the case is if passed the Town wouldn't have to strictly abide by the list.  As long as a project fits into one of the broad categories it could be completed.  Also notice, on the below list there are more total projects on the list than bonds in either of the above bond offerings.  That means even if passed there would not be enough bond money to do all of the possible projects.

However, you can be sure as the Town starts selling this package they will be pushing it as if all of them certainly will be completed.  That's how bond packages get passed - include something for everyone in a list so voters support the bonds then once the bonds are passed only do what the governing body really wants to do.

Effectively, this list really just says "trust us".

People often forget that bond money is not free money.  It does have to be paid back.  So, what will this do to the tax rate?  That's a question the Town is legally obligated to answer when making a bond proposal.

The numbers presented above would have Davidson's taxes potentially going up anywhere from 2.18 - 3.62 cents per $100 of assessed value.  According to the median home value for Davidson is $325,000, so that translates to a potential tax increase of $70.85 to $117.65 per year for the median home.

Boiled down, this proposal combined with Commissioners not letting voters vote on the new Town Hall says this to the public.

"Here is a list of high dollar items we want your permission to build, but you'll just have to "trust us" on what will actually get built.  Also, we need to raise taxes 6-11% to do it.  However, at the same time we don't trust you enough to support a new Town Hall, so we aren't going to let you vote on that."

Saturday, May 20, 2017

GO Bonds: Where is the line?

After the last post about Davidson Commissioners likely not putting funding of a new Town Hall and expanded public safety facilities on a GO bond, a long time reader asked a couple of questions.

1.  If the town could fund these things without a tax increase, why should it go to a GO bond vote?

2.  What's the threshold for spending before it should go to the citizens for a vote regardless of how it is funded?

To the first question, when Davidson already has the highest tax rate and solid waste fee compared to its neighbors by significant margins, just saying a major spending item won't require a further tax increase frankly is not good enough.

To the second question, as far as a set dollar amount before going to voters, one could say anything more than 75% of a year's general fund budget might be the line under normal circumstances for a relatively wealthy town like Davidson.  Some  people might go as high as 100%.  We here at aShortChronicle are big fans of small-d democracy whenever feasible, so setting the threshold lower feels better for a small town.  The target percentage might also change over time as the general fund budget grows and the percentage should definitely be lower for non-core services.  One would also have to consider the overall debt burden of the town.

Using that math, the new Town Hall with the necessary contingency would qualify for a vote by the numbers presented by the Creech/Stantec consulting team.

$9.189m + 30% contingency = $11.95m.  Next year's proposed general fund budget is $11m, so you are way over the proposed threshold regardless of whether or not you use the 75% or 100% of general fund percentage.

In the particular scenario before Davidson now, one has to factor in the $1.8m remodel of Town Hall for public safety needs as well.  This could and should be covered out of the town's excess reserves.  Public safety is a core service and should be covered automatically.  However, in this case it is linked to the new Town Hall piece of the project.  (Remodeling the existing Town Hall for public safety means the other staff does need a place to sit.)  To do both, the Board should either get the cost of the New Town Hall piece down to a lower level to not necessarily need a vote or reduce it enough to be confident it would pass with a majority of voters on a GO bond.

Incidentally, another reader who is very familiar with estimating construction projects told aShortChronicle today "letting the architect create the budget for a project is like Col. Sanders guarding the chickens. Two story Town Hall, 16,000 sf, $275/sf including furniture and contingencies. No piazza, no loggia, no Farmer's Market, no relocated playground, etc. $5 million."

If the town was in that ballpark we likely wouldn't even be having this conversation about a bond vote for it.

All that said, that would all be under normal circumstances, and Davidson (like it or not) is not really there due to Mi-Connection and other more recent decisions/plans.

The Board can ignore that reality if it wants, but the public won't.

The town's out of pocket real annual expense for Mi-Connection has dropped $300k over the past couple of years since they are no longer putting extra money aside for the added obligation to Mooresville under the two towns' current deal, but there has never been a serious word spoken about giving anything back to taxpayers.  There may have been legitimate public safety needs for that money and that's not really being questioned here.  However, it factors into the overall situation.

There is a growing trust problem with Town Hall among a significant portion of the citizens.  That's evidenced by the significantly dropping scores in the governing section of the recent National Citizen Survey.

Overall direction down 26 pts.
Confidence in town govt down 15 pts
Acting in best interest of town down 18pts
Being honest down 13 pts
Treating all residents equally down 11 pts

1 in 4 rate Davidson's direction "poor".

Even if those categories overall are still positive, the direction is not.  Furthermore, that change in direction has happened on this Board's watch pretty much entirely due to their own actions.

If official Towndom is concerned citizens might not pass a bond for something truly important, that official Towndom has nobody but itself to blame.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Surprise!!! No GO Bond Vote on New Town Hall say Davidson Commissioners

aShortChronicle has been following up on the possibility of Davidson's first ever General Obligation (GO) bond vote, and the results will likely surprise readers.

As reported earlier the initial cost estimates for the project came in just at $17 million including a 30% contingency.  Here is the breakdown.

As the headline to this post indicates however, there will be no bond vote to fund the bulk of the Public Facilities project based on a very direct question posed to Commissioners on Thursday/Friday of this week.  Commissioners were asked their position on "putting the proposed new/remodel expenses for Town Hall/Public Safety facilities on the ballot via GO bonds."

As of Friday afternoon at 5pm 4 of 5 say they do not support the idea. (one commissioner did not respond)

All of the responses echo the same theme, rationalizing not going to the voters because this effort includes money for public safety and those are "essential services".  As elected officials they say their job is provide such services.

It should be noted however the renovation of the existing Town Hall from the above list is the portion of the bill to accommodate public safety.   That is just $1.8m out the $10.989m of overall proposed spending to house Town staff (not counting contingency) .  Said another way, the 16% of the spending needed for public safety is being leveraged to justify not going to voters for the other 84% for the rest of Town staff and some public meeting space.  Of course, some level of space is also necessary for these services, but it appears voters won't get a say in that part either.

It should also be noted that aShortChronicle has confirmed the project was discussed at a Tuesday evening Public Facilities Working Group meeting.  However, at the time of this writing more detail is not available on what was discussed.  The agenda for the May 23rd Board work session does include an update on this, but no attached detail is yet posted on the agenda.  Check here to see if that has changed.

There is always the possibility the overall Public Facilities project may be reconfigured to make it more palatable if voters will not be allowed to weigh in at the ballot box.  Maybe, it will be scaled back significantly.  Maybe, there will be some super creative financing to minimize the cost.  Maybe...

(For the record, aShortChronicle has never questioned the need for better Public Safety facilities or the spending required to achieve them.  However, it is extremely disappointing that the Board is using that need to justify not putting unrelated spending on the ballot.)

In their responses to aShortChronicle, Commissioners did indicate they favored pulling the last 4 items from the above list and putting them before voters as part of a bigger separate bond package along with a whole slew of other spending.

So, here is where we are at this point.

Voters very likely won't be allowed to have a say in a new Town Hall and public safety facilities spending, but they possibly will get to vote on an assortment of other items that could add many millions more in public spending.

Surprised yet?

Check back later this weekend for more on the items where Davidson Town Hall might be gracious enough to let you have a say at the ballot box.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Beaty Street Last Chance for Public Input...It's now or never

Last month, Davidson Town Hall postponed the looming decision on its planned sale of the 19 acre town owned property on Beaty Street - a property the Town has owned for decades.  The plan on the table would sell the property to a group named Davidson Development Partners for a high density mixed use project called "The Luminous".

To that end, tomorrow night, Wednesday May 17th, the Town will hold a round table discussion from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Davidson College Presbyterian Church’s Congregation House (218 Concord Road).

The idea behind the delay and this one last comment opportunity was to convince the public that Town Hall truly cares about public input by allowing one more opportunity for the public to give that input.  But make no mistake about it, if the public doesn't show up, the Town will sell this property, and it will bring significantly more density and traffic to this already congested area.

It won't matter that just this past week Mooresville's Planning Board approved a rezoning supporting  massive development just down the road from the Beaty Street site.  It won't matter that hundreds of local residents have joined on Facebook to oppose the sale of the land and to propose alternatives.  It won't matter that the recent National Citizen Survey shows scores for Davidson Town Hall dropping like a rock.

If people don't take a couple of hours and show up Wednesday evening to tell the Town "the Luminous is not for us", this Town Board is very likely approve it and move forward.

Why don't the above things matter when they so obviously should?  Why would the Town proceed in the face of them?

The reason is simple.  Your government goes to those who show up.

If the Davidson public doesn't show up on Wednesday, then Davidson Town Hall will do what it wants.  They've proven time and again that is how they operate.  Staff and elected officials will say "silence is acceptance" even though the facts on the ground say otherwise.

Do not let them off the hook so easy.

Bonus Observation: Mayoral candidate Laurie Venzon has officially made this decision an election year issue - posting this to Facebook on Saturday.

"Great tour of the Beaty St property this morning. Sure hope the town board rethinks the current proposal. It's way too much development for this area."

Staking out that position just before the vote could make things interesting.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Mooresville Planning Board passes Lake Davidson rezoning....the beginning of the end?

Rezoning in Red Outline

  • Reports on Facebook tell the tale of what happened last night at Mooresville Town Hall where the Town's Planning Board passed a "straight up rezoning" in favor of the request from developer Hinckley Gauvain.  This request moves 140 acres from R3 residential to high density mixed use.  This will more than double the number of houses allowed on the land.

The meeting was packed according to multiple people in attendance from Davidson, and like recent meetings in Davidson after hearing near unanimous opposition to the plan to pack more people onto the area the Planning Board approved the rezoning with only one member objecting.

Now it goes to Mooresville's elected Town Board for approval on June 5th.  Sadly however, aShortChronicle has already told readers that is a rubber stamp meeting according to the town.  In fact, the approval is already printed and in the file just waiting for the Board to sign.

The truly depressing if not terrifying part of this is the precedent it sets for future development.  Eric Giangiordano of Davidson's Hobbs Hill neighborhood was in attendance at the meeting.  He also put together the below post showing where this type of development could go in Davidson and South Iredell.

"Here's a simple visual on what should really concern area residents in Mooresville, Davidson and elsewhere. This proposed density "Lake Davidson" development represents approx. 150 acres of land. Ok, now let's play a quick numbers game: (A) # of TOTAL acres West of NC115 between Langtree Road and Beaty Street fronting Lake Davidson? ANSWER = 700+. (B) # of TOTAL acres bordered between Langtree Road, Beaty Street, Lake Davidson and Shearers Road? ANSWER = 3,000+. (C) Distance between Beaty Street and Langtree Road? ANSWER = less than 2.5m (approx.). A vast majority of all this acreage is minimally if not entirely undeveloped so far. So once precedent is set by Mooresville, in theory another 15+ additional developments of similar scope/size are possible within less than a 3m radius, translating (using Lake Davidson density as a basis) into another near 1,800 single-family homes, 4500 condos, 1800 townhouse, 4500 apartments, nearly 1 million sq. ft. of general office space and another 1 million sq. ft. of retail space. That kind of development would then eventually add tens of thousands of cars onto NC115 daily - a 2-lane road with no significant expansion plans/options in immediate future."

Potential Developable
Land in Red Outline
Thursday night may have witnessed the true beginning of the end for this area's livability over the next 10-15 years, and if you were to ask Mooresville planners there's nothing that can be done to stop it.

In their own words, this is all just "straight up" stuff.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

PUBLIC HEARING TONIGHT - Massive Lake Davidson Development in Mooresville

When a handfull of residents received an unexpected notice for a public hearing, aShortChronicle originally broke the story on April 28th about the massive proposed "Lake Davidson" development in Mooresville's ETJ off of Bridges Farm Road.

There is a lot of local interest in this story.  Our follow-up on the Mooresville's flawed process has quickly become one of the top posts in this site's history.  The mainstream local media has also picked up the story as well.  See here, here, and here.

Well, tonight is the hearing date, and it looks to be a well attended one.

If you want to participate the hearing starts at 6pm at 413 Main Street in Mooresville.

Town RAP wins Sustain Charlotte award, but please keep them away from our parking

Davidson's Planning Department has won another award.

Local non profit, Sustain Charlotte, has granted Davidson its most recent "Land Use Award" for the town's recently implemented Rural Area Plan.  You know the one, the plan whose implementation generated some intense pushback from citizens and a petition with over 700 signatures in opposition.

According to the Town press release on the award, Planning Director Jason Burdette had this to say about the "award winning" plan.

“As the Rural Area Plan was a wholly collaborative effort to create a framework to proactively balance conservation and development in the years to come, this award belongs to all of us,” said Davidson Planning Director Jason Burdette. “I'd like to specifically thank the Davidson Mayor and Board of Commissioners for their leadership, Town Manager Jamie Justice for his direction, guidance, and support, Senior Planner and Rural Area Plan Project Manager Trey Akers for his proactive project management, our citizens and stakeholders for their invaluable input, and Craig Lewis of Stantec for leading the team. All of us carried this across the finish line.”

The cognitive dissonance generated by these comments from Town Hall and the pushback from the public against the wholesale implementation of this "award winning" plan is hard to miss.

However, that kind of tone deafness appears to be common practice from Sustain Charlotte.

The group's Executive Director Shannon Binn recently wrote a piece for the Charlotte Observer titled "We should make driving in Charlotte less convenient" where he espoused the idea of jettisoning municipal parking requirements to achieve that goal.

Let's hope Sustain Charlotte doesn't give the town any awards for how it manages parking in town.  It's doubtful the citizens of Davidson could stand any more of their "award winning" plans.

Bonus Observation: Here is another article where Mr Binns laments the availability of parking.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

1 in 4 rate Davidson's direction "poor"

On Sunday, aShortChronicle told readers about the summary results of the latest National Citizen Survey, but the details behind those results were not made available.  We know of at least one citizen in addition to this blog who made an official request for those results, and on Monday they were posted.

The trending results for Davidson Town Hall are...not...good.

Yes, those results are still generally positive, but the trend certainly is not.  The below pictures show the results from the new 2017 report and from the previous 2014 report.

2017 NCS Davidson Govt Scores
2014 NCS Davidson Govt Scores

Barely half, 52% now think the Town is moving in the right direction.  That score is down a whopping 26 points in just three years, and is the lowest score since Davidson first did the NCS in 2007.  The number rating the Town direction as "poor" quadrupled from just 6% in 2014 to 24% in 2017.

When 1 in 4 think Davidson is headed in a "poor" direction, something has gone terribly off track.  However, the answer as to "why" is not hard to find.  One just has to look at the Town's actions since 2014.

1. The Catalyst Project - This Town Hall creation was one of the most unpopular ideas seen in decades.  It generated intense public opposition that resulted in the idea being jettisoned.

2. 6-story Exit 30 Hotel next to CSD - Not squashing this proposal out of the gate when that was 100% within the Board's control appears as tacit approval by the Board to put a hotel next to an elementary school.

3. I77 HOT Lanes - Davidson's Board passed by far the weakest resolutions against this controversial project of all North Meck towns.  The Board also did nothing to Mayor Woods when he sabotaged efforts to stop the project.

4. RAP Rezoning - Davidson's Board ignored a petition with over 700 signatures against this mass rezoning in the Rural Area before circling the wagons and passing it.

5. Conflicts of Interest - Repeatedly, when potential conflicts arise this Board tends to look for the loophole, rather than the reason someone should not vote on an issue.

6. Beaty Street Development - Town Hall has pushed heavy, high-density development of this last remaining significant open space in the town center.

7. Public Facilities Costs - Letting voters decide on a $17 million expansion of Town Hall and public facilities is said to be "not recommended" by the town manager.  This has not been refuted by any elected official.

All of these topics have been covered extensively here at aShortChronicle over the past three years.  So, it is not surprising to see discontent reflected in the NCS survey numbers.

For electeds intending to seek reelection however, this is definitely not the trend one wants to see in an election year.  At this point, Mayor Woods is the only elected official to announce his reelection intent.  The Commissioners have all remained mum on their intentions to date.

One can be sure that stopping the bleeding and reversing this downward trend will be a major election year issue.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Downtown Davidson parking study on Tuesday agenda...garage cost = $7 million

At Tuesday's Board meeting, Davidson Commissioners will get an update on a current parking assessment completed by Stantec as part of the public facilities study being completed.

When aShortChronicle told readers about the $17 million price tag for a proposed new Town Hall and other work, that did not include the costs for a possible parking garage.  According to the presentation in the agenda, that cost would be an additional $7 million.  At $193k per penny on the property tax rate for the upcoming FY2018 budget, that would require raising the tax rate just at 3 cents which is a little less than 9% (Stantec may have been using last year's numbers to get the 10% mentioned below.

Fortunately, in the rest of the presentation there are numerous options for increasing parking in the short term at much less cost.  These include working to get limited access to private lots (DUMC and the College) to support the Farmers Market as well as several efforts to increase the number of spaces by converting from parallel to reverse angle parking along downtown streets.

However, all of these things come at a cost albeit way less than $7 million.  If the town goes forward with any of these it should consider reinstating the Municipal Service District tax on downtown businesses to cover the costs rather than simply raising the property tax rate on all property owners.  Davidson dropped this tax from 14 cents to zero in its FY2011 budget to provide relief during the economic crisis.  That tax had brought in about $50,000 per year prior to being cut back.  That would go a long way to paying any finance charges incurred to make these non-parking garage related improvements.

View the whole parking presentation here.

Bonus Observation: The public facilities documentation including this parking presentation does not mention that the 25 spaces in front of the existing Town Hall will be lost if the proposed new Town Hall and couryard is built.  That means the proposed expansion of the existing Jackson Street lot i  the proposed plan just gets us back to even.  They arent new additional spots.

National Citizen Survey shows scores for Davidson Town Hall moving in wrong direction

A review of the National Citizen Survey results will be on Tuesday's Davidson Town Board agenda. aShortChronicle told readers about this back when the survey was underway in February.  See here and here.

While the town maintained high marks overall in the most important categories, all was not rosy.  As you can see below, 3 times as many questions show decreases as increases.

The detailed percentages were only provided for the one slide, so one can't tell the overall scores for the other questions.  However, initial results show significant additional citizen involvement in town issues, and that increased involvement is most likely not for good reasons as shown by these next slides.

Again, the exact percentages were not included in this presentation for these slides, so it is impossible to know at this point the true significance of these changes.  Are these still overall positive?  Did they fall off a cliff?  Did the middle tier swing one way or the other?  Those are all questions only the details can answer, and those details are not included.

However, if you attend or watch Town Hall meetings, you know that meetings are packed when people tend to oppose what the Town is doing.  If you are a member of one of the growing Facebook pages targeting town issues, you know those aren't full of cheerleaders for Town Hall.  If you submit public records requests (something we strongly encourage here at aShortChronicle), you'll know the results show Commissioners rarely receive a lot of feedback telling then to stay the course.

aShortChronicle recently posted a column with this title: "Davidson Town Hall overseeing divisive time of its own making".  It's a good guess the answer to those changing scores is in there somewhere.

See the full presentation containing the above slides here.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Mooresville's "Lake Davidson" neighborhood planning well underway before public informed

Last Friday aShortChronicle told readers about a massive new development in the planning phases on the shores of Lake Davidson.

Here is what we've found out since.

Only a relative handful of local residents, mostly in the Estates on Lake Davidson neighborhood off Bridges Farm Rd, received the notice for the public hearing mentioned in the earlier post - 20 distinct recipients to be exact.  Only recipients adjacent to the impacted parcels received the notice which is the bare minimum required.  That means homeowners on one side of the street in the small Estates on Lake Davidson neighborhood received the notice while the homeowners on the other side of the street did not.  Further, nobody in the much larger Davidson Pointe neighborhood which is in Davidson's town limits and immediately next to the Estates neighborhood received the public notice.

20 notice recipients does not seem like a true good faith effort on the part of the Town of Mooresville or the developer to notify all the people impacted...just sayin'.

In last week's post, aShortChronicle told readers that Mooresville's Public Information Officer, Kim Sellers, had indicated a project application was not available in conjunction with the rezoning request.  However, by this past Monday it was obvious that was not really the case.  aShortChronicle spoke to multiple citizens who had gone to Mooresville Town Hall on Monday and received various documents related to a proposed project on the property requested for rezoning.  Those documents included the below schematic.

Additionally, one of those citizens reported seeing a pre-drafted, pre-dated rezoning approval just waiting for the Mooresville Board of Commissioners signature.  It was supposedly dated June 5th.

That all seemed to warrant following up with Mooresville Town Hall.  Here's what Craig Culberson had to say about the seeming discrepancy and the previously prepared pre-appoval documentation for the rezoning.

"There is a rezoning request on the agenda to rezone approximately 137 acres or property located along NC 115 and Bridges Farm Road. The rezoning is known as a straight up rezoning. There are no site plans or specific conditions that are a part of the presentation. The request is based on the specific districts that are being requested. In this case, the request is to split zone the property. I am including a copy of the staff report and exhibits that are included in the request. The staff report which I am attaching for your review indicates that the staff recommends approval of the request. This is because the request for the rezoning of the property is in keeping with the provision of the towns Land Use Plan. (Emphasis added)

There is a plan that has been submitted by the developer for review by town staff. As it is under review, it is subject to be amended or changed as it moves through the approval process so that the plan that is ultimately approved may likely be different from that plan that is currently under review. The review is an administrative review. Since the plans have been submitted to the town for review, they are a matter of public record. A copy of the plan was requested and it was provided. The plan that was attached to the email you sent to Mrs. Sellers is the most recent version of the proposed plan.

When the Town Board acts on a rezoning request, they have to include with their action a statement affirming their action on the request. The Town Staff prepares these items when the file is initially being put together. Typically, the statement reflects an affirmative action, particularly if the request is compliant with the land use plan and regulatory documents. However, if the board votes to deny the rezoning request, a statement to that effect is provided for them."

Translation:  Nothing to be worried about here.  It's all totally transparent and normal process.

It should be noted that as part of the documentation citizens received, one of the items was an 80 page draft Traffic Impact Assessment dated November 2016.  The conceptual plan pictured here, the one described as the most recent plan, is dated January of this year.  That plan lists "up to" a total of 835 single family and multi-family residences in addition to 130,000 square feet of commercial space.

Clearly, this whole thing is huge and complicated and has been in the works for quite some time.

Maybe that translation above is not right.  Maybe it's not that this is a transparent common practice.  Maybe this is a better tske on the situation.

Translation: Dropping a small town's worth of development into some farm fields on our neighboring town's doorstep is going to be controversial.  Let's keep it quiet for months, then tell as few people as possible as late as possible before the public hearing.  Maybe nobody will show up and we can swiftly move this through because it's what we here at Mooresville Town Hall want anyway.

Davidson Public Facilities vote moved back...could stymie voter input

Another vote on a controversial subject has quietly been pushed off by the Davidson Town Hall.  This time it is the vote on the $17 million in public facilities spending to redo town hall.

At the April 25th Board work session meeting Commissioners received an update from the project's consulting team that included that price tag.  At the end of that discussion it was mentioned that a financial review would happen on May 9th with a vote tentatively scheduled on May 23rd for moving the project forward.

That schedule now appears delayed.  On Thursday the town sent out a notice that included more public information opportunities such as a booth st the Farmers Market on May 6th and a presentation at DUMC on the 11th.  The notice also said this.

"Town Manager Jamie Justice and Finance Director Pieter Swart will provide a financial feasibility plan at the Davidson Board of Commissioners’ meeting on May 23 at 6:00 p.m. The Davidson Board of Commissioners will consider making a decision on the public facilities project this summer."  (Emphasis added)

aShortChronicle followed up with the town to find out the impacts of this delay, particularly on the possibility of putting this funding on the November ballot in the form of GO bonds.  When Davidson considered GO bonds in 2016, they were told by their bond counsel, the Parker Poe law firm, that June was the deadline to get started for a November vote.  See this post from last year on that

When asked about this Town Public Info Officer, Christina Shaul, responded with this.

"Under the board’s current meeting schedule, the Davidson Board of Commissioners would have to adopt a resolution at the June meeting."

We also asked if this new tentative schedule of a "decision on the public facilities project this summer" effectively takes GO bonds off the table?

The response?  "This is yet to be determined."

That of course raises a question.  Is the town intentionally boxing itself in to not allow voters a say on this project?  Remember, Town Manager Jamie Justice is on record saying that giving voters a say in this is "not recommended."

If the Board does not vote in June one can easily see them going forward with this plan and not seeking voter input.  The lack of time to get it on the ballot will be the excuse.

Sometimes delaying a decision is a good thing.  Sometimes it could just be one more maneuver in the ongoing chess game between Davidson Town Hall and the public.

Only time will tell which one this is.