DAVIDSON – Town planning officials want to rezone a failed subdivision, making it an area to attract offices and businesses considered light manufacturing to the town.
But the owner of the property and some neighbors aren’t sure they like the idea.
Planners are focusing on 130 acres on the north side of N.C. 73 between Ramah Church and McAuley roads in an effort to attract more businesses to the town. Where developer Frank Jacobus once envisioned Davidson East, a 240-home subdivision, Davidson planners now want to see a mix of offices and light manufacturing, Davidson Planning Manager Lauren Blackburn said.
Jacobus defaulted on a $6 million loan from what is now CommunityONE bank in late 2009. The bank foreclosed on the property and bought the land at auction for $3.9 million. The bank also owns a portion of another of Jacobus’ failed housing development, Abersham.
Since the land Jacobus left behind is zoned for residential use, Davidson planning staff has asked the town board to rezone it for employment campus, a designation that will allow for buildings that can support offices and light industry, which one reference source says could include the manufacture of clothes, shoes, furniture, consumer electronics and home appliances.
“Currently our ordinance does not have building types that support light industrial users. So if we want to encourage that type of use, we need to have a building they can actually occupy,” Blackburn said.
Davidson Economic Development Manager Kris Krider said the town needs that option.
“Over the years, we’ve become a bedroom community instead of a self supporting town. And we’re recognizing that’s not the best strategy given the variances in the market place,” Krider said.
A study performed by McCallum Sweeney, a site selection consultant, through a Duke Energy program, shows Davidson doesn’t have any areas suitable for offices and light manufacturing.
“They told us that there are people who are checking out your town, your sites, long before you ever even know they’re thinking about you, and if they check on Davidson and don’t see any available sites, you’ve just been eliminated,” Krider said.
The former Davidson East property lends itself to business use because of its location to the N.C. 73 corridor and availability of utilities, Krider added.
But the property’s owner, CommunityONE Bank, isn’t happy with the proposed changes. Local attorney Susan Irving, representing the bank, spoke at a public hearing on the changes at a Davidson town board meeting Feb. 8. She said the bank was not notified of the proposed changes and called the mix-up a “colossal miscommunication.”
“The bank would like to know what is really gong on,” she said. “The bank would like to be very involved in the process.”
She asked for town planning staff to work with the bank to develop a plan for how the area should be used.
Others at the public hearing weren’t too keen on the idea either.
Martha Jenkins’ property sits to the left of the proposed rezoning area. “I’m still kind of lukewarm I will say. Just making changes doesn’t mean it will bring business to the area,” she said.
Pam Dykstra, president of Davidson Lands Conservancy, was worried about the amount of open space the changes could leave behind.
“Why are we changing the ordinance,” she said. “Why is this necessary?”