The issue: The property is ground zero for debate
Nineteen acres of town-owned property fronting the east side of Beaty Street – a collection of trees, open space and a pond with pieces extending to Armour Street and N.C. 115 – has been a steady topic of Davidson government and community discussions for years. The town acquired the majority of the property in the 1980s, and more parcels were added with the goal of pursuing future development. In 2016, the property was put on the market, and in early 2017 one proposal suggesting a mix of residential, commercial/retail and public amenities uses – the Luminous Project – was approved despite loud and active opposition from community groups. Plans for that project were shelved last September, but the fallout from the issue remained a hot-button topic during the town’s election, when four new commissioners and a new mayor were elected.
What happened: New board narrows focus to park use
Soon after taking office – starting with a mini-retreat in early January – Mayor Rusty Knox and the almost completely new board of commissioners identified establishing a clearly defined future use of the Beaty Street property as a top priority. In multiple discussions at subsequent meetings, all board members expressed support for the property to become a park and, at the town board’s March 13 meeting, commissioners voted 3-2 to formally declare their vision that the acreage be developed as a park. The votes in opposition – from commissioners Jim Fuller and Jane Campbell – were not against the park concept but the procedure used to take the vote without a new round of public input and fact-gathering opportunities. A month later, the board unanimously approved the creation of a citizen-led Park at Beaty Street Task Force.
What it means: Task force members, duties assigned
The park task force duties were defined as soliciting community input, identifying park and recreation elements desired and performing a variety of other preliminary fact-finding and suggestion-evaluation procedures before making recommendations back to the board. An application process was created, and 26 people submitted requests to be included on the task force. Knox and commissioners Jim Fuller and David Sitton reviewed the applications and focused on creating a committee with balanced representation from all parts of town and a mix of professional expertise. At the town board’s May 22 meeting, those selected to serve on the task force were identified. They are: Meredith Allen, Ellyn Baeszler, Denise Beale, John Burke, Leah Chester Davis, Dave Cable, Heidi Dietrich, Gary Fagan, Peter Grisewood, Janet Makee, Bill Maloney, Karen Manfredi, Jason Parker, Gabrial Schoen and Alice Sudduth.
What’s next: Meetings, more input planned
The task force will set its meeting schedule and coordinate its efforts with Davidson Parks and Recreation Director Kathryn Spatz, and Chris Matthews, who is the natural preserves and natural resources director with the Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation Department. Knox – saying “This is a critical thing that has been at the forefront of too many local conversations” – said there is no timeframe for task force recommendations, and the goal remains to get as much input as possible. And Fuller and Sitton emphasized that all residents, not just task force members, have the opportunity to be involved in the process. “The committee is designed to solicit input,” Sitton said. With Fuller adding, “We invite everybody in town who has a thought to share on this to share it.”