DAVIDSON – In “pre-preliminary phase” discussions designed to inform commissioners about possible projects and collect initial feedback about the proposals, separate developers shared visions for a compact townhouse project on Armour Street and the final phase of single-family homes in the River Run neighborhood that would be created exclusively for senior citizens.

The presentations – about Davidson Bay Phase 2 and River Run Phase 6 – during the Davidson town’s board’s Jan. 8 work session were “information only” outlines viewed as preludes to potential pursuit of board approval. Acknowledging the value of input from decision makers during the concept phase, representatives involved in each project said the goal of the early-phase exchange was to gauge commissioner reaction to the proposals – which would require some significant shifts in the town’s adopted expectations for the properties involved.

Davidson Bay

Hopper Communities, a Charlotte-based residential and land-development firm, has the option to purchase approximately 4.8 acres in the northwest corner of the Armour Street/Beaty Street intersection. The property, part of the larger master-planned Davidson Bay mixed-used neighborhood, is marked by unfinished roadwork and construction debris remaining from a previous developer’s abandoned efforts.

Company founder Bart Hopper, accompanied by other Hopper representatives and design consultant Brian Jenest, laid out a plan featuring 56 townhouses and 10,400 square feet of retail/commercial space. The residential units, priced in the $400,000 to $500,000 range, would be in a collection of buildings surrounding a neighborhood green and the project would include a new road connection to Beaty Street.

As proposed, the plan would reduce total residential units in the entire Davidson Bay development from 280 to 237. But it would also reduce commercial square footage in the phase to less than a third of the 38,000 currently approved and anticipated.

Kim Fleming, the town’s economic development manager, told Hopper officials “I like what you showed,” but suggested tripling the retail space.

“We have very little land for commercial and this is where we have planned for commercial development,” Fleming said. “There is a real demand. We need more commercial space and my input would be we need every bit of commercial we can get.”

Mayor Rusty Knox also said he liked the basic plan, but emphasized the importance of retail and commercial property. “I don’t see the benefit of reducing commercial requirements,” Knox said, adding a change would not be “advantageous to our tax base.”

Jenest countered by saying when he prepared the design he wanted to “create something smaller ... something that is part of the neighborhood but not overpowering,” he said. “And 38,000 square feet just seemed out of place.”

Bart Hopper was more direct.

“If we had our way, it would be all townhomes,” Hopper said, before adding he was open to more discussions to reach a compromise. “We can find a sweet spot.”

River Run retirees

The decades-old River Run neighborhood, built in multiple phases, includes 780 homesites and covers hundreds of acres on the east side of Davidson. And developers want the last piece of the high-end golf course and residential neighborhood, Phase VI, to cater to those 55 and older.

Danny Fesperman, part of the River Run development team since its inception, told commissioners developers plan to seek conditional rezoning on three parcels, totaling around 75 acres, for a 132-lot senior living community. What Fesperman described as the “sixth and final” River Run phase would be on the east side of Shearer Road across from The Reserve (River Run’s fifth phase) and would be built by Epcon Communities, a firm that specializes in active-adult neighborhoods and has existing projects in the Lake Norman area.

Fesperman said market trends and aging statistics, combined with the fact that several longtime River Run residents have recently moved to senior living neighborhoods in other towns, powered the decision to pursue an adult community.

“We feel like there is a need for this project in Davidson,” he said. “And it is a good fit for that piece of property.”

An Epcon representative accompanying Fesperman said the average price for the company’s senior homes, which are usually in the 2,000-plus square foot range, is $427,000 and the company anticipates River Run homes will be larger than Epcon’s standard models.

The development, as proposed, would require a density-requirement variance from the town. But Fesperman and Epcon officials reminded commissioners that senior neighborhoods create less demand on community resources (like roads and schools) than standard developments.

Future review

Both projects, if they evolve into firm proposals, would be subject to more detailed planning staff analysis than a formal town board review process.

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