Sunday, March 7, 2021

TOD discusses how Davidson Pointe water will spur development

It has been a while since aShortChronicle posted anything.  Covid-life has just not allowed for it.  However, something just floated over the transom regarding a former storyline covered here that may interest readers.

Way back in 2017, before the earthquake that hit Davidson Town Hall, there was contentious rezoning effort for land off of NC115 and Bridges Farm Road just over over Iredell County line.

Check here, here, and here for the backstory on all that.  It culminated with this embarrassing moment at Mooresville Town Hall when the Mooresville Board couldn't vote for it after it became clear what was going on behind the scenes.

Well, development along this corridor is likely to become a hot topic again as Covid winds down, but this time the conversation involves actions at Davidson Town Hall.  It has to do with extending Charlotte Water service to the Davidson Pointe neighborhood which is not contiguous with Davidson in Mecklenburg but still part of the Town.  The discussions of extending water to the neighborhood were put on hold last year just before the pandemic but is now back on the agenda.

In this year-old Lake Norman Citizen piece it's made clear this extension has nothing to do with development.

"At the meeting, Justice said when the Davidson Pointe neighborhood was approved, the water service extension was not available and a community well system was installed as a temporary measure until Charlotte Water was ready to extend services.

And Mayor Rusty Knox emphasized, multiple times, the extension has “zero to do with development” but is designed to provide permanent water service – and subsequently more reliable fire protection services – in Davidson Pointe."

Fire service improvements have largely to do with water pressure.  At the February 23rd Davidson Board meeting it was noted by Fire Chief, Ryan Monteith, that with the water service extension water pressure would be about 1000 gal/min versus the 700 gal/min the fire department can achieve by supplementing the Davidson Pointe well system with DFD equipment when on site.  Per discussion at that meeting it was noted that Davidson  Pointe is the only neighborhood in town that needs such supplemental support in the event of a fire.  It was also made clear that extending water service has been in the plan since this neighborhood was approved in the late 1990s.

However, a year after discussions were paused and after the February 23rd Board meeting at Davidson Town Hall, those statements by Davidson officials that this isn't about development no longer seem to be entirely accurate.

Town Manager Justice explained that extending the line opened up other "opportunities to serve" for future development and that Davidson has been in discussions about a "boundary agreement" with Mooresville that would eventually redefine the border between the two towns mentioning that the area south of Bridges Farm Road could eventually become part of Davidson proper once development occurs calling the division as defining "Future Mooresville" and "Future Davidson".  Justice also stated that this discussion wouldn't be complete until later this year.  The proposed water line going to Davidson Pointe would be on the Davidson side of this line.

There was some discussion initiated by a question from Commissioner Fort to the Charlotte Water representatives asking if Davidson's policy on approving water sewer extensions would apply to future development along this line.  The response was less than reassuring  "There is not an answer to that question. It depends" was the response from Charlotte Water's David Czerr.  However, Czerr did go on to explain that the largest 80 acre parcel on the Future Davidson side would almost certainly require an extension which would need approval from Davidson under the Town water and sewer extension policy.  Mayor Rusty Knox also asked about the possibility this new line could facilitate development north of Bridges Farm Road in the Future Mooresville area.  The answer here was "I'm not going to say it can't, but it can't go far".  This is due to engineering and capacity issues.  It was also stated that if there was any development north of Bridges Farm Road off of this line it would need to come before Davidson as an extension approval.  Manager Justice then pointed out that this was part of the boundary discussions with Mooresville.

At the end of this discussion, Commissioner Sitton gave a vigorous response saying that bringing up all these development issues at the "eleventh hour" after saying all along that this was only about fire service felt less than transparent and looks "deceptive" and "sneaky".  Commissioners Fort and Campbell responded that the input from the neighborhood had been received and that they felt comfortable with the process.

The Board is set to vote on this approval this Tuesday, March 9th.

After watching this discussion, recognizing the impacts the virtual setup Covid has required, and recognizing (now) that new development will be in the cards with this water extension it seems a couple things should happen prior to any vote to ensure no future surprises.

The prudent thing would seem to be to make sure (at least) this pending boundary agreement with Mooresville is fully worked out and the Town officially and fully understands from Charlotte Water the possible development impacts of this extension.

But...prudent doesn't always happen.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Plum Creek Greenway Under Construction

Major construction underway for the past several weeks has the new Plum Creek Greenway coming into shape.  This will connect the West Branch greenway in Davidson up to Bailey Road across from Hough High School in Cornelius.
Plum Creek Greenway 

View from Davidson Greenway 

Bridge End View

Bride Side View
from Westbanch Pkwy 

View from Bailey Rd

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Davidson stumbles past legal/enforcement problems with multiple coronavirus votes on Tuesday

Davidson's Board met on Tuesday for a marathon meeting to discuss options on how to make local coronavirus controls more restrictive as the State moves towards Phase 2 reopening as soon as this Friday.

The most contentious item up for discussion was whether or not to impose a mask wearing requirement in public spaces, specifically inside businesses, set to reopen with Phase 2.

After lengthy discussion the Board initially voted 4-1 to "require" businesses to post a sign stating the mask wearing policy of the business with Commissioner Autumn Michael being the sole dissenting vote.  Commissioner Michael preferred waiting a couple of weeks to see how things went with reopening before making any mandatory requirements. The Board then voted 2-3 against a motion to make mask wearing mandatory by employees with Commissioners Matthew Fort and Jane Campbell voting for the requirement and Commissioners Jim Fuller, David Sitton and Autumn Michael against.  If there was any surprise in this second vote it was with Commissioner Sitton voting against it.  After being the most outspoken along with Commissioner Fort in support of mandatory mask requirements, it was surprising to see him vote against it.

However, things quickly unraveled on the passed signage requirement when Police Chief Penny Dunn and Economic Development Director  Kim Flemming began asking questions about enforcing it.  It soon became clear that making the signage required had unintended consequences.  Because it was being required it would need to be an amendment to the State of Emergency Proclamation signed by Mayor Knox on March 23rd, violations of which could be a Class 2 criminal misdemeanor.


After much more discussion and hypothetical scenario pondering, the Board then undid the 4-1 vote making signage required to making the signage just recommended.  That motion passed unanimously.

Disaster averted!

The Town was no longer at risk of making the nightly news for inadvertently making some of its business owners misdemeanor criminals for not having a sign or for not enforcing a sign they did have.

The good news is that encouraging (not requiring) mask wearing is hardly a bad idea, and that's where the Town ultimately ended up.  The saying "sometimes it's better to be lucky than good" comes to mind.

So, what set the stage for the messy decision making process by the Board?

That part is pretty simple - poor preparation and advice on the part of Town Attorney, Cindy Reid.  The Board and the Mayor never would have been put in the position they were and hours of stressful discussion could have been avoided,  if their attorney had given them good and complete advice going into it.

Any requirement, any mandatory restriction put in place under emergency powers would have required updating the Emergency Proclamation and imposed penalties for violating it.  That complete advice should have been given to the Board before the discussion.  Instead, the Board was just told they had the authority to make more restrictions, but not the real implications of doing so - charging violators with a misdemeanor.  When it did come up it should have been the Town Attorney doing so, not the Police Chief.  Instead, throughout the discussion, whether it was on points of order with motions, or with this more critical legal advice, the Town was lucky to have others such as the Chief and Commissioners Michael and Fuller, both attorneys, to point out the issues.  The Board really deserved better from the Town Attorney on what was potentially the stickiest legal situation the Board has dealt with in many years.

Again, sometimes it's better to be lucky than good, but when it comes to things this important, it's important to be good.

To end on a more positive note, the Town also agreed Tuesday to move to Phase 2 along with the County and State when that occurs.  They also will be looking at helping local restaurants by figuring out ways to have more outside seating which should definitely help restaurants along Main Street serve more people under Phase 2 capacity restrictions.  That's something which will be a big help as those critical businesses to the community try to get back on their feet.  There will also be mask wearing signage printed up which will encourage, not require, use.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Davidson Board to hold Special Meeting on Tuesday to consider more stringent coronavirus restrictions

At the May 12th regular board meeting, Davidson electeds spent 2 hours discussing the coronavirus pandemic. The beginning of the first hour was spent hearing updates from NC Senator Natasha Marcus and NC Representative Christy Clark on the happenings in Raleigh.

About 15 minutes in, the Board members went around the virtual zoom table with each asking questions.  This was kicked off with Commissioner Fort asking right off the bat if Marcus and Clark agreed with the move to Phase 1 of reopening.  Without answering directly if their personal opinions differed from that of Governor Cooper's on the decision to move to Phase 1, Marcus and Clark both indicated that they received updates from NCDHHS and that they trusted the experts there.

After the Senator and Representative left the conference, Davidson's Board spent the next hour discussing the Town's response, and specifically, whether or not the Town of Davidson could/should be more stingy with its own reopening plan - something both senior management and the Town Attorney assured them they could do under its own emergency authority.  Again, this part was opened with Commissioner Fort asking that the Board vote on whether or not it agreed with Cooper's decision to move to Phase 1 of opening.  The Board never voted on this last week, but Fort did say that if the Board was to vote to just accept what the County and State decided it would likely not be unanimous with him voting against such a hypothetical.

During the solid hour of discussion, much attention with no real detail was had around the subject of masks.  Should the Town require them inside businesses?  Could the Town require them in parks?  What and how did Durham implement more restrictive changes?  How would any such requirements be enforced?

The answer to the parks mask wearing requirement idea was that for Fisher Farm and Abersham the Town has no authority since they are owned by the County.  This of course implies it's possible for the Town to require them at Town-owned parks and greenways.  However, making masks required in Town Parks wasn't specifically discussed during the meeting other than in reference to having the possible authority to do so.

In fact most of the conversation on masks centered around possibly requiring them inside businesses and presumably any lines outside them.  This rightfully led to consideration of enforcement and asking the question "what happens if someone does not comply?"  Police Chief Penny Dunn was not on the call to provide her insights.  Mayor Knox glossed over the question saying compliance shouldn't be a problem in Davidson.  Commissioner Fuller did however acknowledge the possibility of having to deal with situations like the one in Raleigh recently where 2nd Amendment advocates protested such public orders.  That protest was around stay at home orders and did not involve protesting a mask requirement, but the idea is worth considering.  What might be the unintended consequences from an enforcement perspective of Davidson going out on its own with added restrictions?

This portion of the meeting ended with staff being directed to come up with some options.  Those can be found here on the agenda for Tuesday's Special Meeting.  A special webinar registration link is also included for those citizens who would like to participate in the discussion.

The options range from the most extreme restriction of staying in Phase 1 when the State and County move to Phase 2 (possibly as soon as the end of this week), to modifying certain aspects of moving to Phase 2 such as opening restaurants but with only outdoor seating, to requiring masks in public places, to moving to Phase 2 when everyone else does.  Much of the attached deck of slides focuses on a possible Town information campaign encouraging mask wearing.

Interestingly, there is no attached resolution or ordinance that might be voted on at the meeting.  Typically, such documents are included in the agenda.  That could be a sign of the fluidity of the situation with no specifics readily available to even draft one, or it could mean no such documents are needed if the actions just include directing staff to conduct a public information campaign.  Per comments at the meeting last week this could also mean a document to vote on isn't really needed because the power to do these things is really vested solely with the Mayor under emergency powers.  This last possibility could mean some document will be pulled together after the meeting for the Mayor to sign.  However, Mayor Rusty Knox did indicate last week that he intended to follow the Board majority and not make any of these decisions alone.

Tune in this evening at 6pm.  It is sure to be an interesting one.

Note to Readers:  This is the first real post in quite a while here at aShortChronicle, and several readers have reached out to ask "where have you been?"  The absence hasn't been because of any health issue, overwork elsewhere, or because of a lack of possible Town Hall topics to discuss.  Rest assured, or maybe not, the number of questions, comments, and information received here at aShortChronicle on Town shenanigans and tomfoolery has not slowed down.  However, for the time being judiciousness in choosing what to cover will be the norm.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

FOUND: Missing Teen in Davidson contact the Town with any information

UPDATE: The Davidson Police Department is happy to announce that Ket Barrington was located on March 11, 2020 and is safe.  Thank you to everyone who called, inquired and assisted during the search.  

The Davidson Police need assistance in locating a missing 16 year-old. Bereket “Ket” Barrington left his home on Grey Road in Davidson during the early morning hours of Monday, March 9, 2020.  Ket did not take his phone, computer and wallet or have any means of transportation.  Ket is known to frequently walk in Abersham Park and attends William A. Hough High School in Cornelius.  A distinctive feature is his deep voice and slight Ethiopian accent.  If anyone has seen or spoken to Ket since Sunday night, please let us know he’s safe.  Any information that you can provide would be much appreciated.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

NC73 left turns at Davidson-Concord Road again in the plan...

At the February 11th Davidson Town Board meeting there was a lengthy discussion on the proposed widening of NC73.

Town officials discussed a draft resolution covering 7 items of concern - a list that was eventually expanded to 8.  The list spanned everything from landscaping to affordable housing to historic preservation to mobility to development and yes, most importantly, public safety.  This list and draft resolution was the result of several officials attending an NCDOT meeting for public officials back on January 27th.  An open house for the general public was held on the 28th.

For Davidson residents who travel through the NC73/Davidson‐Concord Rd intersection and for those who live on the east side of Davidson along NC73 the safety and mobility issues will likely bubble to the top of this lengthy list of concerns.

aShortChronicle reported on the proposed lack of left turns at the NC73/Davidson-Concord Rd intersection a year ago in February of 2019.  See here for that story.  The update to that story indicated the issue had been resolved with a signal at this intersection and that the lack of left turns was an "error" on the map.  However, based on the discussion at Davidson Town Hall last week that error now seems to be the actual plan with the NC 73 widening project - no left turns a NC73/Davidson-Concord Rd.

It was mentioned that this no left turns plan could possibly change if there is development on the Huntersville side of this intersection on the south side of NC73.  There is apparently an unnamed developer for an unnamed project looking at that location who would be on the hook to do a traffic study showing that a left turns across NC73 is warranted.  However, Town Manager Jamie Justice stated that may just be for left turns on the road crossing NC73, and not for left turns from NC73 onto Davidson-Concord Rd or into this new development.  Those lefts would still need to use the u-turn format of passing the intersection then doing a u-turn and coming back to it to make a right.  See below for the pictures of how this will work.

The primary safety concern with this intersection stated at last weeks meeting has to do with public safety response, particularly for swift access to the Davidson East and Summers Walk neighborhoods on NC73.  Davidson Fire and Police service will have to navigate these unwieldy intersections that needlessly add distance and increase response times.

Unfortunately, this plan by NCDOT should surprise nobody.

This is not the first time NCDOT plans have sacrificed safety for Davidson residents for the benefit of pushing a little more traffic a little faster on area roads.  Long-time readers of aShortChronicle may remember the fight to reduce speeds on Davidson-Concord Rd as another recent example.

NCDOT initially did not want to reduce speeds from 55mph on sections of this road down to 45mph south of Beaver Dam.  They also didn't want to reduce the speed to 35mph from there into downtown.  It took a concerted effort by citizens to make the case and stand up to NCDOT staff to get this done.  Ultimately, it took bringing NCDOT staff to Davidson Town Hall to hear directly from the people to get the job done.

In addition to passing a strongly worded resolution, Davidson Town Hall should consider doing the same thing now and request NCDOT come to speak to residents.  Resolutions are nice.  They may even be necessary, but Davidson passed plenty of resolutions on the speed limit reduction before it got done.  Ut took citizen involvement to make that actually happen.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Questions for the Davidson Cottages Public Input Session on Wednesday

Last Thursday, Davidson Town Hall put out the below notice for a public input session for the new Davidson Cottages project as part of the Davidson Commons East development that includes Woodies..

aShortChronicle previously reported on this project here and last week asked some questions about the overall Davidson Commons East development last week.  See here for that story.

As stated before, the Davidson Cottages project seems like one that meshes well with the surroundings.  It's close to the commercial and transit services at Exit 30.  It will include built affordable housing and market price housing at the more affordable end of the spectrum for Davidson.  It also has a quality builder/developer in Saussey Burbank.

The only obvious drawback from the perspective of aShortChronicle is the possible/expected use of "density averaging" to achieve the planned footprint.  From the Town website on the Board of Adjustment page density averaging (also known as built upon area (BUA) averaging) is described as

Built-Upon Area Averaging is a program whereby parcels located within a protected watershed may obtain additional impervious coverage rights by averaging the total impervious area of the developing lot with the total impervious area of an undeveloped/less developed lot within the same watershed. Essentially, the "receiving lot" obtains additional impervious square footage allowance when the "giving lot" establishes a non-revocable easement containing undeveloped, vegetated area. The amount of this easement area may be transferred from the giving lot to the receiving lot by Final Plat recordation, subject to applicable criteria and processes. Davidson Planning Ordinance Section 17.8 outlines the process and requirements for obtaining a Density Averaging Certificate, which must be approved by the Board of Adjustment. 

Another way to look at this is it is a gimmick to benefit developers that has little to nothing to do with water quality. Less expensive land, possibly unbuildable land, can be bought for relatively cheap then "set aside" to allow more density on high dollar land.

Any developer desiring to use density averaging should present the exact potential donor lot or lots that might be a part of any such equation in its public information session.  Would these donor lots be buildable at the same scale?  If not then density averaging doesn't really add value from an overall water quality perspective.  In fact it could take away value if the donor lot is unbuildable anyway and would never have impervious development but "saving" it allows more density elsewhere.

Importantly, under the current Davidson ordinance the final density averaging decision does not occur until a Board of Adjustment hearing after the rest of the plan is approved.  This sets up the situation where a lot of time and effort has been expended before the BOA hearing.  What are the chances the BOA turns down the request for density averaging at that point?  There will obviously be a lot of pressure on them to approve.  It would be much better if this was done earlier, but it is not.

With this particular development there is also a lot of history on the subject already.  aShortChronicle would like to see a full explanation of the history of this project and the possibility of using density averaging at the public information session.  It is very unlikely that will happen however.

Public records requests completed over the past few years show that the possible use of density averaging on this parcel has been under discussion as early as late 2016 during the swirl around the neighboring Griffith Street Hotel project. Records show there have been multiple times the density averaging subject on this particular parcel was planned to go before the BOA - as early 2017 - in both July and October of that year.  Former Town Attorney Rick Kline was engaged by the developer for this 2017 work.  The October 2017 hearing was suddenly pulled at the last minute in what appears to be a Town decision, but the record contains no explanation of why.  However, the latest records request received earlier this month also appears to be incomplete.  If this idea was pulled by the Town in 2017, why would the Town even be considering it now?  Was there a process mistake in 2017 that required it to be pulled or some other reason?  These concerns were all presented to elected officials last week for comment, but none has been received as of this posting.

Again, the Davidson Cottages project seems like a very good one.  This isn't really about that.  However, in the interest of transparency for this project and future ones, all of these concerns about how the Town and Town Staff handle these things need addressing.