Davidson brimmed with irony, density, and activism in 2017.
Readers will recall the 2017 vernacular: Birkdale on Beaty Street, Luminous, Crescent, Big Fat Sidewalks, CATS Red Line, Continuum, Hyatt Place, Missing Middle, I-77 Bonus Allocations, GO Bonds, West Branch “March of the Dump Trucks,” ironic anti-density/traffic letters to our neighboring towns, Roundabouts, and the RAP mass rezoning. Readers will recall the activism of Save Davidson, Paradise Lost and Citizens for a Safe Hotel Location. Names earned a permanent stamp in Davidson history: Woods, Jenest, Graham, Anderson, Cashion, Knox, Fuller, Fort, Michael, Campbell, and Sitton.
First, the tales of irony and density...Rumors floated that the Town was putting an end to apartments in the Village Infill. Citizens breathed a sigh of relief! The comical solution was to propose the as yet not adopted Missing Middle, the not-so-innocent text amendment that would REQUIRE apartments on 40-60% of any master plan over three acres. Davidson, unlike neighbors Huntersville and Cornelius, chose to approve millions to study the Red Line again, despite Norfolk Southern’s unwillingness to entertain shared projects on its lines. A lame-duck board thumbed its nose after the election and voted to approve conditional zoning that would allow a hotel next to two schools and our town's historically African-American neighborhood, despite a unanimous 10-0 disapproval from their own Planning Board.
The irony stumbled out to “West Branch,” a 300-plus homesite development with land planning by then Town Commissioner Brian Jenest’s firm. Greenway enthusiasts were devastated by the “March of the Dump Trucks” and they learned what a “Voluntary Buffer” looked like. Town records indicated that the same “Misinformed Housewife” who helped reduce the speed limit on Davidson-Concord Road had warned the Town about potential damage to the greenway, yet she was disregarded. The “Misinformed Housewife” also helped get over 700 petition signatures against the Infamous Rural Area Plan, a controversial mass rezoning that primarily targeted the ETJ. Ultimately, the RAP passed and we threw developers another bone.
Ironic letters were written to Mooresville (Lake Davidson) and Cornelius (Antiquity Woods-also land planned by Commissioner Brian Jenest’s firm). Davidson expressed great concern about the high-density and traffic issues that the developments would create for us. Then our planners went straight to work on the Potts Street/Crescent Development (Jenest’s firm again) that proposed 276 apartments and nineteen townhouses in an area boxed in by the lake, railroad, lumberyard and historic homes. The high-density development straddling the Davidson-Cornelius line only had one way in and out and would send traffic straight to Cornelius.
Our town-owned cable company, MI-Connection, was rebranded “Continuum,” while “cord cutting” went mainstream around the nation. The public was given just two weeks to comment on major NCDOT Projects U-5873 (Changes to 115/Davidson St./Potts St.) and U-5907 (Potts/Sloan Connection), and Kimley-Horn Design Consultant Ben Taylor publicly admitted he did not read the comments. Residents received large, glossy advertisements for the $15 million “GO Bonds” aimed at mobility, greenways and parks. Voters approved the bonds, despite the publicized Town warning that the same bonds may end up raising our taxes if there is insufficient revenue from DEVELOPMENT.
Speaking of irony, parks, and development, the Town spent eighteen months considering the sale of nineteen acres of town-owned land on Beaty Street. Venie Clontz sold the land to the Town over 30 years ago with the promise that it would be a park. Activist group Save Davidson protested, packed Town Hall, emailed, held lemonade stands, sold t-shirts and magnets, requested records, made videos, wrote Facebook posts, fact-checked, held SHINE events and information sessions. The contract was ultimately called off and the Town released a statement that they “could not agree to terms” with the developer of the Luminous. There was no reference to Save Davidson or their independent appraisal that revealed the property was possibly worth three times the Luminous offer..
Save Davidson’s grassroots activism was a powerful force in the 2017 municipal election. Five of the six elected candidates were endorsed by the group: Mayor Rusty Knox and Commissioners Jim Fuller, Autumn Michael, Matthew Fort, and David Sitton. All five candidates expressed the desire to keep Davidson a small town. Davidson College Alumna Jane Campbell won her seat independently with a campaign based on military experience and leadership experience. Mayor John Woods and Commissioners Stacey Anderson and Rodney Graham lost their seats, while Commissioners Beth Cashion and Brian Jenest did not seek another term.
The newly-elected mayor and board have their work cut out for them. Development and density will likely continue to be the hot topics in 2018. Davidson is a charming town that prides itself on independently-owned small businesses, great schools, walkability, and quaint neighborhoods. The struggle between Small College Town and Charlotte Suburb will continue.
Thanks to Melissa Atherton for this synopsis of the past year in Davidson. It was a busy one. Here's to next year being less so - at least when it comes to controversy coming out of Town Hall.