Wednesday, January 3, 2018

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.

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