Improvements to structure, relationships needed for affordable Davidson complex

Maintenance needs at The Bungalows, the award-winning Davidson Housing Coalition 32-unit development on Jetton Street, are part of the evolving conversation about Davidson’s commitment to affordable housing. /File photo

DAVIDSON – Acknowledging limitations on its authority to demand more – and emphasizing the importance of regular updates – the Davidson town board has accepted a methodical approach to identify and address maintenance needs at the 21-year-old complex often referenced as the prime example of the community’s goal to provide affordable housing options.

At the board’s Nov. 23 meeting, Housing and Equity Director Eugene Bradley – following months of public comments and recent board discussions – told commissioners that county building inspections on each of the 32 residential units at The Bungalows on Jetton Street are planned in the coming months. Bradley also said the facility’s ownership group – which includes the Davidson Housing Coalition (DHC) and the Mosaic Development Group – have expressed a commitment to address resident concerns, make repairs and also rebuild relationships with The Bungalows tenants.

“I’m confident we are going in the right direction here,” Bradley said.

The plan, he explained, is for Mecklenburg County to conduct evaluations of each multi-unit building at The Bungalows over the next three to four months. There is only one county housing inspector assigned to the north Mecklenburg area, Bradley said, which results in the extended inspection schedule.

Needed repairs and maintenance issues at a building will be reported and the level of response to previously cited issues will be part of the evaluation checklist when the next Bungalows building is inspected.

County inspections will focus on safety issues and a comprehensive list of “minimum housing” standards. Some commissioners renewed their stance in favor of more thorough evaluations of property conditions by third-party, independent inspections, but Bradley and Town Manager Jamie Justice explained that The Bungalows are not owned by the town and the town has no authority to require private inspections.

The town contributed “seed” money to help establish the DHC more than two decades ago and is a regular contributor to DHC’s town-wide efforts, but The Bungalows are owned and operated by a partnership that includes DHC, Mosaic and a private tax credit investor. 

“I don’t like the answer, but I understand it,” said Commissioner Matthew Fort, who joined Commissioner David Sitton in pushing for the enhanced inspections.

However, in response to Bradley’s summary – which referenced the hiring of a new maintenance team and the pledge from DHC and Mosaic to be more responsive to tenant complaints – commissioners accepted the proposed inspection and repair plan while recommending status reports about progress and conditions at The Bungalows be a regular part of future town board sessions.


Non-discrimination ordinance

With compliance and mitigation aspects still evolving, commissioners voted unanimously to endorse a town Non-Discrimination Ordinance related to public accommodations.

Describing the details of a proposed intergovernmental alliance with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations Committee (CRC) as “a work in progress” – and emphasizing the potential to add a public transportation category to the ordinance in the future – Bradley presented an outline of a non-discrimination policy that has been the subject of town discussions and surveys for public feedback for months.

The ordinance is similar to the policy adopted earlier this year by Charlotte prohibiting discrimination pertaining to race, ethnicity and other indivdiual characteristics. However – as further evidence of the anticipated evolution of the town policy – commissioners balked at the proposed late-stage additions of “civil rights activity” and “political class” to the list of protected classes because those had not been included in public sessions and surveys seeking town resident input.

Employment discrimination issues are also not part of the local ordinance because they are addressed in state and federal statutes.

The town’s goal is for the CRC, an appointed group created to address cultural and racial issues and improve relations in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, to handle compliance and enforcement aspects of the local ordinance.

Initially, some commissioners expressed hesitation about endorsing the ordinance before compliance and mitigation components and the CRC partnership were finalized, but Commissioner Jim Fuller’s suggestion that the ordinance would go into effect when a “compliance mechanism was established” was unanimously approved.

“We’re creating an ordinance that says we’re going to treat everybody the same,” Sitton said to sum up his support for the work-in-progress policy. “I’m good now, I was good a year ago.”


Growth, roads and salaries

On other matters at the Nov. 23 meeting, the board rejected, in a 4-1 vote, Sitton’s proposal to establish East Rocky River Road as an “Urban Services Boundary” reference for future decisions about utility service extensions. Commissioners said the policy could clash with the existing Rural Area Plan and, while some said the topic might warrant future discussion, they were not prepared to endorse a new policy without more extensive discussion and public feedback. Sitton was the motion’s lone supporter.

The board also approved plans to sell the NCDOT parcels and pieces of properties as right-of-way for the planned Potts-Sloan-Beaty connector. Some of the funds from the $462,925 transaction will help reimburse the town the costs associated with relocating an historic house from the corner of Sloan and Griffith Street, where a roundabout will be built as part of the north-south connector street, to a town-owned lot on Crane Street.

Commissioners also unanimously approved a new contract for town manager Justice, which included a 6.5-percent salary increase, and a 5-percent bump in compensation for Town Attorney Mary Ann Swan aligned with her completion of a six-month “probation” period for new employees.

Justice’s new annual salary is $153,498. Swan’s is $115,000.

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