The Davidson Town Board on Tuesday put off a vote on the 2012-13 town budget, after the town manager said final figures in some areas are incomplete. The board also adopted a series of new or revised public safety rules governing protests, public camping and “extraordinary events,” and revised the planning ordinance to allow for outdoor murals on buildings in the downtown area.
The board Tuesday also honored both the state champion Hough High girls’ soccer team and the Davidson Community Players, which was named community theater group of 2011 by the N.C. Theater Conference. And the board heard a presentation on the proposed DavidsonLearns lifelong learning program by director Amy Diamond.
Town Manager Leamon Brice asked the board to delay a vote on the $8.9 million budget for the new fiscal year, which begins July 1. He said after the meeting that town officials haven’t been able to come up with a final calculation for the town’s trash pickup fee.
“We’re still working with (Mecklenburg) county to verify how many people are being billed,” he said. With those numbers incomplete, the town can’t figure out whether it needs to adjust the fee in the coming year, he said.
The vote budget vote now is expected in two weeks, at June 26 work session
PROTEST AND CAMPING RULES
Town staff member an attorney Cindy Reid briefed commissioners on new rules for how people may assemble, parade or protest on public property, and how the town can adopt security rules for “extraordinary events.” Ms. Reid worked with police chief Jeanne Miller on the ordinances,
as part of a broad review of all the town’s public safety policies.
The four ordinances passed 5-0. (Commissioner Jim Fuller was out of town, but participating via speaker phone.)
In many cases, the new rules are the first update in the town’s policies since 2001, according to Mr. Brice. The changes also come as Charlotte and other area towns are updating their rules to accommodate possible demonstrations during the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte in September.
One new rule slightly revises the existing ordinance on picketing. It includes about 90 percent of the language from the previous one, Ms. Reid said, but makes some changes. For example, it bans picketing in street medians. Ms. Reid said the changes were needed, in part, because some current rules would not pass a constitutional test.
The town also had no rules to prohibit camping, and needed to update old language in rules for protests and parades, in some cases to comply with new constitutional requirements. The new ordinance prohibits camping on public lands, except Fisher Farm. Protests would still be allowed, but sleeping overnight would not be.
In a message accompanying the proposed rules, Mr. Brice said, “Our community has grown considerably (since 2001) and we’re more likely to have events which would require us to use these ordinances.”
There was little discussion on most of the new rules, but commissioners lingered on language in a new ordinance that would regulate “extraordinary events.”
Ms. Reid said these would be rare, and could be defined as events of national or international significance or that would draw an unusually large crowd to town. If the president were to visit during this September’s Democratic convention, for example, or if presidential candidates were to debate Davidson College, those could be considered “extraordinary events.” Likewise, Davidson College’s hosting of the NCAA men’s soccer finals in the early 1990s would fit the description, she said.
The new rules give the town manager the power to declare an “extraordinary event.” The manager would set the boundaries and time frame for such an event, and the town could require permits for gatherings, such as assemblies on the Village Green.
The ordinance also spells out series of security restrictions designed to prevent injuries or property damage. For example, people attending events would be barred from bringing chains, cables, wires, bars or pipes, any kind of projectile, aerosol containers, backpacks and coolers, hammers, police scanners, fireworks or smoke bombs.
Commissioner Connie Wessner wondered what would happen if the town did not declare an extraordinary event, but a gathering got out of hand. Could the town manager invoke the rules invoked “on the fly”?
“I don’t know that the ordinance makes that clear at all,” she said after the meeting. “What I heard in the end was that although the ordinance doesn’t speak specifically to it,” the town would likely have to make such a declaration in advance, so people had time to obtain permits.
“You can’t just announce, hey, extraordinary event,” she said.
Town officials said no public hearing was required for the rules, which following adoption are now part of the Municipal Code.
WALL MURAL RULES, OTHER ACTION
At the end of Tuesday’s meeting, the board voted 5-0 to adopt two planning ordinance revisions – one that would allow wall murals on downtown buildings and another giving the Design Review Board the authority to approve murals.
The rules adopted Tuesday are essentially the same as presented at a public hearing last month, with two minor changes. After feedback at the public hearing, town officials decided to eliminate language that would have restricted murals to no more than 50 percent of the area of a wall. And language that would have required property owners to maintain murals was deleted. Assistant Town Manager Dawn Blobaum said the Municipal Code includes “other ordinances that would take care of that.”
The mural rules were needed in part because of a pending proposal for a wall mural on the side of the Summit Coffee building at 128 South Main St. Organizers of the Davidson Farmer’s Market are trying to raise money for a wall painting that could be completed later this year. (See DavidsonNews.net, June 1, 2012, “Murals ahead? Town rewriting rules to allow wall art”
Also at Tuesday’s meeting the board:
- Honored Hough High School’s girls soccer team, which won the Division 4A state championship. (See related story, “Davidson board honors Huskies for soccer title.”
- Honored Davidson Community Players, which was chosen by the NC Theater Conference as 2011 community theater group of the year.
- Heard a presentation on the proposed DavidsonLearns lifelong learning program by director Amy Diamond. (See more about DavidsonLearns and take their survey in our June 4, 2012 news item, “DavidsonLearns names Diamond as director, seeks input.”)
- Approved a new, higher sales price for an affordable house in the Walnut Grove neighborhood, along Spring Street. Builder JCB Urban wants to build a larger house than originally proposed, that would accommodate a family of four or five, instead of two or three.
- Approval several small budget amendments. (See details here)
- Voted on two items related to the town’s ownership of the MI-Connection Communications System, which Davidson owns with Mooresville: Appointed Ken Essex and Steve Miller to new terms on the cable system’s board, and adopted a new “capital project ordinance” to manage the town’s subsidy to the system. The vote sets up a new fund with a maximum of $2 million that could be spent to help cover any shortfalls at MI-Connection. The board as part of this year’s budget also is expected to appropriate $1 million to the fund. The system has been losing money in recent years, forcing the two towns to cover payments on more than $80 million in debt. Davidson’s share right now is about $2 million, but a recent agreement between the two towns caps Davidson’s annual liability at $1 million. (See the details in our May 22, 2012, report: “Davidson commissioners approve revised cable pact.”)
- Appointed residents Mickey Pettus and Thomas Hazel to the Livability Board . The board put off consideration of by-laws for the new Livability Board. The town manager said staff had found conflicts with the town board’s own rules of procedure.
- Approved the modification of a conservation easement with Mecklenburg County at Fisher Farm, off Shearers Road. Town officials said the original easement along a stream at the park was not wide enough to complete a planned stream restoration. The change also allows space for a proposed natural gas line and greenway. Read more in the town manager’s note about the change.
The board also went into closed session at the meeting’s end to discuss an unspecified legal matter.
June 12, 2012, Davidson Town Board, part 1. Includes recognition for Davidson Community Players, Hough High girls state champion soccer team, presentation by Amy Diamond about the proposed DavidsonLearns lifelong learning program, introduction of Community School of Davidson student video about the 1968 boycott of Davidson barber Ralph Johnson’s whites-only barber shop. Click the play button to start. Can’t see the player or hear the audio? CLICK HERE>
(MP3, 30 min., 57 sec.)
June 12, 2012, Davidson Town Board, Part 2. Includes vote on consent agenda, discussion and (at 3:10) approval votes on four new or revised ordinances governing “extraordinary events,” protests, public camping, and (at 39:15) approval of planning ordinance amendments governing outdoor wall murals in the downtown area. Click the play button to start. Can’t see the player or hear the audio? CLICK HERE>
(MP3, 42 min., 26 sec)
CORRECTION: The description of the audio replay has been corrected to show that Community School of Davidson students created the Davidson history documentary.