Monday, May 27, 2019

Development approvals on Tuesday's Davidson Board the wrong place

Davidson's Board agenda for Tuesday, the day after a holiday weekend, includes a lengthy number of items in the "consent agenda" portion of the evening.

Per the UNC School of Government, "a consent agenda is used for board approval of matters that do not require individual consideration or discussion. Matters are listed and voted on as a group, and the single vote constitutes legal action on each matter." 

The website describes items typically appropriate for consent agendas this way. (Emphasis added.)

The types of items that appear on a consent agenda are non-controversial items or routine items that are discussed at every meeting. They can also be items that have been previously discussed at length where there is group consensus. The following items are typically found on a consent agenda: 

  • The meeting minutes
  • The financials
  • CEO report
  • Program or committee reports
  • Staff appointments
  • Volunteer appointments
  • Committee appointments
  • Correspondence that requires no action
  • Perfunctory items-formal approval of items that had much past discussion

On the Davidson agenda document itself it actually defines the consent section as follows

"CONSENT - Consent items are non-controversial and routine items. Prior to the board's adoption of the meeting agenda the request of any member to have an item moved from the consent agenda to old business must be honored by the board. All items on the consent agenda must be voted on and adopted by a single motion."

By the above definitions it was a surprise to many in town who regularly pay attention to these things, to see two critical votes for two new development projects tucked away under consent.  These were for two new development projects requiring Board approval for water-sewer extensions under the recently clarified policy.

One extension is for a roughly 81 unit townhouse project on the old Hoke Lumber site between Jetton Street and Catawba Avenue.  The other is for an extension to support 15 single family homes off of Kistler Farm Rd on the east side of town.

Considering the effort the Board took just last year to clarify the policy for how these extensions are approved, it is hard to see any such extension vote would be considered appropriate for a consent agenda.  It is particularly hard to see this for the Hoke Lumber site which is near the Potts Development currently in the court system over just such an extension vote.  In that case the Board did not approve, sparking a litigious response from the developer.  Almost by definition the proximity makes the Hoke site controversial for a project of this density.

More importantly, there is the issue of trust.  Slipping these kinds if things into consent agendas is damaging to the public trust.  It just shouldn't happen.  Even if there is no ill intent, it looks bad.

The Board has the opportunity to correct this on Tuesday by pulling these from the consent agenda and addressing them separately, and aShortChronicle guesses that will likely be the first order of business. 

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