Development · Uncategorized

Davidson gets the goldmine; Cornelius gets the shaft?

With apologies to Jerry Reed, that may be what’s happening with the proposed Potts Street development in Davidson (and Cornelius).

The project has drawn strong grassroots opposition from Davidson residents, but not much notice in Cornelius.

UPDATE 1: More food for thought from the Cornelius point of view.  If the density averaging proposal is adopted, the homes on the Cornelius side will be severely restricted from doing any kind of future upgrades- i.e. they would be prohibited from any improvement that affects the impervious area.  So no swimming pools, room additions, garage additions, stone paths or hardscapes.  Another reason this should be a no-brainer for Cornelius.

UPDATE 2 :Perhaps in recognition of the poor deal this is for Cornelius (and Davidson, too for that matter, but that’s beyond the scope of this blog), the developer pulled the Cornelius application this week.  Word is Davidson is considering “clarifying” their density averaging ordinance. My $0.02 is the Cornelius interlocal will not be necessary once Davidson “clarifies” their ordinance.


The Potts St development is a proposed 30-acre residential development of 276 apartment units, 19 townhomes and 9 single family homes. The property straddles the border of Cornelius and Davidson near the YMCA on Davidson street.

And this is where things get ticklish. Most of the development (i.e. the apartments and town homes) are on the Davidson side. If fact, so much of the Davidson property is going to be developed that, were it just a Davidson project, it has too much impervious area to meet code.  One source puts the percentage of impervious area at a whopping 83%.

That’s where Cornelius comes in.

On the Cornelius side there’s only nine single family homes sitting on 7.3 acres. In a nifty move called “density averaging”, the developer is proposing to use the average impervious area of the entire project (i.e. the Cornelius side and the Davidson side). This lowers the impervious area to about 50%, which (apparently) meets the county code.

The Issue

Issues crossing town borders are usually solved with an “interlocal agreement.” In this case, the towns would formally agree to treat the development as a single entity, at least for building purposes.

Cornelius therefore holds the trump card: no interlocal agreement, no development. Or do they?  More on that in a moment.

The Gold Mine

So why is the town of Davidson pursuing this? The most common reason you hear is Davidson needs the tax revenue to feed the MI Connection gorilla. This development turns a stand of trees into a tax revenue-generating machine.

But surely there are higher and better uses for the property than apartments and townhomes. For instance, the luxury Watermark condos being built in Cornelius will be worth $48M on a property the planning department thought would total $5M. Something else is going on.

In fact, an email from a Davidson commissioner tells a different story.

Davidson development is guided by twelve core values, five of which require the government to provide some sort of service or amenity. One of government’s responsibilities is to “encourage opportunities, services, and infrastructure that allow people of all means to live and work here.” As Davidson Commissioner Rodney Graham puts it:

“I’m a strong believer that we should have diversity in Davidson, and one of the ways we get it is to have higher density – and consequently less expensive – housing.  Again, if everyone gets 1/3 acre (like Cornelius), the housing costs in Davidson will be very high, and diversity low.”

Thus, in a Shakespearean twist, the very values Davidson so cherishes drives the high-density development they so loathe.

The Shaft

The project will be accessed via a cut-through on Davidson road which will dump traffic into the Davidson/115 intersection. As any parent who has dropped a child off at the YMCA for summer camp could tell you, that intersection is treacherous even during off-peak hours. The idea of a couple thousand more vehicles is one of the issues that has locals up in arms.

Traffic will be ameliorated by a planned traffic circle, but the that only helps in the immediate vicinity; chances are most of those cars won’t be heading to Kindred for a cinnamon roll on a regular basis. Instead they’ll be driving south to Antiquity for groceries or the drug store or a haircut. They’ll cut through Cornelius on their way to Bailey Park soccer or the middle school or Hough.

So Cornelius gets most of the traffic and infrastructure strain while receiving very little tax revenue. In other words, the shaft.

Small wonder at least one Cornelius commissioner has expressed concern. In fact, the whole interlocal agreement may be a dicey proposition. But that may not matter because on the agenda for Davidson’s town board meeting is a proposal to change the density averaging ordinance:

The only plausible explanation for “clarifying” the “eligibility and requirements” for density averaging is to eliminate the need for an interlocal agreement with Cornelius.

Cornelius has scheduled the first public hearing on the project for Sept 18, and the second (and final) one on November 6th.   The planning board requested a copy of the yet-to-be completed traffic impact analysis, and a redesign of the roundabout may cause changes in the project design. I could not find any information on dwelling square footage and number of bedrooms/bathrooms.  All of which seems to leave a lot of unknowns prior to a public hearing.

Thus far the project has not attracted much notice in Cornelius.

Perhaps it should.


4 thoughts on “Davidson gets the goldmine; Cornelius gets the shaft?

  1. Could not agree more about how this interchange cannot handle hundreds of extra cars each day, multiple times a day. How is there a traffic study on Earth that recommends going through with density of this kind on those roads?


    1. Hi Dawn- the ball is really in Davidson’s court. Cornelius might have a tiny bit of leverage if they have to approve an access easement onto Davidson St. As your commissioner, I would pursue denying this as a possible means to stop the project.


  2. I am not sure if this applies to the Potts Street project, but the Lake Norman Covekeepers will meet September 28 @ 7pm. The guest speaker will be Sam Perkins, Catawba Riverkeeper and chief spokesperson for the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation (CRF). Sam will update on key issues now facing the Foundation related to both water quality and water quantity, among them the continuing coal ash debate; legal actions undertaken by the CRF, and the surge in problems created by expanding development near the lake. As always, there will be an opportunity to ask questions and to bring up other topics. Please welcome Sam and to participate in this important discussion on what is going on in and around the lake. East Lincoln Fire Department, 406 South Pilot Knob Road, Stanley. For more information, contact Ben Benoit (704-489-6249).


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