Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Town sued, Save Davidson scapegoated, over Potts Street project

The development community does not like being told 'No' by the people in the actual communities it wishes to serve.

That's the underlying message from a complaint filed October 29th in Mecklenburg Superior Court against the Town of Davidson regarding the Town's denial of water and sewer extension for the controversial Potts Street Project.  aShortChronicle has obtained a copy of the full complaint filed by Plaintiffs Davidson Acquisition Company, LLC and Crescent Acquisitions, PLC against the Town of Davidson and Jason Burdette, the Town Planning Director.  The Town was served on 11/5/2018 with Town Manager Jamie Justice accepting service on behalf of both the Town and Burdette.  It should be noted that "Burdette is a party to this action solely in his official capacity as Planning Director of the Town."  He is not being sued individually it seems.

The complaint alleges the Town and Burdette acted illegally by not approving the Potts Street project Master Plan.  Most of the claims revolve around the Town not being able to enforce its new Water/Sewer Extension Policy which the complaint calls "standardless" and "arbitrary".  When the Town clarified the Water/Sewer Policy back in August of this year to require the Board vote on any new extensions, the Board immediately used the policy to vote down an extension for the Potts Street project - effectively killing it.

What may be of more interest to readers is how the complaint alleges things got to this point.  The complaint puts the blame for creating this situation squarely on Save Davidson, the local community activism organization. for spearheading last year's turnover at Davidson Town Hall.

The complaint puts it this way.

"Following municipal elections in November 2017, there was a wholesale change in the Town's governance, wrought by anti-development forces.  The anti-growth forces were specifically opposed to the Project and made their opposition well known to the Town and its officials, including the Planning Director."

Anti-development forces...really?!?!  REALLY?!?!

That's on page 2 of the complaint.  Who knew that simple citizens wanting to protect their quality of life, restore respect in their local government, and exercise their right to vote could be confused with "anti-development forces"?

The attorneys for the development community get more specific about Save Davidson on page 9.

"Opposition to the project was spearheaded by an organization known as Save Davidson, Inc a North Carolina Corporation ("SDI").  Opponents of the project objected in particular to its inclusion of apartment buildings, even though apartments were a permitted building type in the Village Infill Planning Area.

SDI was instrumental in orchestrating a wholesale change in the composition of the elected leadership of the town. In a fundraising appeal posted on its Facebook page on or about June 1, 2018, SDI boasted of its "accomplishments" over the prior year, including the fact that it had changed the face of the Davidson Town Board and that it had supported residents in their opposition to the "Potts Project".

Candidates for office endorsed by SDI who won their elections in November 2017 included Rusty Knox, candidate for Mayor, and David Sitton, Matthew Fort, Autumn Michael and Jim Fuller, candidates for Town Board.

In the November 2017 election, Knox unseated the incumbent mayor in his race, and Sitton, Fort and Michael were newly elected to the town board. Fuller was reelected to the town board."

What is interesting about all this is that after receiving this much attention in setting the stage for claims in a lawsuit, Save Davidson is not mentioned again.  Save Davidson isn't accused of doing anything wrong or of being involved in this case.  So, why was the group even mentioned at all???

Here's a theory.

Well connected members of the development community for decades have had the inside track to get things done at Davidson Town Hall.  Over the past few years, including the 2017 election, they have lost that inside track.  In the world view of people used to operating behind the scenes, often anonymously, it must make a lot of sense to see some other "force" in the guise of Save Davidson as the reason.

It also shows they are missing the point of what happened in 2017.

The election in 2017 wasn't just a few anonymous people in some nameless organization who pulled off a squeaker of an election.  It was a very public electoral shellacking of the old guard regime way of doing things.  The number of people who came out to vote in the 2017 election swamped previous recent contests and none of the races were remotely close for the incumbents who lost.  The people, en masse, voted for change.

So, when developers through their attorneys try to cast blame for the demise of their projects on "anti-development" forces driven by Save Davidson, what they are really missing is that it isn't "Save Davidson" who doesn't want bad development projects, it's the People of Davidson who don't want them.

Now, to try and get their way on a project nobody in town seems to want, the developers are going to sue the Town.  Classy.

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