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Building industry hopes Davidson nixes charrettes

Policy viewed as harmful to development

If there are people in the building industry upset about a Davidson proposal to do away with its so-called charrettes, Joe Padilla is not among them.

Padilla, executive public policy director with the Charlotte-based Real Estate and Building Industry Coalition, is glad the policy might finally get axed.

Charrette is a French word that means “cart.” In the planning world, though, it’s meant to be a meeting – developers, architects, residents and public officials are usually in attendance – to gather input for a project before it’s built. In different parts of the country, charrettes can span several days for one project.

Charrette is a French word that means “cart.” In the planning world, though, it’s meant to be a meeting – developers, architects, residents and public officials are usually in attendance – to gather input for a project before it’s built.

In Davidson, a developer can be required to have several charrettes with the public, depending on the size of the proposed project.

Some in the building industry complain that the charrettes add just another layer of delays that developers must deal with at a time when the construction industry, which is still feeling the effects of the recession, needs fewer impediments to building.

That’s why Padilla says it’s time to bid adieu to charrettes.

“Whether you are going for rezoning or using a by-right zoning for your project, you have to go through this lengthy approval process in Davidson,” Padilla said. “For a lot of developers, it is just too much work to do in this rocky economic climate.”

The town is apparently taking complaints like those into consideration: It might get rid of charrettes and replace them with a single public information meeting for each project, in a proposal set to be presented to the town’s board May 8.

“Over the past several years we’ve heard feedback from developers and the public saying the charrette process didn’t work,” town planner Ben McCrary said.

Padilla said many developers who are also members of REBIC have told him that they’ve moved their projects to nearby Cornelius, Mooresville or Huntersville because of Davidson’s onerous requirements to get project plans reviewed.

“With the lending environment so tight, every developer is going to look to see where they can do their project with the least amount of headwind coming toward them,” Padilla said. “The more Davidson can streamline their process, the more competitive they’ll be.”

Indeed, McCrary said one of the reasons the town is considering streamlining the project-approval process for developers is to make Davidson more competitive.

And getting rid of charrettes might not be the only change coming to Davidson.

Davidson’s planning department has also proposed limiting the amount of reviews by town staff members for new plans and architectural drawings, McCrary said. If the town approves those changes, only one or two staff members would review plans and drawings instead of having them go before the entire planning board or Board of Commissioners.

“We are hoping to reduce the number of steps a developer has to go through to get a project approved,” McCrary said. “We hope the new requirements are approved and they help make the timeframe for new developments more predictable for investors.”

McCrary said the town has been working with Davidson-based consulting firm Rose and Associates to review the economic impact of the town’s current plan-review requirements.

Padilla, for one, is rooting for change.

“There can be a lot of economic uncertainty for investors and developers with the way the review process works now in Davidson,” he said. “It can take up to a year before even a by-right use of land gets approved.”

BAUGHMAN can be reached at scott.baughman@mecktimes.com.

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