By CHUCK McSHANE
Flashing pedestrian crossing lights will be installed at the Griffith Street roundabouts and lighting could be improved at crosswalks near the Davidson College campus in the coming months, officials announced at the Town Board work session Tuesday night. Commissioners also raised concerns over a General Assembly bill that could limit towns' abilities to enforce residential design standards.
In other news, work has begun to transform the old pump station on South Street into offices for Parks & Recreation. And the town's finance director says sales tax revenues are continuing to rebound to pre-2008 levels.
PUBLIC WORKS PROJECTS
Several projects are under way or scheduled for this spring, Public Works Director Doug Wright told commissioners. These include:
- Tree trimming and replacement in select areas going on now through Jan. 31
- New flashing pedestrian crosswalk lights will be installed at the Griffith Street traffic circles this spring and summer as part of a Safe Routes to School grant.
- A new sidewalk on Watson Street between the Cotton Mill and Depot Street
- The Public Works Department is also working with the North Carolina Department of Transportation and Davidson College to consider how to improve lighting at Concord Road crosswalks near the Davidson College campus.
DESIGN FOR LIFE UPDATE
The Davidson Design for Life (DD4L) project, funded primarily by a three-year, $350,000 Centers for Disease Control grant, is entering its second year. So far, staff members have conducted health impact assessments on the proposed Red Line commuter rail project and on North Carolina Senate Bill 731, Project Coordinator Katherine Hebert reported.
The N.C. Senate bill would reduce the authority of local governments to control design standards in single-family neighborhoods and subdivisions. This could lead to neighborhood designs that don’t encourage walking and biking – long priorities in Davidson – and that could have negative health impacts, according an assessment by DD4L. The bill passed the Senate in 2011. In the House, members referred it to the Committee on Commerce and Job Development.
Davidson commissioners worry the bill will affect the town's ability to continue overseeing residential design and enforcing its planning ordinance.
“It’s basically an issue of municipal sovereignty,” Commissioner Connie Wessner said.
Added Mayor John Woods: “Finding a champion in Raleigh for our side of this is going to be a challenge.”
Ms. Hebert also reported that:
- DD4L plans additional health impact assessments covering: food system planning, universal design (focused on access and mobility), and parks, recreation and public spaces.
- The project is organizing a Southeastern regional Health Impact Assessment Summit on Aug. 1 and Aug. 2 at Davidson College.
Other reports came from Public Works, Parks and Recreation, and Finance.
PARKS AND RECREATION
Parks and Recreation Director Kathryn Spatz updated the board on the following projects:
- Conversion of the South Street pump house into offices for the Town’s Parks and Recreation Department is under way.
- Light installation at McEver Fields will begin in April.
- Installation of a new Roosevelt Wilson Park bridge will begin this spring as part of a grant from Lowe’s.
- The restrooms at the Ada Jenkins Center will be upgraded, which will allow Parks and Recreation to use the gyms.
Town Finance Director Cindy Jones reported:
- Sales tax revenues for the town are getting back to pre-2008 levels.
- Cash reserves are about $1 million higher than at this time in 2012. Ms. Jones recommended the Town consider putting the money in a CD for a better interest rate. The Town is currently earning a 0.5% interest rate with Capital Management Trust.
- Overall property valuation is up by 8 percent since Mecklenburg County’s revaluation last year.
QUALITY OF LIFE STUDY
Also on Tuesday, representatives from the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute and the Mecklenburg County Manager’s office introduced the newly expanded Charlotte-Mecklenburg Quality of Life Study. Since 2000, the study had focused solely on Charlotte. The 2012 study includes data on 464 “Neighborhood Profile Areas,” including eight in Davidson.
The study includes maps and information about 80 educational, environmental, housing, economic and other quality of life variables in each neighborhood. Owen Furuseth, a UNC Charlotte geography professor and associate provost for Metropolitan Studies, said the study can help local governments collaborate better across departments.
“It’s going to empower citizens and elected officials,” Furuseth said. “All of a sudden the silos that had been built up can come down.”
Project leaders will hold public education and training sessions at regional Charlotte Mecklenburg Library branches in February. The Quality of Life study dashboard is available here.
Commissioners were scheduled to update board goals on Tuesday, but moved the discussion to next month’s work session.