Davidson rezones failed development as job center
by Staff Writer
DAVIDSON – While making compromises that permit apartments and townhomes, the Davidson Board of Commissioners decided Tuesday night, Sept. 13, to rezone most of the failed Davidson East residential development for a future commercial-employment center.
A team of consultants for Community One Bank, which took over the 178-acre site on N.C. 73 from developer Frank Jacobus, was clearly disappointed by the board’s decision. The board ignored a plan endorsed by the Planning Board that would have allowed more residential development, which the bank said would pay to develop roads and other infrastructure for offices, research labs and even light industry.
In following Planning Director Lauren Blackburn’s recommendation to rezone most of the land for employment uses, commissioners said they’re open to compromise about the amount of housing on the land when a developer asks the board to approve a more detailed master plan for the site.
Before the recession rocked the economy, Jacobus had secured zoning to allow a 480-unit subdivision, mostly single-family homes on the property, which starts across from the N.C. 73
T-intersection with Ramah Church Road and stretches east to McAuley Road.
But a citizen committee that helped draft the town’s new comprehensive plan recommended preserving land along N.C. 73 East for job centers, and the town staff, led by Planning Director Lauren Blackburn, proposed rezoning the land to follow the comprehensive plan’s direction.
Tuesday night, Commissioners Margo Williams, Tim Dreffer and Connie Wessner said the town already had compromised from the original employment campus rezoning, by allowing apartments and townhomes in a neighborhood core surrounding a commercial-retail center across from Ramah Church Road. Blackburn said the rezoning approved Tuesday would permit as many as 350 units.
Town Attorney Rick Kline, who said commissioners didn’t need to worry about the details of exactly how much land should be zoned residential to make the employment center financially feasible, swayed commissioners. He said those details will come when a developer comes back to the town board with a proposal.
Kline told commissioners he thought they were unnecessarily mired in details too soon in the process.
The team of consultants sitting in the audience must have been asking themselves why they had spent hundreds of hours in the past nine months negotiating over details of the rezoning.
Since January, town officials, primarily Blackburn, the planning board and the commissioners have spent hours talking to the consultants and each other about how much residential development to allow – and where.
Before Kline and Mayor John Woods convinced commissioners not to get lost in the details, zoning attorney Susan Irvin, representing Community One, offered a detailed breakdown of costs for developing roads and other infrastructure on the land. She told commissioners that Blackburn’s final rezoning recommendation would leave any developer $3.3 million short – and the entire development unfeasible.
Commissioner Brian Jenest proposed giving the bank – and any future developer – a sign of the town’s good faith by rezoning more of the site for residential development along a future extension of Shearer Road in the middle of the property. Mayor Pro Tem Laurie Venzon also seemed to favor some compromise on the residential rezoning.
But Wessner argued any gesture now “would be a hollow compromise. … I favor offering a meaningful compromise when a plan is in front of us,” she said.
With assurances from the town attorney and staff that details about any future development remain negotiable, Venzon voted with the other three to support the staff plan – designating most of the land for future employment campus.
Board endorses new Visit Lake Norman agreement
In other business Tuesday night:
• Without discussion, the board unanimously approved an interlocal agreement with Cornelius, Huntersville and the Visit Lake Norman tourism agency. Cornelius is the only town not to approve the new agreement, which gives the towns more say in the agency’s operations.
• Finance Director Eric Hardy is resigning and going to work for the city of Asheville. The move will bring Hardy closer to his family. Linda Hollifield-Rogozinski will step is as interim finance director.
• Dr. Jack Hurley announced that the River Run community would receive the Community Association Institute’s Community of the Year for N.C. award Sept. 23 in Raleigh. The community has created three new parks in the past year and a half and worked closely with the town on traffic calming efforts, Hurley said.
• The board unanimously approved Town Manager Leamon Brice’s proposal to extend the town’s fire service agreement with Odell Fire. The 10-year agreement, Brice said, does not get the town off the hook for building a new fire station. Davidson and Odell can both end the agreement with 18 month’s notice.