Monday, January 22, 2018

Notes from the Davidson Commissioner Chat at the Egg

Melissa Atherton attended the "Commissioner Chat" at The Egg in Davidson on Monday Morning.  Here's a link to the video snd the notes she took.

Click for Video

● Robert Bullard will give his keynote lecture, “Climate Change as a Human Right: Why Equity Matters,” on Tuesday, 1/23, 7 pm, at Duke Performance Hall on Davidson College Campus. Bullard will also be at an informal drop-in chat on Wednesday, 1/24, 10:15 am, in the second floor lobby of Wall Academic Center at Davidson College.

● Davidson BOC’s Retreat will be held locally Thursday, 1/25, and Friday, 1/26, at River Run Country Club. The retreat is open to the public. Commissioner Jane Campbell said keeping the retreat in town will save $5,000 and create the opportunity for transparency. Commissioner Jim Fuller stated that the board is unanimous in their desire for positive, transparent communication.

● A lawsuit has been filed on Davidson’s Griffith Street Hotel decision. The board will discuss this issue in a closed session on Tuesday, 1/23.

● The vacant storefronts on Main Street have to maintain appearance guidelines. The owner’s corporation is reportedly looking to fill the vacancies with “high-end” restaurants.

● A citizen stressed urgency in protecting the nineteen acres of town-owned land on Beaty Street. The BOC is reportedly looking for a different level of public input. Commissioner David Sitton stated that this is a high priority for him. Commissioner Campbell stressed the need for public discourse and “out-of-the-box” ideas, whereas the Parks and Recreation process could potentially take 15-20 years.

● The Town of Davidson is spending $20,000 on the Mobility Plan. Citizen concerns included sidewalks and safety issues on Watson, Delburg, Beaty and Shearer Road. Mayor Knox recognized that much of the traffic in town is due to people passing through on their way to other towns. He also stated that Davidson does not have three major north-south road options like Mooresville and Cornelius (I-77, Statesville Road and Old Statesville Road) because we do not have Statesville Road. Knox acknowledged that he does not think the Potts-Sloan-Beaty connection will solve our traffic problems. The Mobility Plan will not include safety improvements for bicyclists on Shearer Road.

● Commissioner Sitton is actively advocating for the Comprehensive Plan to start earlier than summer of 2018. He stated that Davidson has a significant infrastructure problem.

● A citizen requested improvements to the public records request process.

● Town Manager Jamie Justice said there is no public input session scheduled for the Potts Development at this time. He stated that the developer, Crescent Communities, will have to present their plan to deal with the recommendations made in Kimley-Horn’s Transportation Impact Analysis (TIA). A citizen questioned why Crescent is being allowed to include NCDOT Project U-5873 in their TIA, but exclude the project/road from their open space calculations. Another citizen questioned why the developer would be allowed to make payments in lieu, rather than improving the intersections. Justice replied that the NCDOT plan has not been finalized yet and the developer only has to mitigate their portion of the total impact.

● A citizen praised the new board and requested continued “healing” after the election.

BREAKING NEWS - Lawsuit filed on Davidson's Griffith Street Hotel decision - group seeks to raise $$$

Well, this was probably not unexpected...

After multiple protests, dozens of speakers at Town Hall, a 10-0 Planning Board vote against the project, and a lame duck Board of Commissioners vote pushing the project through after being routed in the November election, a lawsuit was filed last week seeking to overturn the zoning decision allowing a Hyatt Place hotel to be built on Griffith Street at Davidson Gateway Drive.  The proposed project is adjacent to the Community School if Davidson K-7 building and the Westside neighborhood and across the street from Spinnaker Cove and Davidson Day School.

aShortChronicle has obtained a copy of the legal claim filing, and here are the basic details.
  • over 20 Plaintiffs from nearby properties are on the petition.
  • the Defendants include the Town of Davidson and the landowner/development companies.
  • 7 different claims are stated including claims of various procedural issues involving the zoning change as well as a claim of spot zoning.
Of the claims in the filing, the ones that may resonate with residents the most involve procedural issues around the public information process for the approval.  The facts that there was not a formal public information session for the significantly revamped second application for the hotel and that the Planning Board 10-0 negative recommendation was not available at the official public hearing as prescribed by the Davidson Planning Ordinance speak to the transparency issues that have roiled the town for the past few years.

aShortChronicle spoke with Luke Charde of Spinnaker Cove.  Charde is one of the plaintiffs, and he indicated that more people may be added as plaintiffs in coming days.  The initial claim was filed under a deadline and work continues on that front.

Lawsuits cost money, and to support that side of the equation, a major fund-rising effort is also underway. aShortChronicle spoke with Maria Chilton who has set up a Go-Fund-Me site to support the cause.  Chilton said that in addition to significant funds raised to research and file the claim, the Go-Fund-Me site has been set up with a $30,000 goal.  Anyone concerned about this project is encouraged to donate what they can.

The site is named "Stop the Misplaced Davidson Hotel".  It can also be reached directly at

Stop the Misplaced Davidson Hote

Questions and inquiries on how you can help can be sent to

Again, seeing a suit filed to stop this unpopular project should not be unexpected - particularly after the way Davidson's former leaders pushed it through.  After a year that saw consistent pushback from citizens against Town Hall's actions, now it looks like that pushback is headed to court.

Check back regularly for more on this story as it unfolds.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Ode to the Orphan Triangle


(Source: ToD Planning Dept website, Potts Development)

You sit on Lake Cornelius in silent peacefulness,
You green foster-child of high-density and concrete,
Quiet triangle, who can understand why you are forsaken,
A disappointing tale of money indiscreet.
(Apologies to John Keats)

The Orphan Triangle (OT) is the small lot on Lake Cornelius next to the Lake Norman YMCA. According to Polaris 3G, Belmont-based Davidson Acquisition Company LLC owns both the Potts Property and the OT. The Managing Partner of the LLC is Keith Hawthorne, an out-of-town car dealership owner. The Potts Property was purchased in November 2014 for $3,150,000. The OT purchase was reportedly coordinated with Duke Energy and sold for $100,000.00.

The OT is an indispensable partner to the development of 246 apartments and fourteen town houses on approximately fifteen acres in the Critical Watershed. It provides the high-density complex with both open space and the pervious land necessary to to meet the 50% maximum built-upon surface area requirement. Davidson Planning Ordinance (DPO) requires lakefront property in master plans, such as the Potts Development, to be publicly-accessible. There is presently no way for the public, or the future apartment renters, to access the OT without trespassing on private land.

How will the developer deal with this problematic lack of connection? Here is where the Lake Norman YMCA enters the picture. Davidson Planning Department staff have stated that the developer reportedly intends to secure an easement from the YMCA to connect to the lakefront parcel. The new Executive Director of the Lake Norman YMCA, Matt Fitzwater, has not publicly commented on this potential deal. The developer provided a descriptive marketing packet at a meeting with adjacent landowners at a private home on Catawba Avenue in Davidson in July. Bizarrely, the marketing featured the Red Line and Olde Mecklenburg Brewery, neither of which presently exist. The developer’s marketing also brags that “The entire town will be encouraged to use our amenities--from a dog park, to lake access, to a network of trails that lets residents and visitors get to and weave through the community,” (Crescent Davidson by Crescent Communities], July 12, 2017).

Any semi-seasoned Lake Norman resident has a pretty solid understanding of local issues such as traffic, parking and lake access. Where will the “entire town” park when they use the apartment complex dog park and weave down to the lakefront access? It seems unlikely that they will be allowed to use the limited spaces at the apartment complex. It is improbable that homeowners on Potts Street and Catawba Avenue in Davidson will give up their driveways and front yards. Most certainly, people on Church Street in Cornelius will not tolerate the general public parking on their road. And who could blame them? Given that the developer’s plan shows the easement and greenway along the back edge of the YMCA soccer field, it seems plausible that the general public will park at the YMCA. Will the YMCA provide the easement and risk losing current loyal members who may have to compete with the general public for parking?

The Orphan Triangle is the missing piece in this Double-Town Puzzle. Keep watching the key players: Lake Norman YMCA, Davidson and Cornelius Boards of Commissioners, Kimley-Horn, and NCDOT.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Save Davidson collects donated items for MLK "Day On"

The Save Davidson community activist group conducted a donation drive over the MLK holiday weekend to collect cold weather items and books.  Starting with an ambitious goal of 100 coats, 100 blankets, 100 socks, and 100 books, items were collected in front of Town Hall.   Items piled up quickly over the weekend requiring multiple trips to collect it all.

Showing the generosity of the community, as of Tuesday morning here are the totals so far.  Due to the positive response, the drive has been extended through Friday.

aShortChronicle reached out to Save Davidson to get the background on the effort.  Here's what the group had to say.

After learning that the Town of Davidson historically does not observe MLK Day in an official way; Mayor Rusty Knox challenged himself and the board to plan something next year and further stated that “citizens should treat the day as a 'Day On' vs. 'Day Off.' This inspired Save Davidson leadership to support the new Mayor and Board by doing what they do best; springing into action to draw from their base and organize a town-wide coat, blanket, sock and book drive. The group's response was swift and overwhelmingly generous. Together, Save Davidson members along with Davidson, Cornelius, Huntersville and Mooresville residents shattered the original goal of 100 of each item needed. Because the need is so great and donors so willing, Save Davidson has extended collections at Davidson Town Hall to Friday 1/19 at 8 p.m. 

Donated items are being collected and delivered all week long to the following organizations that support the homeless in our area:
  • Urban Ministries
  • Bella’s Books
  • Room at the Inn (DCPC)
  • Saint Maximilian Kolbe Fraternal Secular Franciscans @ Saint Mark
Donations are greatly appreciated and Save Davidson members are excited about opportunities to partner with the town on community initiatives that support Davidson residents.

As examples of how the items will be put to good use getting directly to those in need, many of the socks will be going to DCPC's Room in the Inn program to be distributed to guests.  aShortChronicle recently told readers about this program to provide additional shelter during the winter months.  See article here.  Many of the other items will be distributed directly to the homeless via the effort at St Marks.  According to Steve Miller who volunteers with that effort, the St. Maximilian Kolbe Fraternity Secular Franciscans @ St. Marks takes "donations of winter clothing and sleeping bags and takes them directly to the people on the street who need it the most. Some of these people -for whatever reason- cannot go to shelters, and we can be the difference between a comfortable night and a very cold one."

With many more cold nights ahead this winter, it's great to see people coming together like this to make a difference.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Mobility and Comprehensive Plans need “synergy”

By Melissa Atherton

"You have got to connect your land use decisions with transportation decisions.” -Tim Kaine

The forthcoming Davidson Mobility Plan was center-stage at the Board of Commissioners’ meeting Tuesday night. Managing the project will be Travis Johnson, Town of Davidson Senior Planner, and Wade Walker, Vice President of Alta Planning. Both Johnson and Walker presented at the meeting. The plan will look at the following transportation issues: pedestrian, bicycle, mass transit, roads and parking. According to the Town of Davidson website, “The Mobility Plan will propose transportation enhancements, programs, development policies, and projects to enhance connections for all modes of transportation.”

The Mobility Plan has both Town of Davidson and outside-source funding. The Town’s portion is $25,000 and the additional $100,000 is from Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization (CRTPO) and Unified Planning Works Program (UPWP).

According to Johnson, the plan gives citizen engagement high priority through community conversations, a stakeholders’ committee, digital outreach (Wiki-Map), open forums, and a four-day charrette. Citizens can anticipate the Mobility Plan website to arrive in late January or early February. Community conversations are proposed for mid-February and the charrette will be held in mid-to-late March. The charrette’s purpose is to include the community in identifying and solving transportation issues.

Walker explained the Mobility Plan origin as being a result of planning efforts that have and have not accomplished plans from 2002 onward. The goal is to identify what is still valid from the various plans, what has changed, and identify solutions moving forward. Walker stated that the plan is: actionable, feasible, multi-pronged, balanced, sustainable and forward-looking.

Commissioner David Sitton stressed the critical importance of finding synergies between the Mobility Plan and the Comprehensive Plan.

Transportation, connectivity and development are hot topics in Davidson discussions lately. Will the Potts-Sloan-Beaty Corridor (PSB) truly offer relief, or will it just help get us to the traffic at Jetton and 115 quicker? Is there scientific data available on the benefit of the PSB? How will it affect our historic West-Side neighborhoods? Are there additional East-West options for connectivity? What alternative routes can be explored to move traffic from Mooresville to Concord? How will the development-related population increase affect traffic (Davidson Bay, Hyatt Hotel, Davidson Depot, Davidson East, Davidson Hall, Davidson Springs, Davidson Wood, Green Level, Lake Cornelius Residential, Potts/Crescent, Summers Walk, Summit at River Run, The Villages of South Main, Washam Neighborhood and WestBranch)?

Residents finally have their opportunity to provide feedback. Plan to add your ideas to the Wiki-Map and attend the charrette when it is scheduled.

Friday, January 12, 2018

April is for Arts applications now available (Town Press Release)

DAVIDSON, N.C. – The Town of Davidson announces that applications for April is for Arts are now available.  Forms for the Gallery Crawl, scheduled for April 20, and for the Art on the Green festival, scheduled for April 21-22, are all available at town hall or online at:

Artists are encouraged to apply to display and sell art during the Gallery Crawl and Art on the Green, and businesses are encouraged to apply to serve as venues for the Gallery Crawl.  The deadline for applying is February 26.

“April is for Arts is an opportunity to support Davidson artists that are our neighbors and friends,” said Economic Development Manager Kim Fleming. “This fine arts festival has grown in popularity to include regional and national artists and showcases a wide array of artwork to see and purchase.”

For more information on April is for Arts, please visit or contact Kim Fleming at or 704-940-9622.

Who Plans a Party for “Community”?

By Barbara Bryan

The final item on an action and education-packed Davidson Board of Commissioners’ meeting Tuesday night read “Consider Community Dinners Program.”

Mayor Rusty Knox appeared a bit surprised that his idea—“to organize community dinners on a periodic basis to bring citizens together as a fellowship and community building initiative”—had been added by staff to the evening’s agenda.  Staff needs to check options including health codes and logistics, for a potential April Town-wide Potluck.

Wasting no time in describing his hope for healing in the presence of food and fellowship, Mayor Knox touched on divisiveness in political circles prior to Davidson’s 2017 elections, insisting that the community dinner was not an East-West or Concert on te Green type event but an “all 28036 thing” for everyone.

He named many potential outdoor sites such as soccer fields, Village Green, Fisher Farm, Summers Walk’s Green, Davidson College, Roosevelt Wilson Park and more before noting that uncertain weather may call for an indoor venue (or several).

At the suggestion of Commissioner Jane Campbell, the event may turn out to be a BYOF affair: Bring Your Own Food.  Not sure what health codes control that choice.  But, in the line of community building as the objective, and perhaps even before a Big Deal Meal, may I suggest:

Before this good idea gets too complicated (as have other “community” building plans initiated in Town Hall), let’s define  “community” and consider examples of genuine community-building dinners.

“Community” is a noun sometimes massaged into possessing active verb life-changing potential:  Pick a time and place—Town Day or Concert on the Green—and bonds of “community” inevitably will emerge.  But, that rarely happens.

It was spontaneous enthusiasm that sparked almost instant community as citizens from every angle of Davidson’s borders—and the existing Middle—became fast friends in the Save Davidson movement FOR its future.

Common and varied interests—known or discovered speedily—turn strangers into lifelong friends, supporting each others’ shared objectives.   Parallel play (shared time and space) never have nor will automatically create “community.”  “Community” is not a top down mix of people without some shared concern.

The Mayor’s concern is reviving Davidson’s heart for the wellbeing of the Town and each other.  So, what is the best M.O. for building community?  Food is always a draw (for himself, the Mayor admits); but, who, where, why, and how to make a 28036 dinner happen in a winning way?

Well, perhaps as a warm up, the following came to mind as possibilities. 

1 Dinners should consist of small groups in homes willing to learn more about and from others—newbies and Old Guard—who haven’t met.
2 What about a Progressive Dinner starting with appetizers at Gethsemane Baptist Church, moving to Davidson Presbyterian Church on Depot St for BBQ or Fish Fry, and concluding at Davidson College Presbyterian Church for dessert?  It’s even walkable!
3 What if people chose Topics or Subjects that interest them: from streetlights, transportation, recreation, etc., areas of Town life they would like to work on after breaking bread with like-minded others?
4 My favorite: Saturday morning Potluck Breakfast.  That’s something that may be easier because of timing, more free time to talk, and no one’s having a big investment in food cost.

There are many ways to inspire—in natural and easy settings—the kind of community that changes the way most are coming to feel about sharing time and talents in our terrific town.

Oh, and following each community dinner—no matter how small—there is a “Satisfaction Survey.”   It allows participants to describe pre, during, and post dinner feelings, as well as stating what involvement they want to offer because of the experience.    When surveys are “summarized”—with key concerns glossed over by those who may have arranged the event and worded the survey—they are, well, less reliable.  Just tell it like it was!

Can’t imagine a better new Mayor to arrange an after-dinner Group Hug!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Town of Davidson Releases Mobile App (press release)

DAVIDSON, NC– The Town of Davidson announces the launch of a mobile app to provide another way for citizens to engage with our town. This tool is easy to download on an Apple or Android device. It contains 17 icons offering a variety of ways to engage with the town. Citizens can:
  • Get meeting agendas,
  • Watch meetings live,
·         View the events calendar,
·         Access the town staff directory,
·         Get information on dining, shopping, and lodging,
·         Get parks and trails information,
·         View parking and greenway maps, and
·         Use SeeClickFix, a module that enables citizens to report an issue related to public services such as a pothole, uneven sidewalk, overgrown weeds, etc.
For information on how to install the app, please

SeeClickFix is a portal that enables citizens to report public services issues related to:
  • public works (graffiti, malfunctioning flashing beacons, park conditions),
  • code enforcement (overgrown weeds, noise, junk vehicles on private property), and,
  • public safety (loose or dangerous animals or traffic safety concerns). SeeClickFix is not a tool to report emergencies -- if it is a true emergency, please call 9-1-1.

Users can upload a photo and also “pin” a map location in a report. The system collects requests, distributes them tothe appropriate town staff member, allows staff to enter them into a work flow queue, and communicates progress on the issue and a timeline for resolution for all users to see. SeeClickFix is accessible via our app, and also from a desktop computer at:

“One of our town’s core values is: “Open communication is essential to an engaged citizenry, so town government will seek and provide accurate, timely information and promote public discussion of important issues,” said Public Information Officer Cristina Shaul. “This is another great tool that enables us to interact with our citizens -- please install the app today.”

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

It's all about "community" at Davidson Town Hall

Davidson's new Board met on Tuesday for its first regular meeting since the election, and the change in tone from the dais was palpable.

Gone was the tension between official Towndom and the citizenry, something that had unfortunately become a fixture of packed Town Hall meetings in recent years.  Replacing that tension was good conversation among all electeds, authentic conversation.  None of it seemed staged.

On almost every agenda item, the conversation circled back to gaining real citizen involvement in the process of government.

The Board adopted a new meeting schedule with comments that it was still a work in progress.  The 4pm Tuesday work sessions will likely become just that, heads down work sessions rather than meetings filled with presentations that are pertinent to the public.  The new schedule also shows that the 3 day retreat in late January has now been moved to the River Run Country Club in town instead of being out of town where it is not easily accessible to the public or media.  That's a decision that was apparently made during the mini retreat last Friday.

Another agenda item that was supposed to receive a vote was delayed so citizens would have time to review first.  That was the vote regarding adoption of the new Rules of Procedure aShortChronicle wrote about here.  The new Rules had just been posted last Friday, and Commissioner Fuller, who was attending the meeting via phone suggested the Board wait on their approval until citizens had a bit more time to check them over.

There were multiple conversations about planning related topics.  Various comments from Commissioners showed that expectations of the Planning Department and the planning process will change.  Instead of advocacy of positions, the Board is expecting information, both pro and con, to make decisions.  It was also mentioned the citizen Planning Board may get a different charge where that body provides input above and beyond just saying whether or not something is "consistent" with current plans.

The last agenda item was even a discussion on setting up a series of "community dinners".  The idea was presented by Mayor Rusty Knox as a way to put the divisiveness of the past couple years and the recent campaign behind the town and to provide an opportunity for interested Davidsonians to get to know people from various neighborhoods.  Check back tomorrow for more on that idea in some commentary by Barbara Bryan.

Finally, just before closing the meeting new Commissioner David Sitton provided some off the cuff responses to citizen comments given at the beginning of the evening on a range of topics.  As someone who was a regular commenter himself at public meetings over the previous year, Sitton wanted the speakers to know they had been heard and that their words weren't lost in the ether.

All in all, this new Board put its best foot forward in its first meeting, and if these first appearances mean anything the public should feel good that their input will be more welcome than in the past.  For Davidson, that is a very good thing.

Monday, January 8, 2018

New procedures for Davidson's Board show hope for more openness

The devil is in the details when it comes to openness and transparency, and the new "procedures" to govern Davidson Town Hall up for consideration at Tuesday's Board meeting show that things may be looking up.

One of the items that has regularly concerned citizens over the years is "who controls the agenda".  In the past, for Board meetings that has been the Mayor and the Town Manager - an interesting combination since neither of those positions has a vote when it comes to actually deciding things.  Below is the language on agendas from the old Rules of Procedure.

Old Agenda Language:

The Mayor and the Town Manager shall prepare the agenda for each meeting. Commissioners or other
citizens may ask to have an item placed on the agenda as long as it is received at least five working days before the meeting. If the Mayor and Manager agree, the item shall be added to the agenda.

While citizens and Commissioners could ask for items to be on the agenda, there was no guarantee these requests would be honored.  A request the Mayor or Manager didn't like would not even necessarily see the light of day as far as the public was concerned.

aShortChronicle noticed something new regarding this area in the new Rules of Prodedure up for a vote at Tuesday's Board meeting.   See the full new agenda language below.

New Agenda Language:

(a) Draft Agenda.
(1) Preparation. The Town Manager shall prepare a draft agenda in advance of each meeting of the
town board.
(2) Requesting placement of items on draft agenda. For a regular meeting, a request to have an item of
business placed on the draft agenda must be received by the Town Manager at least four working days before the date of the meeting. The Town Manager must place an item on the draft agenda in response to a board member’s timely request.
(3) Supplemental information/materials. If the board is expected to consider a proposed ordinance or
ordinance amendment, a copy of the proposed ordinance or amendment shall be attached to the draft
agenda. An agenda package shall be prepared that includes, for each item of business listed on the
draft agenda, as much background information on the topic as is available and feasible to provide.
(4) Delivery to board members. Each board member shall receive a hard or electronic copy of the draft
agenda and the agenda package. Except in the case of an emergency meeting, the agenda and agenda
package shall be furnished to each member at least twenty-four hours before the meeting.
(5) Public inspection. The draft agenda and agenda package shall be available to the public when the
documents are ready to be, or have been, circulated.
(b) Adoption of the Agenda.
(1) Adoption. As its first order of business at each meeting, the board shall review the draft agenda,
make whatever revisions it deems appropriate, and adopt a formal agenda for the meeting.
(2) Amending the agenda. Both before and after it adopts the agenda, the board may add or subtract
agenda items by majority vote of the members present and voting, except that the board may not add
to the items stated in the notice of a special meeting unless the requirements in Rule 10(d) are
satisfied and only business connected with the emergency may be considered at an emergency
(3) Designation of items “For Discussion and Possible Action.” The board may designate an agenda
item “for discussion and possible action.” The designation signifies that the board intends to discuss
the item and may, if it so chooses, take action on the item following the discussion.

Take note of the two bolded lines in the new language.

Under this proposed language it only takes one Commissioner to request an agenda item be added and that item must be added to the draft agenda.  While citizens appear to no longer be able to request agenda items directly as they could under the old rules, if just one Commissioner agrees with a citizen request, then that item can/must be added to the draft agenda.  Furthermore, once added, removing an agenda item requires a public vote of the Board at the meeting.

This may seem like  a small thing to readers, but it could be a radical departure from the more closed manner in how things were done in the past.  aShortChronicle made a similar recommendation in this piece, but the proppsed Rules go even further in this regard.  That's a good thing.

These small things can add up to make big differences. Here's to seeing that continue.

Update: aShortChronicle missed something in the first pass.  Citizens can ask for agenda items to be added.  However, there is no obligation to put them on it.

If a member of the public wishes to request that the board include an item on its regular meeting agenda, 
he or she must submit the request to the Town Manager at least six working days before the date of the meeting. The board is not obligated to place an item on the agenda merely because such a request has been received.

Davidson and Cornelius have some catching up to do...

By Melissa Atherton

Cornelius: It's been a long time since we've talked, Davidson. When was it last? Oh yeah, it was when you wrote us that letter about Antiquity Woods. Remember? You were mad that a project in our town had only one way in and out, and it would send all the traffic toward you? Can we talk about the Potts Development? It seems the roles are reversed. We really are worried about what this will do to us.

Davidson: Don't worry about the one way in and out. We have a new Mobility Plan coming. Everyone in Davidson is going to walk or bike from now on. Charlotte is only about 23 miles. It's a new year--people really should be thinking about those weight-loss resolutions. Plus, the train is coming soon.

Cornelius: But what about the environment? What about the Critical Watershed? What about the two streams on the land that connects us? Those streams empty into Lake Cornelius. What will this do to the lake?

Davidson: Easy. We have a new text amendment coming. Have you seen our agenda for Tuesday? There won’t be a Lake Norman Protected Area in Davidson anymore. Oh, and the developer got two stream exemptions. So they don't exist anymore. Problem solved. No more streams.

Cornelius: Are you really going to put a greenway down to a public park on the waterfront next to the YMCA in Cornelius? Where will everyone park? At the Y?

Davidson: Well, the Y is a Christian organization. They won’t mind sharing. Plus, they just got a bigger parking lot.

Cornelius: But remember what happened when Ramsey Creek Park opened? It was a parking nightmare.

Davidson: Cornelius, you should try not to be so exclusive. The waterfront is for everyone. Just like the apartments. We pride ourselves on affordable housing and diversity.

Cornelius: But I’ve heard the apartments are going to be very expensive. Like $1,500 or more. How will middle class families afford these apartments? And what impact will the project have on our already-overcrowded public schools? You know, Bailey and Hough do belong to both of us?

Davidson: Families? Who said families?

Cornelius: Well isn't that who lives in apartments in Davidson?

Davidson: Silly Cornelius. There aren't many school-age children in apartments. The developer told us that in their application. They probably did their own independent study, so it must be true. Think about it--we are doing CMS a big favor by packing in these apartments.

Cornelius: What about the traffic study? Five intersections need improvements. There are three changes recommended in Cornelius.

Davidson: Easy. Payment in lieu, payment in lieu, payment in lieu, payment in lieu, and payment in lieu.

Cornelius: But the payments in lieu don't help traffic! And the development depends on the two NCDOT projects that may or may not happen by 2022! What will the residents in our towns do? Sit on 115 for four years?

Davidson: They can use our Ten-Foot, Big Fat Sidewalks. We are putting them everywhere! Bike safety trumps Historic Preservation. Think of all the charming Davidson residents you will get to meet when you ride through their front yards!

Cornelius: But won't that involve cutting down the oak trees on Potts Street? You know, half of that street is ours.

Davidson: Cornelius, that area is just so dark with all those trees. Our Multi-Modal Cyclists would prefer more light. It will make everything much better if we remove those pesky trees.

Cornelius: We've had it! You have excuses for everything. Text amendments, variances, payments in lieu, exemptions. You probably have an excuse for breaking the height restriction too.

Davidson: Well, actually, now that you mention it...

The previous conversation is fiction, but the issues and events are (sadly) real.  One can easily see this back and forth between the two towns over the past couple of years. Head to Davidson Town Hall Tuesday for the new Board's first regular meeting and discussions on multiple issues impacting the area of the Potts Development to see if they handle things differently.  These include the Watershed Text Amendments and the Mobility Plan.  See agenda here.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Davidson Commissioners meet for mini retreat on Friday...gaining effective citizen engagement a hot topic

Davidson elected officials are set to meet for a "mini retreat" on Friday at Starette Farm in Troutman.  The meeting runs from 9am to 4pm.  It will be facilitated by a group called Fountainworks.  Per Christina Shaul with the Town, their support "is a package deal for the mini-retreat on January 5 and the full retreat on January 24-26 for a total of $12,500. This includes meetings with the mayor, commissioners, and staff to prepare, facilitation preparation and day-of facilitation, supplies, travel expenses for the facilitator, etc"

From the agenda provided for the Friday meeting...

Overall goal of this retreat is to lay a foundation for the Board to work collaboratively together and for the Board and Staff to work collaboratively together. The second retreat in late January will focus on setting strategic priorities.

  • Board members get to know each other better personally and professionally
  • Board members set expectstions each on how they will work together
  • Board and Staff get to know each other better personally and professionally
  • Board and staff set expectations for how they will work together
  • Board and staff co-create a vision for community engagement in Davidson and generate ideas on how this can be accomplished
  • Board shares potential topics they wish to discuss at next retreat. (Staff also shares potential topics)

While this Friday meeting looks mostly to be an extended team building/planning/preparation session for the longer 3 day retreat later this month, it does contain a specific topic of discussion on how to gain "great community engagement in Davidson".  That's very nice to see.  aShortChronicle reached out to new Mayor Rusty Knox to see what he wanted to get out of this meeting.  His response falls right in line with this topic.  Knox Replied...

"I hope the main focus of the mini retreat centers on a shift in the way the town and it's citizens interact. Transparency and accountability were two buzz words during the campaign. I intend to carry through with those promises. Our staff is extremely talented and works in the best interest of the town. The direction the town has taken in the past has been one that sometimes put citizens and staff at odds. This should not be the case. With engagement from citizens and a more open dialogue, together we can do great things for our town. Our new Board will chart a new course and I think the end result will be positive for all."

Very encouraging words from the town's new Mayor - words that probably sound more like music to the ears of many citizens.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Citizens to get a seat at the table.

By Melissa Atherton

Newly-elected Davidson officials and returning Town Manager, Jamie Justice, met Tuesday for the first work session of 2018. In a gesture both receptive and humble, they offered the lone citizen-attendee a seat at the table. Town officials began to chart a new course that regains citizen trust by providing more opportunities for public engagement.

New ideas will be discussed at the January 5th mini-retreat:

  • A return to the formal charrette in the development process (the board will develop their vision for the process and instruct staff)
  • A “Pre-Planning Committee” for development projects that includes the developer, staff, a planning board member, and citizens
  • Coffee chats that allow citizens to vent frustrations, ask questions and offer solutions
  • Work sessions that accommodate working citizens by meeting at 6:00 pm
  • An expedited Comprehensive Plan
  • Staff presentations that include pros and cons, rather than the one-sided appearance of decisions being a “done deal”

The next regular Board meeting is at Town Hall, Tuesday, January 9th, at 6:00 pm. Expect discussion of The Missing Middle and Watershed Ordinance Changes. Staff and officials will meet regarding development projects the week of January 15-19. Jamie Justice stated that the Potts Street public input session is no longer imminent due to results of the Kimley-Horn Transportation Impact Analysis. The retreat January 24-27 will focus on the following issues: planning, growth, economic development, affordable housing, communication, community engagement, and financial planning.

New developments and the "Missing Middle"

Two new developments submitted November 30th that popped up on the Town website in the past month would not have met the requirements for the proposed "Missing Middle" text amendments.  That's the determination from comparing the applications for these projects and the proposed language in the text amendments.  These text amendments could have potentially been voted on at the December meeting by the outgoing Board prior to seating new Board members, but they were not.  Instead the ultimate decision on these will be left up to the newly seated elected officials.

The Lake Cornelius Residential development submitted by Meeting Street is designed by the firm of former Davidson Commissioner Brian Jenest.  The second project, Davidson Springs, is being developed by former Commissioner Rodney Graham.  That's according to information on the Town website.

In the case of the Lake Cornelius Residential parcel located at the end of Catawba Avenue, the project was originally incorrectly shown as being in the Village Infill area when first put on the on the Town website.  In fact, it is not.  aShortChronicle verified with Planning Director Jason Burdett that this was an error on the website.  (It has since been corrected.)  The project is across the street from the Village Infill area and actually lies in the Lakeshore planning area.  That means that even if the Missing Middle text amendments had been passed by the outgoing Board they would not have applied to this project.  See below for the pictures.

Project Maste

The Davidson Springs development on the other hand is in the Village Infill area located at the end of James Alexander Way off of Spring Street.

This project as currently planned is 100% single family detached houses and townhomes.  That would not have met the requirements of the proposed Missing Middle test amendments if they had been passed prior to submission of this project.  These requirements would have applied to developments greater than 3 acres, and Davidson Springs is over 4.5 acres.

The project is 53% townhomes and 47% single family detached, both of which are less than the 60% stated in the proposed text amendment.  However, that 60% applies to the total of this category.  If the Missing Middle had passed prior to submitting this project, it would have been required to have some form of multi-family attached housing  and reduce the number of single family detached and townhomes to no more than 60% of the total.  That's per the answer to a follow-up question to the Davidson Planning Department.

Per Planning Director, Jason Burdett, "the intent of the proposed missing middle was to insure a variety of building types (beyond SF or TH) in master planned community of three acres or greater. This mix would provide a greater opportunity for housing affordability while not sacrificing context-sensitivity of the surrounding neighborhoods. Staff proposed the two categories to ensure a building type beyond developers’ typical boilerplate plans–i.e. the Village Walk Up or Village Courtyard. Speaking in generalities, there’s a much higher likelihood that a duplex or quadplex could be affordable than a townhome.

While Davidson Springs includes a mix of building types, as proposed, it would not have complied with the missing middle text amendment. However, this could all be moot. It remains to be seen if the new board of commissioners would like to proceed with the missing middle text amendments."

As Burdett points out, all of this of course is just hypothetical because the Missing Middle text amendments were not passed by the outgoing Board.  Instead, those proposed changes were left for the new set of Commissioners to potentially consider.

Since both of these development applications were submitted prior to the Missing Middle changes being considered, these changes would not have applied to the projects.  Only the zoning in place at the time of an application submittal applies.  As explained earlier, that change would not have applied to the Lake Cornelius project in any event because it is just outside the Village Infill area where the Missing Middle would have an impact.  On the Davidson Springs project the Missing Middle requirements would not be forced on the project because it was submitted just before the Missing Middle might have been passed.

As can be seen in these cases, the location and timing of zoning changes are critical.

When you have development industry people on an elected Board making decisions that could potentially impact their own projects, even in tangential ways, that always has the potential to raise uncomfortable questions or cause Commissioners to potentially have to recuse themselves.  It may not have been a big deal here, and aShortChronicle is certainly glad the Missing Middle is still "missing" from Davidson's planning ordinance as we are skeptical on the Missing Middle's potential impact on affordability.   However, not having these kinds of potentially sticky situations among Davidson's current Board members will certainly be a less complicated situation going forward, and that is a good thing.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Goodbye to 2017...what to expect in 2018 at aShortChronicle

2017 was a loooong year, and one not at all upsetting to see finally in the record books.  However, it was also a great year in some ways and a real breakout year here at aShortChronicle from a readership perspective, so that combo makes it bittersweet to see it go.

Davidson residents suffered through a Town Board that did many things in the face of significant citizen opposition.
  • a mass rezoning in the Rural Area to make development easier on large swaths of land.
  • a Beaty Street RFP process that divided the town
  • a controversial hotel proposal along Griffith Street
  • a new Town Hall spending plan without seeking voter approval
Those things will forever frame the memory of 2017.

On the flip side, these things will also be remembered as the events that sparked a truly genuine citizens movement, an awakening, under the banner of Save Davidson that led to a spectacular election day changing of the guard at Davidson Town Hall.  If the energy that drove people to get off the couch and get involved in local government can be maintained, it has the potential to create something truly unique - a town where the government hears from and actually listens to its citizens.

Since the beginning of aShortChronicle, a primary driver of this blog has been to shine a light on local government in hopes that more people would  get involved.  Local government in small towns is where individuals and small groups can truly have an impact.  It's the one facet of government not tarnished by excessive partisanship.  People get to truly participate, and if they don't like what they see, then they can actually change it.  2017 showed that to be true beyond any doubt.  If there is a silver lining to last year's controversies, that would be it.

As 2018 starts, readers will notice the last two posts were written by Melissa Atherton.  You will hopefully see a lot more of that in the coming year.  aShortChronicle has reached out to several people in hopes of getting more voices involved in covering events around town.  More perspective and commentary will provide more insight, but it will also provide more sorely needed capacity to cover everything happening in our community.

Thanks to all of this site's readers for a great 2017, and here's to 2018 being the year we all hope it to be!