Saturday, August 19, 2017

West Branch "moonscape" on Davidson's Tuesday agenda

For months, heavy machinery has been hard at work grading the old Westmoreland Farm into what will become the new West Branch neighborhood.

However, in recent weeks large numbers of trees have come down to make way for the new project, and that has really gotten local residents' attention. It has become crystal clear this new neighborhood will have a negative impact on the town's Greenway and residential tree buffers for existing homes, and that has people up in arms.

What used to be dense groves of trees has become steaming piles of compost.  What used to be a walk in the woods, will soon become a walk next to a road.  What used to be a view of nature will soon be a view of other houses.  What used to be...

Davidson Commissioners will hear an update on this project at their Tuesday work session.  See agenda here.  The meeting starts at 6pm, but this is the last item on the agenda so arriving a bit late will still allow you to see the update in person.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Davidson launches new video system at Town Hall

If you've become a regular watcher of Davidson Town Hall meetings this one is for you.

Starting earlier this month recordings of these meetings were integrated with the Novus Agenda software that hosts the meeting agendas.  Desktop url here.  Smartphone url here.

The new system is an upgrade from the previous ustream channel for these meetings at Town Hall for a few reasons.

  • The sound quality is much better.
  • The agenda and video are integrated so after live recording you can go directly to the portion of the video that matches the agenda rather than hunting for it.
  • The minutes are integrated once approved, so everything is in one place.
If there is a downside it is that the camera is fixed in the upper back right of the auditorium which removes flexibility in the camera angles.  Think how less powerful this video of Ralph Clontz explaining the history of the Beaty Street sale if the camera had been behind him.

aShortChronicle was an early proponent of video for these meetings.  It is nice to see the Town investing in this.  It is a great way to let people get more involved.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Laurie Venzon sets fundraising pace in Davidson mayoral race

Mid-year campaign finance reports were due at the end of July for transactions through June.  However, they are only due for campaigns that had opened committees and had begun fundraising prior to June month end.

According to those rules, in Davidson's race for mayor that means only Laurie Venzon had to file a report this reporting period.  As aShortChronicle told readers in February, Venzon opened her account late last year and began raising money.  That means she has to file paperwork on a going forward basis.  Incumbent John Woods has committed to spending less than the $1000 threshold meaning he does not have to file paperwork, and fellow challenger Rusty Knox didn't open his account until filing this July after the reporting deadline.

That leaves the Venzon campaign as the only mayoral campaign required to report at this point.  See reports here.

To date, this election cycle the Committee to Elect Laurie Venzon has raised a whopping $8,839.48.  The campaign has also spent $6,001.55.

So, where did this money come from and where did it go?

So far, Venzon has not committed significant personal funds to her campaign, less than $600 for "in kind" contributions.  In kind contributions are for things of value other than cash.  The bulk of the cash continuations have come from a relatively small number of higher dollar donors, $500 - $1000 each.  The campaign has snagged three $1,000 checks, two of which were from donors in Kanapolis and Concord.  Overall, cash contributions to date came from 18 different donors for an average of over $450 per contribution.

On the expenditure side of the equation, the Venzon campaign has spent $2500 on a website with a Huntersville firm named BNR Branding Solutions.  She has also spent money on paid campaign support, $800 with Savvy Strategies of Davidson and $1000 with April Byrd Consulting.

The money for Savvy Strategies went for something called  "campaign operations".  Savvy Strategies is operated by Tami Kincer of Davidson.

As for the other $1000 going for consulting, rumors had been floating around for quite a while that Venzon may use the same political consultant enlisted by Davidson Mayor Pro Tem Beth Cashion in her 2011 campaign, Neil Orr.  Orr is a popular consultant in local GOP circles.  However, going with April Byrd Consulting appears to be essentially the same thing. Orr and Byrd are partners in a venture called ABNO Group.  ABNO, April Byrd Consulting, and the website firm BNR Branding all share the same office building address in Huntersville.

Byrd appears to be well connected into the Republican establishment.  She is also affiliated with a political consulting outfit in Georgia called ConnectSouth.  Here's what her profile on that site says.

"In 2002 she had an opportunity to work in the Salisbury Campaign office for Elizabeth Dole’s successful US Senate Campaign. Two years later April worked in Lima, OH for the 2004 Bush/Cheney campaign. In 2010 Republicans won the majority in both chambers of the NC General Assembly and in 2011 April was selected to be a preferred fundraising vendor for the NC House Republican Caucus. She stepped down from her family business and started April Byrd Consulting. April has raised money for over a dozen NC House Members including the former House Majority Leader, Rep. Mike Hager. In addition to successfully raising money for NC House Members she has been a fundraising consultant to a NC Supreme Court Justice, a NC Court of Appeals Judge, Three US Congressional Candidates, The Jesse Helms Center, and NC House Legislative Partners (an Independent Expenditure Committee). In 2016 April had the opportunity to work with Ed Broyhill, the Finance Committee Co-Chair for North Carolina to successfully raise $1 million plus for Trump for President/Trump Victory Fund."

While small in the grand scheme of politics, the dollars  Venzon has raised and spending them on these types of things and professional personnel are a big deal when it comes to Davidson.  Money and more formalized campaigns always changes the dynaimics of elections. Later in campaign season when Rusty Knox files and Venzon submits her next reports at the end of the next filing period, this is likely to be (if it already isn't) the most expensive race in Davidson history.

Upcoming events in Davidson Tonight through Sunday

Save Davidson Information Session TONIGHT!
THURSDAY 8/17 7p.m.
St. Alban's Episcopal Church
Davidson NC 301 Caldwell Lane

Save Davidson Naturalist Hike
SATURDAY 8/19 930-1030am
Beaty Property (meet at 203 Hobbs Street)
Diane Podolsky a naturalist and artist
will lead this walk. Come prepared to be open to surprises along the paths, to look at nature with wonder and to try your hand at sketching. If you would like to sketch please bring a sketchbook and pencils with erasers. Not interested in sketching? No problem, you will enjoy the walk.

Gospel sing at Concerts on the Green
SUNDAY 8/20 6-8pm
Town Green
Come hear multiple local gospel groups perform traditional and contemporary gospel songs.  This special event was coordinated by Davidson Mayor Pro Tem Beth Cashion

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Did the "Davidson Way" skew Exit 30 Hotel TIA?

A Transportation Impact Analysis (TIA) is required for various types of developments depending on their size.  They assess the impact of a new development and make recommendations for infrastructure improvements to mitigate those impacts.  They can be useful tools to ensure development does not externalize the costs onto taxpayers by forcing others to pick up the bill.

But what happens if the TIA is skewed from the start?  Unfortunately, it appears that could be the case with the TIA completed for the Exit 30 Hotel proposal.

aShortChronicle has uncovered via public records request information that raises several questions about the TIA completed for the Exit 30 hotel proposed next to the Community School of Davidson (CSD) on Griffith Street.

Now, people may assume that any skewing would come from the developer who pays for the TIA and that could of course happen.  To help prevent that, Town Hall picks the firm to do the TIA, but the developer pays for it.  One would think that should lower the chance for bias.

In the case of the Exit 30 Hotel proposal the skewing appears to come from Davidson Town Hall itself.

The hotel TIA was conducted in 2016.  Below are emails aShortChronicle came across as part of a public records request on the hotel project.  Note the underlined portions.

In this first one, the Town planning manager, Jason Burdett, is shopping for a firm to give a certain flavor to the assessment.

When a TIA is supposed to be an unbiased assessment, saying "the last thing we want" before it even starts is not a good thing.

Two days later Craig Lewis with Stantec responds.  Stantec has done a considerable amount of work for the Town in recent years.  Mr Lewis previously worked for the now closed local office of The Lawrence Group which also had done lots of work for the town.

After this email things moved quickly with Burdett contacting the recommended person at Stantec the next day.  The comment about "deflecting" citizen concerns via the ordinance is particularly interesting.

Stantec appears to have been selected as the firm for this TIA immediately after these exchanges as further emails show the town discussing all the parameters of the study and arranging for collecting traffic counts from the developer's other hotel in town, the Homewood Suites.  Those counts are used as a baseline for the new hotel.

And about those counts...

Regarding the traffic counts from the Homewood Suites, when might those have been collected?  While the TIA Report doesn't say, the public record indicates they were to be done the week of Nov 7 - Nov 11 2016.   That week just happened to include Election Day for the most anticipated election in recent U.S. history on Tuesday followed by Veterans Day on Friday Nov 11th.  As acknowledgement that this could be an issue the below exchange occurred.

So, while at least an effort was made to not do the counts when school was out, what is the likelihood that business travel might have been a little light that week - affecting the baseline counts from Homewood Suites?

So, after asking for a report that wouldn't recommend significant and costly road improvements and taking critical traffic measurements at a questionable time, not surprisingly the final TIA Report recommends no road related changes in the immediate vicinity of the hotel.  That is in spite of the fact that the most impacted intersection has its most impacted direction going from bad, yet acceptable, levels to very unacceptable failing levels.  Look at the Griffith Gateway Drive NB line underlined in red.  That is headed north bound on Davidson Gateway towards Griffith.

This shows that regardless of the development, whether it be the proposed hotel or the previously approved development on this site, this intersection north bound becomes almost impassable.  During drop off and pickup for school at CSD, Davidson Gateway backs up significantly.  Add in the proposed hotel parking scheme that ensures all the street parking in the area is full, and Davidson Gateway may be impassable in the south bound direction as well during these times.

Yet, the report makes no recommendations to do anything about this for cars.  It does say this however about sidewalks.

"Additional and/or improved sidewalks in the area will encourage pedestrian activity to and from the hotel, which may further reduce the amount of vehicular traffic to and from the hotel beyond what has been assumed in this study."

Rather than mitigating the impacts on traffic this development might bring, this feels more like planned gridlock.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Exit 30 hotel parking meets the real world (pictures)

The below photos are an example of the parking disaster awaiting the Circles@30 area if Davidson approves more development next to the Community School of Davidson (CSD) without appropriate parking requirements. These were taken Thursday evening during the back to school Ice Cream Social.  Sent to aShortChronicle by a regular reader.

Facing Griffith, CSD on Left
Hotel will be in back center.

Harris Teeter side lot

Existing street parking

Facing up Davidson Gateway from Griffith
Street parking full.
Hotel on left, CSD on right

This situation may be inevitable to a large degree regardless of what is developed on this site, but Davidson Commissioners will make it much worse if they approve a hotel plan that is 36 spaces short of what is required and includes 30 on street spaces.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Is Commissioner Rodney Graham #PositivelyDavidson? That's a question he doesn't "wish to answer"

Many people in the Davidson area have noticed a new Facebook page recently that has attracted hundreds of likes, a page called Positively Davidson.  The site provides a laundry list of great things about living in this wonderful town.

Davidson is a great place to live.  Those of us who have spent years fighting to preserve that small town character and those who are relatively new to that fight know this intrinsically.  If this is the only point Positively Davidson is trying to make, then we whole heartedly agree.

However, a close reading of the page's "about" section shows that might not be the case.

It sounds good and very "positive", but there is also a hint of uncomfortableness with the pushback "official Davidson" has been getting in social media these days.

Unlike the other Facebook pages or groups around town (Paradise Lost, Save Davidson, Citizens for a Safe Davidson Hotel Location) nobody knows who is behind this new incarnation of Positively Davidson.  It is a "page" not a "group" and that allows a higher level of anonymity if the page admins so desire.

Oh, people have asked who is behind it.  To be sure people are curious about that.  However, only vague responses are given in reply.

So, aShortChronicle did a little digging to see if it could be figured out.  First though a little history.

You'll notice that above it stated this page was a "new incarnation of Positively Davidson".  The name Positively Davidson has a little political history in town going back to the last time citizens pushed back against Town Hall in any significant way.  That was during the 2011 election season.  A group by the same name, circled the wagons around Town Hall.  They held meetings, wrote letters to the editor, and generally worked to preserve the political status quo.  Here are some links to stories from back then when the group was clearly political. See herehere, and here.

So, who is behind Positively Davidson now?

Well, the first time aShortChronicle noticed the new incarnation was from Davidson Commissioner Rodney Graham with these posts on his "Rodney Graham, Davidson Town Commissioner" page.  This is his political campaign page.  The link is

That was back in early June.  It raised the political antennas a bit because it was a reference to a political group that didn't exist anymore.  It was also in the aftermath of the May 23rd Board meeting where the town had been exposed for its clear mishandling of the Beaty Street property and the Luminous project, a project Commissioner Graham strongly supports.

So, with that in mind aShortChronicle just went ahead and asked Commissioner Graham if he was involved with the new Positively Davidson.  Here is what he had to say.

"I appreciate the question but don't wish to answer it.  That shouldn't be inferred as a "yes" or a "no" but just wanting to separate my private life from my public life.  I've set up multiple facebook pages and websites over the years for various organizations, frankly because it is something I enjoy doing, both creatively and just to help out organizations that I support.  But I don't wish to publicize whether I'm involved with those pages because (a) it's irrelevant, and (b) I don't wish for them to have any political overtones.

The Positively Davidson page you reference appears to be completely apolitical, which is good.  Regrettably many sites out there - NextDoor is a good example - have become forums for people to express frustration and anger.  There are appropriate forums to do that - although there is never an appropriate forum for slander - but I think certain forums should be off limits."

aShortChronicle thought that was an interesting response from an elected official.  Particularly, it was interesting for an official in a campaign season where transparency is the overarching theme for many issues citizens have with Town Hall.

With that answer, of sorts, in hand a little more digging shows data points that may shed some light on this situation for readers.  aShortChronicle noticed the following similarities between the Positively Davidson FB page and Commissioner Graham's campaign page.

1.  June 1st, the date Graham first used #positivelydavidson on his campaign page, is the same date the Positively Davidson page published its first posts.

2.  The two Cover Photos on Graham's campaign page are the same two photos Positively Davidson has used as its Profile pics until a third profile pic was added just yesterday.  You can tell the two with Summit in the photo are the exact same photos if you look closely.  Variables such as the cars on the street and the shape of the flags are exactly the same.  They are the same exact photos, not two different photos taken from the same locations at different times.

Graham Campaign
Cover Pics

Positively Davidson
Profile Pics
3.  Multiple other photos appear on both pages as well - a home in the Town Affordable housing program, a picture of Davidson College Presbyterian Church (DCPC), a picture of what appears to be a field at Fisher Farm etc.

Does all that definitively prove Commissioner Rodney Graham is behind Positively Davidson?  Not necessarily, but it is a number of coincidences .  So, you can take those coincidences and Commissioner Graham's non-answer for what it is worth.

The Positively Davidson site does appear to be reaching a milestone of sorts as it approaches 1000 likes.  Per the below, the content of the site is possibly about to change, so we'll see if the non-political tone changes with it as Davidson enters the heart of election season.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Griffith Street Hotel Site walk draws small crowd, no electeds, but a few candidates

The Town of Davidson hosted a site walk at the location on Griffith Street next to CSD and Woodies this past Friday that drew a small crowd.  Roughly 15  people not associated with the Town, the developer, or the media were in attendance.  For those keeping score on this kind of election Mayoral candidate Rusty Knox and Commissioner candidates Matthew Fort and Michael Angell were there.  None of Davidson's current elected officials were there through the first 45 minutes of the presentation.

In hindsight, maybe Friday AM during the summer was not the best time.  One has to wonder how many CSD parents might have been in attendance if this event had been held in just two weeks after school starts and drop-off had just ended.

There was considerable discussion about pedestrian safety with regards to the school and large numbers of children walking in the area.  In fairness it did sound as if some of the changes brought on by this project (and likely any project on the site) would bring some enhancements for pedestrian safety.  These include closing the driveways to the property off Griffith and the one directly across from Community School of Davidson on Davidson Gateway. There was also talk of a mid-block crossing over Griffith connecting to the Spinnaker Cove neighborhood and pushing the sidewalk back from Griffith as it crosses the creek on the eastern side of the property headed towards Roosevelt Wilson Park.

Those are definitely a good things and would certainly make things better for pedestrians, particularly the sidewalk being pusbed back from Griffith as that sidewalk is regularly used by CSD for walks to the park with dozens of kids.  However, there would also be drawbacks - the primary one being that the sole entrance to the hotel would be the shared driveway with Woodies off of Davidson Gateway.

Parking was also a hot topic, one that would have also been much more apparent if the walk had been done at a different time.  There was repeated mention of what will the impact be to CSD.  While the problem is not solely the responsibility of the developer, the Town needs to do everything it can to remediate this issue by fully enforcing its ordinance.  The current plan from the developer is 36 spaces short of the 149 required by the ordinance.

To give readers a frame of reference for what this will mean if this site for the proposed hotel goes away and the parking issue is not addressed, take a look at the below picture.  This picture was actually taken last September on a Sunday when CSD was in use for church services.  The church no longer uses the facility, but this same picture could be taken whenever the school has special events.

Woodies is pictured on the right.  The proposed hotel site is directly center where the bulk of the cars are parked.  CSD is off camera to the left.

Clearly this is going to be a major issue, and if the Town handles it poorly, it will negatively impact the quality of life in this neighborhood, not to mention hurt Woodies business.  The hotel looks to use 50% of Woodies off street parking as part of a shared parking agreement required by the town.

To give more of a frame of reference for what this will look like, see the below pictures.  The first shows the rough footprint of the building relative to Woodies, the trees on the property and CSD across Davidson Gateway.  The second is taken from ground level at the rear of where the building foot print will be.

That brings up another obvious issue with the plan, the trees.  The canopy trees along Griffith will come down.  It was unclear if the three largest trees off camera to the right will be able to stay.  The answer seemed to be no, but if the footprint changes a bit that could change.

Nothing on the sitewalk addressed many parents' concerns about having a hotel next to a school which seemed to be an obvious question the Town hasn't addressed, but there was still plenty to discuss besides that.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

25% tax increase likely under Davidson Board spending plans

That is the takeaway from the financial analysis slide to be presented this coming Tuesday.

At the meeting, Davidson Commissioners are set to vote on new public facilities spending including a new Town Hall as well as set a bond referendum for additional spending on bike paths, greenways, parks, and a tiny bit on roads.  Check the agenda here.

The financial analysis included in the facilities presentation lays out what these will mean to taxpayers if all these plans come to fruition.  Fortunately, for once the Town puts it all in one slide so we don't have to.  The below analysis is based on an example starting home value of $400,000.  Davidson's current tax rate is .35 or 35 cents per $100 in value.

What the above slide means is this.

If Davidson pursues the public facilities plan it is proposing and if voters pass all 3 of the GO bond votes that will be on the ballot this November, then Davidson will need a 25% property tax increase by FY2023 to pay for all of it.  That increase will come by the town keeping the tax rate roughly the same (between 34.42 and 35.82 cents) when the next property revaluation hits in 2019 and values are expected to rise.   According to the chart, property tax values are expected to go up 25%. So, if the property tax rate remains the same, your property taxes paid also goes up 25%.

Rates, values, and revenue work in conjunction with each other.  So conversely, if Davidson did neither of these spending plans, the tax rate could fall significantly.  The expected revenue neutral rate after the 2019 revaluation is 28 cents.  Meaning, if Davidson didn't need more revenue to pay for this spending, it could let rates drop while bringing in the same dollars based on the higher tax values.

Taxes and tax policy can be a bit complex, but there is nothing hard to understand about a spending plan that requires jacking up the taxpayer to this degree.

Friday, August 4, 2017

"Brunch Bill" comes to Davidson on August 8th

In late June the NC General Assembly passed S155 aka the "Brunch Bill" allowing Sunday alcohol sales to start at 10am rather than noon.  To implement the bill in a local jurisdiction however requires an ordinance passed by the local governing body.

Mecklenburg County, Cornelius and Huntersville all jumped on the bill, immediately passing enabling ordinances at their July meetings.  Davidson however did not.  The Board had other things on their July agenda.

However, wait no more Davidson.  By Sunday 8/13 you will be able to get your first Sunday AM adult beverage.  Davidson's Board will take up the require Brunch Bill ordinance this coming Tuesday, and there is no reason to expect it not to pass.

Besides it's the least the Board can do to help ease the pain of many of the other things they've been passing recently.

Official Word: Save Davidson signs not specifically targeted

Photo by Howard Prince
With reports earlier this week that "Save Davidson" signs were disappearing around town, aShortChronicle checked with Town Hall to see what was up.

Friday, we heard back from Davidson Public Information Officer, Christina Shaul.

Question: How many signs have been picked up by code enforcement and have any fines had been issued.
Answer: Two signs have been collected from rights-of-way by our code enforcement officer. No fines have been issued.

Question: These signs do not seem to fall under an obvious section of the sign ordinance. Does the town consider them to be "political"? If so, is there any intent to attempt having them removed from private property where they are displayed at this point?
Answer: No, the Town doesn't consider these to be "political" There is no intent to have these signs removed from private property.

So, that's good news.  The town isn't officially making an effort to focus on SD signs.

However, that doesn't explain all the signs that have gone missing.  In a conversation Friday, Shaul mentioned signs that were retrieved from the West Branch greenway last weekend.  There were six of those signs, and they apparently weren't the same ones as the other two picked up by code enforcement.

According to information obtained by aShortChronicle, those signs disappeared sometime between 5-6pm last Sunday evening.  Should they have been on the greenway?  Maybe, maybe not.  However, they didn't last a day as they were bringing attention to the tree carnage occurring to make way for the West Branch neighborhood - carnage scarring the view from the greenway forever.

Here are those signs as seen Sunday morning.

So, to keep your SD signs "safe and secure", place them in your yard, not in the strip between the sidewalk and the street.  That strip is public right of way.

And if you are feeling creative, take measures like the ones pictured at the top.  If someone wants to take your sign, at least make them work for it.

If you want one of your own, no need to steal one-- you can order it at

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

NC Legislative districts being redrawn now will need to be redrawn again in 202w

The other shoe has finally dropped on the possibility of snap elections for the NC Legislature in 2017.  With the Court decision handed down on Monday saying there wasn't time to redraw maps prior to this November, the map makers at the NCGA now have 4-6 weeks to redraw maps for 19 NC House districts and 9 in the NC Senate for elections in 2018.

These are the districts were impacted by the earlier court decisions and must now be redrawn:

House districts: 5,  7,  12,  21,  24,  29,  31,  32,  33,  38,  42,  43,  48,  57,  58, 60,  99,  102,  107
Senate districts: 4,  5,  14,  20,  21,  28,  32,  38,  40

While voters in North Mecklenburg are not directly impacted by the court holding the above districts racial gerrymanders, the local districts may very well be impacted anyway.  Since redrawing the court ordered districts impacts all the districts they touch, North Meck will almost certainly see changes due to that ripple down effect.

Take a look at the below maps from the Mecklenburg BOE.

NC House 98, currently held by Rep John Bradford - R borders NC House 107.  NC House 92, currently held by Chaz Beasley - D, borders NC House 102.  NC Senate 41, currently held by Jeff Tarte - R, almost completely borders NC Senate 38 and 40.  Both NC House 102 and 107 as well as NC Senate 38 and 40 are all impacted by the courts.

What makes this redistricting exercise even a bit more interesting is that according to Mecklenburg Senator Jeff Jackson - D the 2010 census data is the data that will be used.  Jackson has been one of the Democrats leading the charge to get ready for 2017 elections if they had occurred.  aShortChronicle asked him about the data to be used a while ago.   This means even though these districts are being redrawn now, the map makers will be using data that is nearly 7 years old.  That makes sense because 2010 was the last official census.  2010 data is also the data that would have been used if the legislature has drawn the districts at the time without the court recognized gerrymanders.

However, using 2010 data does mean these new districts won't account for all of the growth that has happened in North Mecklenburg since 2010, and because of that regardless of what happens with this current redistricting exercise, these new districts are likely to be short lived - lasting only for the 2018 and 2020 election cycles.

That's because when you do account for the growth since 2010 these districts are already some of the most skewed in the state based on population.  What that means is they've gotten too big by population to be within the standards meant to keep districts the same size so ever vote counts proportionally the same..

Take a look at the below maps from the UNC Demography Center.

The takeaway from these two maps is that all of the North Mecklenburg districts NC House 98 and 92 as well as NC Senate 41) are in orange.  That means they are more than 5% larger than they should be and need to be redrawn.  Furthermore, that was based on 2014 data.  By the 2020 census, these districts will be so out of proportion, they very well may need to be redrawn significantly.  (Incidentally, the same can be said for our US Congressional District, NC-12)

All of this is happening because the greater Charlotte region is one of the fastest growing areas in the state., and even the country. In response to all that growth, all of these districts will have to get geographically smaller to remain the same size in population as other districts in the state.  That's particularly true if map makers try to keep legislative districts within a single county whenever possible.

So, when you see news reports on all this as this story unfolds, don't get too excited or disappointed about what happens with this 2017 effort. but know that here in North Mecklenburg the really big changes will come after 2020.

Exit 30 Hotel Parking: Make developer put money where mouth is...

Monday night, the town got its first taste of how the discussion might go with the proposed new Hyatt Place hotel next to CSD.  After picking apart the town staff analysis here where staff sugar coated the proposed 113 space parking plan, staff repeated Monday night the proposition that the proposed plan is comparable to what would be allowed in neighboring towns.  That was disappointing, but not surprising.

Regardless, of whether or not (and the answer is not) the proposed 113 spaces is close to what other jurisdictions might allow, two facts are undeniable.

Those facts are these.

  1. 113 spaces is 36 spaces short of what Davidson's ordinance would require for a 74,500 sq ft commercial building.
  2. This proposal is for a conditional planning area allowing Davidson to apply specific conditions for granting approval.

The 36 space shortfall is significant.  Not only does it represent a 25% variance from the ordinance, it is on top of the fact the 113 spaces included in the plan relies on 30 street parking spots and a shared agreement with neighboring Woodies.  Additionally, the 30 street spaces is more than the street spaces immediately adjacent to the proposed hotel site, meaning the hotel is requesting to use way more than its fare share of street parking in the Exit 30 area.

When one considers the reality of a school next door, maximizing the use of all parking in the area (on-street, off-street and shared) should be considered a top priority for Commissioners.

After Monday's meeting there were a couple of relevent Facebook comments on the Save Davidson page which speak to this.  One comes from someone who knows this part of town well, the other from someone with experience in protecting Davidson from the dais at Town Hall.

Nancy Palmisano who helps lead the Circles@30 Coalition said "it pained me to see the actions of the land owner/developer's physical and verbal responses to questions about CSD and land that surrounds it.  He had no knowledge of how many cars parked on the paved surface of his land.  Neither the board of commissioners or the land owner were aware of a land space in the back of the school that is used as the middle schoolers playground or that there is a small teachers' parking lot behind the school that is adjacent to a piece of land owned by Harris Teeter.

I realize that perhaps this project may still be in a fact finding stage, but I believe they all should have been more interested in these facts long ago...since the proposed hotel will become a "neighbor" of the school and parking, which is already a huge issue will become an even more intense issue for this area and the surrounding area be it a hotel or anything else.  

If the hotel has a parking lot, it will not allow parking for the will be private use only.  If they put on-street parking, it will be no more efficient and actually very dangerous- just as the reverse parking area near the exit driveway of Gethsemane Baptist Church on Jetton Street is.  When those parking spaces are filled, one must take his or her life into their creep out into traffic...hoping the front of their car won't be ripped off by oncoming traffic.

I have alleged many times over that the powers that be do not have a good sense of this side of Davidson and that they approve development in this area without understanding some of the long term ramifications of their decisions/approvals inflicted on the citizens of 'this part of the community'. 

Additionally, thought it rather interesting how the conversation of inlaid crosswalks seemed so important to the "look" around the hotel area.  Would much, much rather attention be given to the serious issues at hand at the Circles @ 30 - not the fluff!

I could elaborate on these statements, but let it suffice to say...the cart should never go before the or ever when citizens lives are involved!  

There is a parking and traffic problem at the Circles@30...the powers that be in this matter need to acknowledge this and work together to not exacerbate the problem."

To that comment former Davidson Commissioner Sandy Carnegie replied "it should always be the Town's responsibility to look after the neighbors of a development. Developers are in the business of maximizing profit. I can remember being told by a few developers that Town decisions were costing them money. Making a little less money to comply with the ordinances and the Town's core values is not a bad thing. I cannot remember one single development where a developer volunteered to lose some money to benefit the surrounding properties. The protection of the neighbors comes from the Town placing those restrictions on the developer." (emphasis added)

Fortunately, the Town has options in this case because this hotel is proposed as a conditional planning amendment, and as the name implies the Town can put conditions on the developer to get approval.  So, in the spirit of that and with the staff analysis in hand here are some proposed additional conditions the developer should jump at if the developer is willing to stand behind its own numbers.
  1. Make new hotel sign a parking sharing agreement with CSD where CSD can access the hotel off-street lot prior to 6pm.  After 6pm is the stated peak time for the Hotel.  During the day when school needs are highest there should be excess capacity in the hotel lot.
  2. Make the Developer, who also operates Homewood Suites, allow their small side lot to be public parking.  This lot has about 21 spots.  The analysis presented by the developer says Homewood's parking is only 84% occupied on sold out nights.  An aerial of this site on Polaris shows 131 spots including this side lot.  Making this side lot public would provide a number of spots during the day for the area in general.  It would allow the Homewood suites hotel to still have 84% of its total available in its remaining parking.  Finally, those spots would be available at night for hotel guests if needed.  From observation, this week, it does appear Homewood uses this lot for staff and vehicle storage parking.  Those uses would need to be moved to Homewood's main lot.
  3. Make the developer do a parking payment in lieu to be used somewhere in the Circles@30 area for any number of spots under the required 149 per ordinance.  That would be 13 spots with condition #2 or up to 36 spots without 
#1 should be a deal breaker for the town, non-negotiable.  If the developer is unwilling to agree to it and some combination of #2 and #3, then they aren't willing to stand behind their own analysis to a large degree.  More importantly, if the town staff and Town Board of Commissioners are not willing to impose these conditions, then they are simply not willing to do what is right for the Exit 30 area as a whole.