Thursday, August 31, 2017

Hotel proposal could make Davidson "unique"...and not in a good way

After hours of online research, it appears the idea of making zoning changes to allow a hotel next to an elementary or middle school is not all that common.   That's probably something not all that surprising to most.   After trying to find examples, aShortChronicle came across only a few going back to 2007.

These examples show that safety is regularly a primary concern, and projects get rejected for that reason.  Where they aren't rejected, one of two things seems to be present.  The hotel projects get development conditions put on them that cannot be replicated in the Davidson situation - walls or fences surrounding the hotel are required to prevent mixing with students, or there is an existing mature tree buffer, or both.  These approved examples also do not connect to the school property via a road.

If Davidson Commissioners approve the proposed Hyatt Place plan for Griffith Street next to the Community School of Davidson, they will be approving something outside the norm of these situations.  Not only would that be unusual, they would be supporting a project that has design elements that make the situation worse than the examples described below.  The design of the Hyatt Place proposal actually encourages intermingling of people from the different uses because of the high proportion of on-street parking for the hotel and a plaza fronting the hotel along Griffith.  Not to mention there is no possibility of any sort of buffer between the uses because they sit across a shared street.

Here is what the research found...

In this first example from Richland Township in Pennsylvania, a planning board initially approved the zoning but required a solid fence between the hotel and school.  After a court proceeding the local school system bought the property out of safety concerns to prevent the hotel from being built.

Click for story
In this case from 2007 in Lehi Utah, a suburb of Salt Lake City, the decision makers were also dealing with a conditional zoning.  The Board approved the rezoning, but with conditions "to require the hotel to construct a 12-foot wall between the hotel and the school, and trees to block the view from the hotel's upper stories, at the recommendation of the school district. The hotel was also required to create a security plan with Lehi police, among other requirements."

Click for story
According to the below picture from Google, the Lehi hotel was never built.  Inquiries as to exactly why the hotel was not built have not been successful, but the hotel is not there.


In this 2nd case from 2007, a proposal in the Venice Beach area of Los Angeles was unanimously rejected.  aShortChronicle first told readers about this example last year.  In this case the some of the issues echo the concerns from Davidson's West Side residents regarding gentrification.

Click for article from freevenice.org

The next example from 2012/2013 is another rejection.  This time from Plymouth Township in Pennsylvania.  In this example, the town was willing to fight the developer in court rather than compromise its planning ordinance to allow a hotel next to a school.  The land was approved for another use after the town won the case, and a storage facility with no connection to the school and a substantial tree buffer exists today.

Click for story

These last two examples are approvals involving hotels in proximity to schools.  However, in these cases the situation on the ground is not at all like the one in Davidson.

In the first case from Brunswick, GA just this past June, an approval was recommended to sell alcohol at a new hotel in an area zoned for such a use.  That area happened to be adjacent to an elementary school.  The new hotel would have a cedar fence separating the properties in addition to no direct road connection and a substantial tree buffer.

Click for planning recommendation

Now take a look at the below Google aerial view.


Notice that the school is not really adjacent to the hotel property even though the properties abut.  Also, the school owns the wooded land that provides a major buffer which means it is under the school's control.

This final example is a bit different.  It's from the Atlanta area in 2017. This one is a high school, not an elementary/middle school.

Click for story

While this hotel was approved it was not allowed to serve alcohol.  Other conditions include "a fence on the property; rooms accessible only through a central hallway; and no weekly or monthly rental rates advertised."

Here is the Google aerial of the site.  The high school is on the bottom.  Again, a mature tree buffer and a fence separate the properties.


So, as all of these examples show, Davidson will be way out on a limb compared to other municipalities
if it approves this rezoning.  When it comes to these decisions, safety and fitting in with the surroundings are top priorities whether the example is from an urban, suburban, or rural area.

Being different is good - sometimes.  This decision in Davidson is not one of those times.

"Exit 30 Hotel Chronicle"...get the story from beginning to end

The Town of Davidson is considering a request to approve a rezoning to allow a hotel next to the Community School of Davidson K-7 building on Griffith Street in the Exit 30 area.  If it does so, it will make Davidson all but unique in the entire United States to approve such a request.  This page provides links to all the stories aShortChronicle has written over the past 18 months on the project.

The Board is set to vote in coming weeks, possibly as soon as late September.  Plan on attending the public hearing on the request on Tuesday, September 12th at 6pm.

Please check out the below with more posts in coming says.  Click here for the most current list.

Contact Board@townofdavidson.org with your concerns.

2017
Aug 31 2017 Hotel proposal could make Davidson "unique"...and not in a good way
Aug 29 2017 #Exit30Hotel: Debunking the previously approved alternative
Aug 23 2017 2nd info-bomb for Davidson Board on Griffith Hotel - It's all about safety!
Aug 22 2017 BREAKING NEWS: Exit 30 hotel land owner reportedly revokes CSD parking lease
Aug 20 2017 Exit 30 Hotel stakeholder provides data to Davidson Board prior to update on Tuesday agenda
Aug 13 2017 Did the "Davidson Way" skew ecit 30 hotel TIA?
Aug 11 2017 Griffith Street hotel parking meets the real world (pictures)
Aug 6 2017 Griffith Street hotel site walk draws small crowd, no electeds, a few candidates
Aug 2 2017 Exit 30 Hotel Parking: Make developer put money where mouth is
Jul 30 2017 Davidson Town Hall misleading on Hotel parking
Jul 26 2017 BREAKING NEWS: New Exit 30 hotel plan.

2016
Dec 4 2016  Early feedback largely against Davidson Hyatt Place proposal
Oct 17 2016 #Catalyst2 Davidson Hotel...Traffic Impact Analysis to be completed. Parking to be major question.
Oct 15 2016 #Catalyst2 Hotel info session didn't have all that much info
Sep 22 2016 #Catalyst2 Exit 30 hotel development developments...
Sep 16 2016 Who really wants new Griffith Street Hyatt Place hotel?
Sep 10 2016 Parking: A core problem for proposed Davidson hotel
Sep 6 2016 #Catalyst2.0: Is Davidson as committed to its values as Venice Beach in 2007?
Sep 1 2016 Catalyst's Revenge...Exit 30 Hotel
Aug 20 2016 Controversial Davidson Developments Part 2: Exit 30 hotel
Feb 16 2016 New details on new Exit 30 hotel
Feb 8, 2016 BREAKING NEWS - Possible new hotel at Exit 30?

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

#Exit30Hotel: Debunking the "previously approved" alternative

Since the beginning of the debate on the proposed new Hyatt Place next to the Community School of Davidson, the developer/landowner position has been essentially this.

If this hotel proposal is not approved, a previously approved plan is waiting in the wings for two office buildings and you really won't like that one.

That 2-building proposal was last approved/modified back in 2013 as part of the Woodies approval.  It was used to present what Commissioner Jim Fuller called a Hobson's Choice during the initial public input session in 2016.  It has been used to impact the Town's required TIA by being included as a valid alternative.

But, is it a valid thing to be used as a comparison?  What if this cudgel is just a figment of legal imagination?  What if the "previously approved" alternative didn't exist, and this hotel proposal had to stand on its own?

The position that the so called previously approved two building alternative exists rests on something called "common law vested rights".  Vested rights allow a developer to build an approved plan for a period of time after approval regardless if zoning or rules change after that approval.

The issue here is that these rights are not supposed to run forever.  There are supposed to be time limits.  Also, invoking these rights requires the developer meet several requirements showing they have good faith intent of developing the approved plan.

When this hotel project first surfaced in 2016, aShortChronical questioned the Town Attorney, Cindy Reid, on the subject of vested rights via a series of emails.  Reid issued an opinion invoking the "common law vested rights" justification, providing that response to the Board in a written opinion in late October of last year.

At the time, aShortChronical pressed Reid and the Board on one particular criteria of invoking these rights.  That involved a criteria surrounding substantial expenditure.  Here is what the UNC School of Government has to say about expenditures needed to invoke common law vested rights.

"The owner must make some substantial expenditure—of time, effort, or money—in reliance on the valid governmental approval. The expenditure must be. substantial in relation to the overall project. Minor site. work may be substantial for a small accessory building, but minor site work may not be substantial for a large-scale development.  Actual construction is not necessary. Expenditures on binding contracts, construction materials, or equipment may be sufficient."

This portion of the legal requirements appears to have not been met because the property where these two buildings were originally approved has remained an unimproved parking lot. When pressed on the justification for an expense that met the above requirements the Town Attorney responded in a November 3rd 2016 email "The letter is my opinion. Please contact the developer or the developer’s attorney if you have questions about work that was or was not done."

Contact the developer for a legal justification why the Town should allow their development.  Ok.

(It should be noted that when aShortChronicle forwarded this information to Commissioners, Stacey Anderson replied on November 6th in agreement with the Town Attorney's suggestion that aShortChronicle should just ask the developer.)

So, why bring this up now many months later?

Multiple revelations have occurred recently that warrant taking another look at this.

1.  The issue is a complicated real-estate situation involving conditional zoning and numerous changes over many years, and Town Attorney Cindy Reid is not a real estate law expert.  This is proven by the fact that the Town has continued to enlist former Town Attorney Rick Kline to handle real estate issues when they come up.  Mr Kline is a real estate attorney.   His continued involvement in Town affairs was revealed in this post.  Mr Kline does not appear to have been extensively involved in writing the opinion pulled together by current Town Attorney Cindy Reid as the invoices during that time period do not show him billing the Town for anything surrounding this.  All of this raises the question, is the current Town Attorney really qualified to write the opinion the Town Board is using as a base for some of its decisions?

2.  Recently, former Town Commissioner Sandy Carnegie posted a lengthy amount of information to Facebook and also provided it to the Town.  It covered several projects involving real estate (Potts Street, Beaty Street, and the Griffith Street Hotel.)  Sandy Carnegie has been practicing real estate law for 40 years.  On the Griffith Street Hotel, he was asked the below question with his response.


This answer corresponds to the exact concerns raised to the Town Attorney and the Board last year, the concerns where aShortChronicle was told to go ask the developer.  Certainly, two different attorneys can look at the same thing and come to different opinions.  However, it would seem prudent to go with the opinion of the attorney who has significant experience in the area of law involved in the question.

3.  The recent appraisal of the Beaty Street property released by Save Davidson shows the value of getting an expert second opinion.  In the case of the Griffith Street hotel the Town and the public could certainly benefit from a second opinion on the issue of vested rights for the hotel property.  Furthermore, in this case that second opinion can't come from former Town Attorney Rick Kline even though he is a real estate expert.  Here's why.

In the same records request used to write the piece in point #1, there are multiple emails showing Cindy Reid at least consulted Mr Kline on the Davidson Commons East/Hotel subject prior to drafting her opinion even though he did not apparently bill the town for these consultations. Secondly, there is an email thread in late May of this year from Mr Kline to town staff stating that he has been enlisted to help another developer on a separate project with the same land owner as the property for the hotel project.  Not only would using Mr Kline not provide a true second opinion on the hotel project because there is no way of knowing how much advice he did or did not give in writing the first opinion, but it is very hard to say that such an opinion involving Mr Kline now would be completely unbiased as he has been recently engaged in private business with some of the same parties on land in the same area involving the proposed hotel.

Before the Town Board votes on this request an outside attorney should take a further look at this issue of vested rights.  Commissioners should not be able to hide behind them when voting to put a hotel next to a school if those vested rights do not exist.

Bonus Observation: Check out this video of Monday's Planning Board meeting.  The topic of the vested rights and the information provided to the town by former commissioner Sandy Carnegie is near the beginning.

Friday, August 25, 2017

The case of the disappearing "public comment" agenda item

Citizens showed up for Tuesday night's Davidson Board meeting at Town Hall expecting to deliver their three minute comments on items like the proposed new Griffith Street hotel next to CSD  They had reason to be there.  The agenda had space reserved for public comment, and citizens were going to deliver them.

Unfortunately, when they got there the public comment section had been removed.  That left people feeling misled, manipulated, and more than a little annoyed.

Reference to the lack of a public comment section was made in the powerful comments featured in this post on the safety issues with placing a hotel next to an elementary/middle school.

In fact the disappearing comment section had many people thinking "was I seeing things, was that really on the agenda?"  Surely, the town would not have published an agenda with a section for comments and then pulled it off because there were other controversial items on the agenda that might draw the ire of citizens.

So, what happened?

Well, here at aShortChronicle we love a good "Town Hall Mystery" so we took a look after getting in touch with a reader who was 100% certain it had been on the agenda initially.

A little sleuthing revealed what likely happened.

Check out the below links.  The first is the desktop web address for the Tuesday agenda.  The second is the address for mobile version optimized for mobile devices.

https://davidson.novusagenda.com/AgendaPublic/MeetingView.aspx?MeetingID=585&MinutesMeetingID=269&doctype=Agenda

https://davidson.novusagenda.com/agendapublic/Mobile/MeetingView.aspx?meetingid=585

Here is what they showed as of Friday evening.

Desktop Version  (no public comment)


Mobile Version (public comment)

Websites often have different versions of their pages for desktop and mobile presentation, and in this case it appears one page was updated while one was not.

Now, to be fair, Davidson typically does not have a public comment section during the work session meetings.  A review of past meetings verifies this. However, this one was publicized initially with public comment, and then it certainly appears it was removed.  Making matters worse, this occurred on an evening with controversial items on the agenda and there was a full house.  The Town did not own up to its mistake and subsequent correction which is disappointing.

Then again, owning up to mistakes isn't this Town Hall's strong suit, so that is not too much of a surprise.

Independent company appraises Davidson’s Beaty Street property; Valuation is more than twice that of Town appraisal

In another example that Save Davidson is a force to be reckoned with on town decisions and holding decision makers accountable, the group commissioned an independent appraisal of the Town owned Beaty Street property.  Results were presented at a packed house presentation Davidson's Homewood Suites on Thursday night.  Here is the press release out by the group after the presentation.


DAVIDSON, NC – After months of trying to get answers from the Town of Davidson regarding a seemingly low appraisal of the true market value of the Beaty Street Property, Save Davidson, a citizen group fighting the proposed development, contracted with an independent company to conduct an appraisal.

Valbridge Property Advisors/John Bosworth and Associates returned an appraisal recently of the Beaty Street Property at $4.6 million, more than twice the amount the Town of Davidson has shared as the appraised value. Save Davidson shared the new appraisal information at an open meeting this evening.

For months, the Town of Davidson has shared that the 19 acres of Beaty Street Property appraised at $1.6 million. The appraisal was last conducted in May 2016 by T.B. Harris & Associates. An update of the original appraisal was conducted by the same company in July 2017 and came in at $1.9 million. When this prime property is compared with other land in the area, which appraises at higher values, citizens became increasingly concerned that town officials were selling town-owned land at a low price. This has been a source of great dismay considering the opposition to the development and the documentation that the private developer plans to sell a portion of the land for as much as $4 million for a hotel.

Added to the concern was an e-mail (revealed through a FOIA request) that Davidson Commissioner Stacey Anderson sent to Jamie Justice, Davidson Town Manager, on April 18, 2017, in which she wrote, “Is it possible to get a second appraisal? Something is off, if we think the land is only worth $84k per acre and DPP thinks they can sell the residential and commercial parcels for $4M.” Despite her concerns, she voted on July 11 for the Town to proceed in contract negotiations with a private developer.

Some major points about the recent independent appraisal contracted by Save Davidson:

§  Valbridge Property Advisors, North America’s largest appraisal and advisory firm, conducted valuation of the Beaty Street Property in response to months of requests from the community due to the seemingly low value reported in appraisals contracted by the Town.

§  As documented in the Valbridge report, appraisals should reflect the highest and best use of the property. In this case, the Town has specified a particular mixed-use development for the property which should be the basis for the valuation.

§  Based on the assessment, Valbridge concluded that the current market value of the Beaty Street Property is $4.6M.

§  It should be noted that the appraisal only considered the full market value for 11.8 acres as the balance of the property was considered undevelopable or unusable based on the Luminous site plan provided.

Save Davidson has held numerous fundraisers to support its public education and awareness efforts and to help pay for appraisal and legal fees. Save Davidson, which opposes the Beaty Street Property being sold to a private developer, started as a Facebook page (now with 1,700+ members) and has coalesced into a group of citizens who is working to shine light on what they view as a disregard of a contract, betrayal of public trust, flawed process, lack of transparency, failure to include and acknowledge citizen input on publicly owned land along with increased traffic, loss of tree canopy and open space, and adverse effects to water and air quality.

Find more information at www.savedavidson.org. Follow Save Davidson on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Receive updates via e-mail; write savedavidson@gmail.com to add your name to the list.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

2nd info-bomb for Davidson Board on Griffith Hotel - It is all about safety!

aShortChronicle has spent a good bit of time covering the parking issues inherent with any development on the property next to the Community School of Davidson on Griffith Street.  It's a subject involving planning and town ordinances, areas where years of following Davidson Town Hall has imparted a bit of experience.  However, with the specific proposal of placing a hotel next to a school the issue of safety has always been the elephant in the room.  Frankly, it is an area of great concern, but it is not one that has been delved into in these pages due to a lack of experience in the area.

After Tuesday night's meeting where Davidson's Board received an update on stakeholder feedback regarding the hotel project, an update where safety was barely mentioned, Davidson's Board and staff received the below email from Fred Dalton.  Mr Dalton has given permission to aShortChronicle to post the comments here.  Mr Dalton can claim years of experience in the hotel industry.  He is also the person who previously sent the Board the information in this post about the viability of a new hotel.

His comments touch on both subjects, safety and viability, and how they are connected.

The email is addressed to Trey Akers in the Town's Planning Department, but all of the Board and senior staff were also copied.  His comments start immediately below.


Trey,

I wanted to take a moment to reach back out to you, and the board, possibly to clear up a misunderstanding as I see it.

You see, I mistakenly thought that you were listening.

If you were listening, you would have heard that for parents at CSD, parking is not the primary concern with this issue. If you had been listening, you would have realized that stakeholders are not concerned about bicycles, or sidewalks. The primary concern is safety. Safety is not just a ‘bullet point’ concern in a governmental power point equal to and alongside bike sharing. 

I am listening, and parents are concerned about their children, and residents are concerned about the quality of life in their neighborhood.

I am listening, and I have not yet met one person that wants a hotel built on that site. I have not yet met one person that doesn’t believe that the notion is completely insane. A vast majority of people that I speak to are not opposed to progress, or development. From my perspective, the average CSD parent has always known that parking would one day become an issue that would need to be addressed. The owner of that land has always had the right to develop it. 

I am listening to you too, and the debate at this point in the process should not be about the diameter of the tree trunks, or sidewalk width, or Bobcats running over tree roots as we heard last night. The debate, which has not yet been settled, is simply this: Should the site be re-zoned to allow a hotel to be built as opposed to retail or office space. We can all get back to discussing tree trunks afterwards.

As a parent, I am much less concerned about where I will need to park when I go to my kids’ school as I am about the individual that prefers to drink at a rooftop hotel bar during the day while watching my kids play. (Yes, I am aware that this version of the plans exclude the rooftop bar, but it is apparent that there are some on the board that would like to see it reinstated for the "viability" of the hotel)

As my email from August 18th was mentioned during the meeting, and due to the exclusion of community comments on the agenda, allow me to respond.

A board member accused me of having a lack of understanding about capitalism and the role government should play. Please rest assured that I believe, as was clearly on display last night, government is the problem. The commissioner was correct in stating that government should not be in the position of choosing winners and losers. I could not agree more. However, the fact that this was the response to my email reinforces the fact to us that you are not listening. By granting this developer a de facto waiver by re-zoning this lot is exactly that. 

You are using the power of government to decide that this particular developer will win by changing the rules for him. By ignoring the overarching debate and the unanimous opposition to the change in zoning, you are deciding that the parents and residents will lose. Has any developer ever been turned down by the Town of Davidson due to land use zoning?  

The role of local government in commerce and development should include, first and foremost, proper land use through zoning. A developer that wants to build a hotel and bar next to an elementary school is the precise reason local government zoning restrictions exist. The ability to prevent this from happening it is one of the primary reasons city planning exists.

Local government should never re-zone land use in the face of risk to public safety unless in the case of absolute desperation, in the case of immediate need with no other available options or remedyThe information I provided to the board was not only intended to highlight the pending misfortunes of a developing investor though the analysis of someone who consults many investors just like him. It was to highlight the complete lack of urgency, demand or need for this change in zoning to facilitate this use at the cost of student and resident safety.

Again, allow me to repeat myself to make sure that I am heard. Parking is not the primary concern. Parking is a concern that we can all work together to find a solution. The concern is the threat to the safety of children and residents that is inherent to hotels.

As stakeholder input was removed from the agenda, allow me to present to you a comment I had prepared in the event I was given the opportunity to be heard:

My name is Fred Dalton, a CSD parent with nearly 20 years of experience in the hotel industry across a wide range of brands and markets in hotel operations management, new hotel development and construction, asset management and receivership, property evaluation and feasibility research, ownership and management team consultation and market analysis.

I wish that I could come here tonight to talk about the unimaginable horrors that I have personally experienced and witnessed behind the scenes in this dirty industry, but you’ve already been informed.  
I wish that I could talk to you about the husband who sat in his wife’s hotel room in the middle of the day, shotgun pointed, waiting to take the life of his wife as she walked through the door with another man... but you know these things happen.  I wish I could tell you about the children that my staff suspected were being abused or held against their will… but you already know about that. I wish I could come here tonight to tell you about the rampant prostitution that was and still is just a normal part of the day in this industry. I wish I could tell you about the murder, the suicide, the kidnapping and the rape that are commonplace in hotel rooms.

I wish I could tell you about the constant occurrences of drug use, the drug deals, the drug busts, the drug manufacturing that went on under the roofs that I managed. I would tell you all of this and more if I thought it would make a difference, but if it did, this project would have never been considered. You see, you already know that a hotel has no business being in an elementary school zone.

I don’t need to talk to you about the threat of sexual predators both in the guest rooms and on the payroll, I don’t need to tell you about the parking, or the traffic, or the light pollution, or the trees, or the alcohol… you’ve heard all of this and yet you still might move forward.

Instead, I will focus on an aspect of this project that seems that you have not been properly informed, or you have simply relied on the data supplied by the developer. Profit, or the potential of. I provided the board via email on August 18thwith information that I was able to easily collect using publicly available data that brings serious doubt to the feasibility of this project. I will assume that you have all reviewed this data and will take the necessary steps to easily verify its accuracy. Unless the board or developer can defend otherwise using validated third party analysis, I have shown that there is no legitimate need for additional hotels in Davidson. Using simple economics, the increase in the supply will not create demand. In short, The Town of Davidson would need to create the demand for an additional 30,000 room nights in order for this project to be considered feasible while not reducing the developer’s current revenue at his existing property.

Additional information needs to be considered:

-          What is the estimated turn cost and break-even point indicated in the developer’s financial business plan? How does that number compare to industry averages of like-sized hotels and how does that match up with his reported estimation of the number of full time and part time employees? (I’ll give you a hint: The numbers don’t work)
-          What are the primary demand generators listed in the developer’s 5 and 10-year marketing plans? What is his estimated segmentation and market mix that will make up the 30,000 room nights he needs on top of what he is drawing at the Homewood? Which corporate accounts will produce enough rooms that are not simply ‘moved’ from the Homewood?

In my experience, the most common pattern of developers that are knowingly increasing the supply in a market that shows no forecasted increase in demand is this: They plan on selling the existing hotel based on valuations from past business levels. The profits of the sale can be considerable. The developer can then easily shift that demand, and new capital, to the new property. This is a practice that is common in smaller markets when an owner is given the option to renovate or build new. It’s a proven and profitable strategy.

This most likely scenario has no net positive impact to the Town’s occupancy tax revenues which I unfortunately suspect that for the Town of Davidson… is the one aspect of this project that matters.

Save Davidson to present results of independent Beaty Street land appraisal on Thursday

Save Davidson is taking it up a notch in their challenging of Davidson Town Hall's handling of the Beaty Street RFP.  The activist group has commissioned their own professional appraisal of the Beaty Street Property to see if the initial one done by the town passes the smell test.

Thursday night the group will reveal the results at the Homewood Suites in the Circles@30 area.  Here is what the announcement had to say.


As a sign the Town of Davidson knows its original appraisal conducted as part of the RFP process may be flawed, it is currently having it re-done.  As part of the Town initiated appraisal citizens have been encouraging the Town to hold off to ensure it includes the sale of the property for the "Potts Street Project" at the intersection of Potts and 115.  The Potts Street parcel is about the same size as the Beaty Street land and is rumored to be undeter contract for considerably more per acre than Beaty.

While the Potts Street project is also controversial and there are also citizen efforts underway to stop it from going forward, if that sale was to go through it would provide an excellent comp for any sale of the town owned Beaty St.

Regardless, the Beaty Street land is about to get multiple new looks at it from a valuation perspective.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

BREAKING NEWS: Exit 30 Hotel land owner reportedly revokes CSD parking lease

In a move that shows the true importance of parking for the proposed Hyatt Place hotel next to the Community School of Davidson, the land owner for the project has apparently revoked the parking arrangement currently in place with the school.   Tuesday morning the below was posted to the school's Facebook page by CSD's Joy Warner.  This notice comes on the same day Davidson's Board is scheduled to receive an update on the project at its monthly 6pm work session.

Click to enlarge for clear text

aShortChronicle has been telling readers for months that parking would be the major issue in this project.  However, the notion that the school administration has been opposing this project over parking is a complete farce.  If anything, the school has been conspicuously absent from the public discussion on the impacts of this hotel proposal.  Clearly, this is more a move to deflect the conversation from the real impacts of major development on this property.

As aShortChronicle told readers in this piece, the developer has the opportunity to put its money where its mouth is over the parking issue by voluntarily signing a parking sharing agreement with the school.  That would have been a show of good faith that the project team truly felt its parking was adequate and primarily needed after hours when it would not conflict with the school.  Instead, the project has chosen to take this route.

Absent a parking sharing agreement, the loss of access to this parking lot for the school has likely been a forgone conclusion since the beginning of this proposal.  However, after this action while project negotiations are ongoing, any Commissioner who supports this project is also effectively condoning bullying.

Let's hope Davidson Commissioners are better than that.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

First cut of new NC House and Senate districts impacts North Mecklenburg

Saturday, the first cut of court ordered new proposed maps for NC House were released on the NCGA website.  Sunday, saw the release of the new NC Senate  districts.  As aShortChronicle told readers previously, these changes were likely to impact North Mecklenburg and now that the possible new maps are out, we can see that they do.

Below is the current set of districts followed by the proposed new districts for both chambers of the General Assembly.

Here are the proposed changes to the NC House.

Current Districts

New Districts

On the NC House side, the current District 92 is totally redrawn meaning those North Mecklenburg residents represented by Democrat Chaz Beasley no longer would be.  Instead, they will move to the new NC House 107 currently represented by Democrat Kelly Alexander.  While Alexander would still technically still be in the 107th, that district has been completely redrawn, and there are relatively few voters in the new 107 who were also in the old 107.   The new district may lean Democrat, but Alexander will still have to make the sale to a lot of new voters in 2018.  He ran unopposed in 2016.

The current District 98 represented by John Bradford appears to gave become a bit more Republican leaning.  It lost Democratic precincts on the south east portion of the old district in north Charlotte and gained Republican precincts on the southwest side of the old district that used to be in the old 98th.  These changes combine to solidify the Republican position in this district.

Here are the proposed changes to the NC Senate.


Current Districts
New Districts
The current NC Senate 41 is represented by Republican Jeff Tarte  of Cornelius and very likely will remain in Republican hands after the proposed redistricting (though it could be closer than the current setup).  However, the interesting thing here is that the district still runs from the north to south of the county but now runs down the west side of Mecklenburg rather than the east side.

Also of interest is that, the current NC Senate 38 seat holder Joel Ford is barely carved out of the district to remain in the new NC Senate 38.  Ford is currently running for Charlotte Mayor, but in the event he loses he would still be in good shape to run for the same Senate seat he currently holds.  If the new NC 41 had been drawn differently to put Ford and Tarte in the same district, that would have been a closer but still very hypothetical contest.

So, all in all, while there are impacts not too much actually changes for voters here in North Mecklenburg under the new maps.  You can see the whole set across the state check NCLEG.net.

Exit 30 Hotel stakeholder provides data to Board prior to update on Tuesday agenda

At Tuesday's Board meeting Davidson's electeds are scheduled to get an update on "stakeholder" feedback regarding the current proposal for the new hotel on Griffith Street next  to Community School of Davidson and Davidson Day.

Since the last update staff has met with various stakeholder groups including:

▪ 8/4/17 - Site Walk
▪ 8/4/17 - Lunch & Learn
▪ 8/10/17 - West Davidson
▪ 8/10/17 - Spinnaker Cove
▪ Various - Additional Stakeholders [Calls, Emails, Meetings]

While these meetings certainly garnered feedback on things like safety, traffic, and parking, most people haven't heard too much feedback on the need for a hotel in the first place.  To that point, aShortChronicle wanted to pass along some information provided to the Board on Friday.  It comes from an individual with years if experience in the hotel industry and raised some serious questions about the very need for a new hotel on top of the numerous safety issues of the site itself.

It seeks to answer the question "Is there sufficient demand in the market to justify increasing the supply in the face of so many risks?"

Information was collected using Smith Travel Research (www.str.com) data from the 24 hotels within a competitive proximity to the proposed site. The average hotel size in the sample was 91 rooms with a combination of full service, select service and extended stay brands. Year to date through the end of July, this competitive set has averaged a 73.5% Occupancy with a $95.40 Average Daily Rate (ADR). Occupancy is down -6.4% from prior year, representing a loss of -23,113 room nights from just the first 7 months last year. On this pace, the competitive set (Comp Set) hotels are projected to lose -39,622 room nights in 2017 as compared to 2016. At the current ADR, this represents a forec asted revenue loss of nearly -$3.8M to the immediate areas hotels this year compared to last year. 

For this proposed site to be considered a successful and profitable hotel venture, one needs to look at market share. A Revenue Generation Index (RGI) is the measure of market share for a hotel. A hotel with less than 100 RGI has less than its fair share, an RGI over 100 has more than its fair market share. To reach fair market share, this hotel would need to meet or exceed the market average occupancy and/or rate. This hotel would need to generate over 30,000 room nights at the current market occupancy at the prevailing ADR to be considered successful in industry standards. 

In support of my own data research, the most recent Hotel Horizons report from CBRE Hotels' Americas Research (formerly PKF) (https://pip.cbrehotels.com/) forecasts a continued decline in occupancy for the Greater Charlotte Area (which includes Davidson) every year for the next five years through 2021. The Northwest Charlotte Sub-market as defined by Smith Travel is not immune to this decline and as a result developers have only 3hotel projects currently in the pipeline! This Smith Travel Research defined Sub-market extends from Huntersville to Davidson and also includes Gastonia to Lincolnton. 

Considering the location of the proposed hotel project in regards to limited access, highway visibility and distance from corporate demand generators in Mooresville, Huntersville and Lake Norman, the 30,000 room nights would need to be generated primarily from new demand coming into the Davidson market as it would be unlikely to pull room night production from those other markets which offer supply well in excess of the demand available. 

Is the current Homewood Suites turning away 30,000 room nights per year because it has reached capacity?
Is the the current occupancy trend at the Homewood Suites in contrast to all available industry statistics, averages and forecasts for this market?

For this hotel development project to be feasible and considered a financial success, several statistically unlikely things must take place:

1. The Davidson market would have to create the demand for an additional 30,000 room nights per year, nearly doubling the existing estimated average for the city. Who or what would be the source of this additional demand?
2. This hotel would have to defy all current market data, trends and forecasts in both the immediate area, the Northwest Sub-Market and the Greater Charlotte Area. What would be the differentiating factor for this hotel that would give it such a market advantage?
3. The developer would have to maintain the current business levels at his existing property. Even if the Homewood Suites is averaging an occupancy at 15% higher than the market average, it is consuming at most 40,000 room nights per y ear. Can the city of Davidson attract or create the demand for over 70,000 consumed room nights that this developer would need to be successful? 

If this proposed hotel beats all these insurmountable odds, the highest possible net growth to occupancy tax generated for the city would be approximately $220k. Is this doubtful and highly unlikely gain sufficient to offset the known risks and negative impact to the area?


What is interesting about this above analysis is that it clearly shows additional data is available to assess the need for this hotel.  It is not just taking the developer's word for it like the Town is doing with the parking needs for this project.  It also shows the Town staff clearly has more work to do on the economic development front to appropriately educate itself and the Board.  Staff, not the developer, should also vet the following:

  • Exactly how many FTE does the developer plan to employ?  How does this compare to the FTE and similarly sized hotels in this area?  The developer can not be allowed to inflate this number for the purposes of a "job creation" sales pitch.
  • How exactly did the developer calculate its parking need?  How many sold out dates were sampled? What times were sampled on those days? What is the most common mode of transportation for those rooms that don't have cars? 

The same exact types of analysis would apply to the Luminous project and its hotel proposal which is even bigger.

Yes, the private sector has the right to risk its own money on these ventures, but in both cases Davidson elected officials truly have the final say in whether or not these projects go forward.  With that final say comes responsibility.  In turn Davidson Staff has the responsibility to provide them the information needed.  To date, it looks like the Town is relying on the developer to do that job for them and that is not a good.place to be.

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