By DAVID BORAKS
Commissioners voted Tuesday to require traffic studies and adequate parking for new schools or school expansions. The move won’t mean immediate changes for any existing schools, or to the planned Davidson Green School on South Main Street, but would apply to any that grow. Meanwhile, the board also discussed but took no action on a set of proposed new rules for food trucks.
The board on Tuesday also:
- Scheduled an Aug. 13 public hearing on a request by River Run Limited Partnership to annex three parcels on Dembridge Drive.
- Voted to require food vendors to obtain permits, as other peddlers and hawkers are required to do in town. (See the Amendments to Chapter 18, Article 4.)
- Heard a couple of presentations related to pedestrian safety. Planner John Cock of Alta Planning & Design presented a draft of the proposed Davidson Pedestrian Master Plan, or as he called it, the Davidson Active Transportation Master Plan. He suggested a variety of improvements, such as dedicated bicycle lanes where feasible; adding sidewalks where there are none, including along Beatty Street; and removing parking from one side of Concord Road to improve bike lanes there. The plan next will be reviewed by town staff and the Liveability Board, and could come back to the Town Board for adoption later. Meanwhile, Davidson Public Works chief Doug Wright outlined a variety of crosswalk improvements, sidewalk projects and other improvements under way. He also said he expects to have $25,000 in this year’s budget to start one more sidewalk project, and asked for feedback about the location. Also during the discussion, resident Jennifer Stewart asked the town to install 4-way stop at Davidson-Concord Road and Robert Walker Drive, where her son was hit by a car on May 24. Town officials said they are working with the NC DOT to reduce the speed and improve safety there, but she said, “It’s not enough … we need to do something to make that safer. We as a community need to encourage the state to have a four-way stop at that intersection,” Stewart said. “It would be great if it was in place in time for school, so our kids could walk safely to school.” (She said her son Mason is recovering from the incident.)
- Heard a presentation from Police Chief Jeanne Miller and discussed whether to draft a new ordinance governing skateboard use in town. She said police are seeing more skateboarders on private property as well as public streets. One skateboarder was seriously injured last year while long boarding in Abersham park, she noted. She also mentioned the accident at Robert Walker Drive, where Mason Stewart student was hit while skateboarding. The problem, Miller said, is that skateboarding is not addressed in state statutes or the town ordinance, nor are scooters, in-line skates, electric vehicles, etc. “That is a concern of mine,” she said. She asked the board to consider adding rules. Town Manager Leamon Brice suggested the next step might be setting up a meeting with skateboarders to discuss what kind of rules might work.
- Approved tax refunds for two property owners who won county revaluation appeals at the N.C. Property Tax Commission. Town officials said one was a $228 refund for 2011 and 2012 taxes on a condo at Emerald Bay in Davidson Landing. The other totaled $23,327 for 2011 and 2012 taxes on the Homewood Suites Hotel, off I-77 Exit 30.
- Approved a series of 2013-14 budget amendments, one allocating a donation received in 2012 for the purchase of a police dog, equipment and training. Another allocates a donation received last year for a radio system upgrade. And a third will pay for repairs and pave streets in the Bradford neighborhood community.
- Heard a complaint from resident Karen Barry, the owner of Davidson Counseling on Jackson Street, about downtown parking. “I have been having continuing and increasing concern about the lack of parking,” she told the board. She said she has trouble finding parking, sometimes getting tickets for exceeding the 2-hour limit near her office. She said it’s also a problem for her clients. Town officials asked downtown manager Kim Fleming to speak to her about parking options.
- Voted to renew and amend the town’s public safety communications agreement with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.
HOW SHOULD TOWN REGULATE FOOD TRUCKS
Commissioners spent part of Monday’s meeting talking about food trucks, and how the town should regulate them. When it was announced on the agenda, the proposal aroused concern among local food truck fans, who feared the town was preparing to crack down on the popular mobile eateries.
At the meeting’s start, Mayor John Woods tried to reassure the audience by saying, “This is to be a very preliminary discussion tonight … this has been put together as part of a rewrite of our entire (planning) ordinance.”
Food trucks are relatively new phenomenon, as the Charlotte region latches on to a nationwide trend. The area has seen food truck fundraisers, food truck rallies and even backyard food truck parties in at least one Davidson neighborhood.
Cindy Reid, the town’s in-house lawyer who drafted the proposed rules, said the goal was to provide rules, given the trucks’ growing popularity.
“What are we trying to cure?” asked Commissioner Connie Wessner, who said she had received calls from residents concerned that the town might be seeking to limit food trucks.
“We’re trying to allow food trucks,” Reid replied. She said the current zoning ordinance does not permit food trucks. “It’s an illegal use of land,” she said.
Wessner said it was appropriate to discuss it, though she was concerned that the proposed ordinance was presented “as a done deal.”
“I think these conversations are healthy and do address things that we have not thought of before,” she said. But, she added, she would like to “position it more as a discussion than as a done deal.”
Reid did answer a variety of questions that have been raised about the draft ordinance this week, including:
- The Davidson Farmer’s Market’s weekly food trucks would not be affected by the new rules, because the draft rules specifically exempt town sponsored events and nonprofit fundraising events that last less than three days.
- Food trucks would have to be parked on private land, with permission of the owners, and operate during specified hours.
- Food trucks at private neighborhood parties also would be exempt.
SCHOOL TRAFFIC AND PARKING
Commissioners held a public hearing Tuesday and then adopted planning amendments that would require schools to address traffic and parking for any new construction or expansion.
Specifically, the amendments would require:
- A traffic impact analysis, with a study of traffic volume and a plan to address it.
- Adequate parking. Current town rules require minimum parking for most businesses, but not for schools. Under the rules adopted Tuesday, schools would have to ensure at least 2 parking spaces and 2.25 spaces maximum per classroom.
Town officials said the discussion was part of an overall rewriting of the planning ordinance. It comes as one new private school is preparing to open – the Davidson Green School at 511 S. Main St.
At least two other school expansions also are in the works: Davidson Day School plans a $4 million expansion at its campus off Jetton Street, and Mecklenburg County Commissioners recently adopted a school budget that will convert Davidson Elementary School into a K-8 school by adding middle school grades.
Kendell Berry, the Head of School at Davidson Day, expressed concern over a couple of provisions in the new rules, including one that requires schools to move car lines entirely onto their campuses. He asked to be included as the town continues discussions on how to revise the new rules.
Several residents spoke at Tuesday’s meeting, expressing concern over the Green School in their neighborhood.
Davidson Green School’s organizers bought the single family home on South Main Street and 3.2 acres for $510,000 on June 17. They’re hoping to open this fall with 20 to 30 students. They’ve been meeting with town and Mecklenburg County officials to ensure that they meet zoning and building codes, and with neighbors, to address concerns over parking and traffic. They’ve also conducted a traffic study, though one neighbor complained that it was done after the end of the local public school year, when traffic may be lower.
Town planning manager Ben McCrary said the school will actually be exempt from the new rules when it opens because school organizers had filed their planning application with the town last Friday, July 5, before commissioners adopted the new rules.
AGENDA AND DOCUMENTS
See the full agenda for Tuesday’s meeting, and related documents, on the town website.