To the Editor:
Regarding the Davidson Town Board’s leaning towards supporting a Conditional Planning Area amendment in Davidson Commons East (March 13, 2013, “Board scraps APFO, hints support for auto repair shop”), allowing a Woodie’s Auto Service center across the street from the Community School of Davidson and behind homes on Westside Terrace: I’d like to follow up on a quote attributed to my friend Commissioner Rodney Graham in the article, using it as a straw dog upon which to comment.
He asked “What is the value …” of Davidsonians having to travel outside Davidson to get their vehicles serviced? Although the comments following are only my own, I can say that we on the Planning Board expressed similar thoughts about that specific issue at our meeting of Feb. 25, and about the $1.7 million per year in sales leakage in this service sector (see Feb. 26, 2013, “Plan board backs ending APFO, opposes auto shop”). In fact, I have asked staff to provide us with an outline of the general locations in town suitable to this use so we might provide them to this applicant and others.
However, we also discussed the following questions about this proposal:
- What is the value to be lost in economic development potential (and tax value to the town) if a one-story auto service center is built on the site under consideration, rather than a fully activated two-story building and land use of the sort envisioned in the approved plan? Staff provided that answer, to the tune of anywhere between $3.0M-$3.5M. Yes, Davidson could use an auto repair facility. But at what cost to the Town’s long-term fiscal health if it goes where it’s currently proposed?
- What is the value of the peace, quiet and even potential safety to the adjoining residents across the swale along Westside Terrace, only a few hundred feet away from the bays of an active auto service facility? And to their expectation that cars waiting to be repaired, fencing to protect those vehicles from vandalism and theft, along with noise, exhaust and even occasional runoff would not be present when the currently approved plan was adopted by the Town Board after extensive public input?
- What is the value of the Town’s smart growth practices and Guiding Principles, so notably relied upon by Commissioners, Planning Board members, Town staff and property owners/developers in their planning and adoption of the Davidson Commons East master plan? The plan called for this portion of the overall site to be either multi-family residential (attached townhomes were envisioned)—which would protect the Westside Terrace single family homes from unsuitable adjacent activities and would enhance the developing walkable mixed-use neighborhood around the Harris-Teeter core—and/or multi-story, active office/retail—which would provide relatively quiet and compatible land use to all adjacent neighbors while improving the Town’s fiscal health and creating additional employment opportunity for Davidsonians and others.
The proposed use is inconsistent with the Town’s adopted Comprehensive Plan, its adopted Planning Ordinance, the “Circles at 30” Small Area Plan (which is pending adoption), and with the principle of taking the long view about growth and development in Davidson.
In an earlier section of the March 13th article on this topic, Commissioner Wessner—also a friend—points out that scrapping the town’s APFO now “…is not at all a step away from smart growth practices.” I see her underlying point (and am using her comment only as a springboard) but respectfully disagree with it … at least until there is an adopted policy replacing it that addresses both the latent legal challenge and the sound planning principle that new development should pay for its own needs so as not to add additional burden to existing residents and business.
But—to the point—it is my strong, personal, suggestion that the Board of Commissioners not approve the proposed amendment to the Conditional Plan; doing so flies in the face of a number of the Town’s Guiding Principles and well-vetted planning policies.
It is not that the desire for automotive service in Davidson is not there—it clearly is. But what is the value of the three issues above: the fiscal health of Davidson, the environmental justice of its residents, and the development pattern and growth goals expressed by the citizens in a number of collaboratively-arrived at plans and policy documents? At what cost do we put a needed service in our town in the first location a developer requests—something that satisfies the short run desire, but very likely will detract from the fulfillment of the community’s long run needs.
While I appreciate the property owner’s desire to develop his property, I think this is a poor value proposition for Davidson.
George Berger The writer lives in the McConnell neighborhood and serves on the Davidson Planning Board.