As mentioned previously, the proposed Hyatt Place hotel project at Exit 30 adjacent to the Community School of Davidson is now moving forward. It has been waiting in the wings for the Town to get past controversies like the RAP and Beaty Street RFP, but needs to get going now to ensure a vote from this development friendly Board prior to election day. On the current schedule, the Board would vote at its October meeting - the last regular meeting prior to the election.
To get there, the Board, Staff, and Project Team has to smooth over what will likely be the most contentious issue of parking, However, in the new documentation released this past week, there are multiple confusing and misleading statements on this all important subject.
First to level set, how many parking spaces are required and how many are being provided? On the required side that is pretty straight forward. Per the Davidson ordinance, at 2 spaces per 1000 square feet, 149 spaces are required for the proposed 74,500 sq ft, 115 room hotel with bistro food service. On the provided side, there are multiple different numbers presented in the various documents. The developer schematic says 139 spaces. However, the rest of the documentation by town staff says only 113 spaces are provided. Other than the single inflated reference on the schematic, 113 spaces is the most referenced number in the documentation, so the following analysis will go with that. That means the developer proposal is 36 spaces deficient per Davidson's ordinance.
113 spaces is actually less than what was offered in the original plan submitted a year ago. That plan offered 118 spaces for a 115 room hotel with full service rooftop restaurant. See here for aShortChronicle's analysis on that first plan.
Here is how the town staff analysis describes the 113 spaces in the new plan and its sufficiency to support the proposed hotel.
Take a look at the portions next to the red markings.
What you will see is that first, the parking is broken up into on-street, off-street, and shared. The numbers don't add up to 113, but based on what is there, this site will regularly rely on using 30 on-street spaces.
The second red mark is by the statement "Nearby jurisdictions utilize a one parking space per hotel room requirement while also factoring in parking for meeting space within the building."
The third red mark shows that the so called "staff analysis" is actually just the developer's analysis regurgitated.
So, why highlight these pieces? Because taken together they show a misleading misrepresentation of of the actual situation, that's why.
The general premise of the staff analysis rests on saying this plan fits generally accepted parking requirements for hotels compared to what "nearby jurisdictions" require. That seems reasonable enough to look at other jurisdictions since Davidson's award winning planning ordinance doesn't actually speak to hotels. But what do the nearby jurisdictions actually say?
aShortChronicle checked the non-award winning planning ordinances for Cornelius, Huntersville, and Mooresville to find out. All of those ordinances do speak to hotels. Here's what they say.
You will notice that the parking requirements for Huntersville and Mooresville both talk about their requirements as "off-street" parking requirements. Under those ordinances the 20 on-street spaces in the Davidson hotel plan would not count. The Cornelius ordinance is closer to what the Davidson plan might meet, but that ordinance says other lots can be used if within 300 feet of the buildings primary entrances. Looking at the schematic provided with the Davidson hotel application, the 14 spaces in the Woodies lot are just over 300 feet from the rear hotel main entrance. So, in the Cornelius ordinance, those might not count either. Also, in Mooresville and Cornelius there are added parking requirements for hotel staff and ancillary uses. The Davidson hotel application and the staff analysis do not directly account for these.
Taken all together, the staff analysis tries to say the proposed plan in Davidson is comparable to what would be allowed in nearby towns, but according to the nearby towns' actual ordinances that doesn't appear to be the case. If the actual ordinances from nearby towns were applied, the proposed Davidson hotel would be as or more deficient than the 36 space deficiency under Davidson's ordinance when compared to Huntersville and Mooresville. The Cornelius ordinance would likely come close to the same 36 space deficiency. In fact the Davidson staff analysis appears to be much more favorable to the developer than would be allowed in those nearby towns.
The other misleading aspect of the Davidson staff analysis is the acceptance of the developer's expected numbers and what those really mean against the reality of overall parking needs in the area.
One problem with this is that the Homewood Suites parking used as a baseline is primarily if not entirely off-street parking, so the comparison of the two sites is not apples to apples. The other problem is that even if the analysis is right, and the new Davidson hotel really only needs 97 spaces on sold out nights after 6pm, that still very likely means there will be chaos the following morning if this happens on a weekday during the school year due to the facts on the ground. Those facts include that CSD K-7 school sits right across the street and dropoff in the morning will coincide with most if not all of the street parking still being in use from the previous night.
Currently, the site for the new hotel is used as a de facto parking lot for CSD. While that most certainly is not the developer's responsibility or issue, the fact remains that the site owner has allowed this situation for many years and now dozens of cars currently using that space daily will have to go somewhere. Because this situation has been allowed to occur, it has artificially masked the true daily parking requirement for the overall area. Making matters worse, that says nothing about what will happen when there are special events at the school. Much of the responsibility for alleviating this lies with CSD, and the school clearly has to address this. However, Davidson's ordinance is also causing a fair amount of the problem.
By allowing on-street parking to be used as part of the regular parking plan for new development in an already saturated area when by the developer's own analysis this will all but ensure issues on many weekday mornings, Davidson Town Hall is knowingly causing a problem. It is a problem that involves hotel guests who by their very nature are unfamiliar with the area and its daily traffic patterns. It is a problem that involves the safety of children walking to and from school - a school that has been there more than a decade. It is a problem of dealing with growth in a truly responsible and holistic way rather than just as an academic exercise in the Davidson Planning Department.
Ultimately however, the responsibility for this lies with Davidson's Commissioners who will vote on this conditional zoning proposal. Ultimately, if they approve this plan under these conditions, they own the outcome...for now and forever.