First of nine Davidson health studies under way
by Staff Writer
DAVIDSON – The town’s new healthy design committee is well into its first three of nine assessments investigating how planning effects the health of residents.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention awarded Davidson, and five other municipalities in September 2011, a $350,000 grant over three years to study planning and design decisions’ effects on community health. The grant allowed the town to hire Katherine Herbert to lead the Davidson Design for Life committee.
Davidson Design for Life will perform three health impact assessments and hold two training sessions each year for three years.
Herbert and Planning Manager Lauren Blackburn outlined the first three studies for the town board at their Tuesday, March 13, meeting.
The first assessment will study what impact North Carolina Senate Bill 731 could have on future planning. The bill, currently in the House Commerce Committee for discussion, would limit how much say towns have in neighborhoods’ designs.
“This bill really strikes at the heart of our planning ordinance,” Commissioner Connie Wessner said.
The town passed a resolution opposing the bill when it was first announced, but Wessner said this study will provide data to support Davidson’s planning regulations.
Blackburn said the committee and Herbert are racing against the clock to study the bill’s potential impact on physical activity, social cohesion, mental health and safety.
The second assessment will look at how street design elements like the location of grass buffers can affect car wrecks, physical activity, air and water quality and respiratory disease, Blackburn said.
Herbert will also be studying how alternative transportation like the proposed Red Line Regional Rail affects community activity and health.
“Davidson has a distinct role to play in mentoring other small towns in rural environments,” Blackburn said.
In other board news
The board also designated the
Davidson School as a Historic Landmark, approved clarifying amendments to the town ordinance and heard reports from six nonprofit organizations it helped fund this fiscal year.