Oct 252015
 

A Developer Gift01

Municipal elections are typically the closest thing to the kind of government envisioned by the founders, where citizens offer service to their communities. Unfortunately as we all know, such idealism is often betrayed by greed and cronyism of the kind we’ve seen so often in Union County and everywhere else. This is why we voters must be vigilante.

FAMILIAR TERRITORY:

As you can tell by the cartoon above, this article concerns the David Hoffman and his campaign for the Mayor of Marvin. I have not met Mr. Hoffman, nor has he held any public office or service position to use as a measure of the kind of service he will offer. I have no doubt, given what I do know, he is a bright, ambitious, energetic real estate professional. Thus my primary concern. First a little historical context.

REAL ESTATE FOOD CHAIN:

RealEstateFoodChain

Click to enlarge

The unique circumstances of Union County’s bordering Charlotte, the boom of newcomers moving to Union from all points, low taxes and for about 13 years; excellent schools, attracted thousands of new residents. It also brought hundreds of Real Estate agents and brokers,  as well has dozens of builders, both local and national. Coupled with the various contractors serving the builders, it formed a food chain. So many people drew their livelihoods for building and selling homes, including the strangle-hold the real estate and home-builders lobbies have on the North Carolina’s General Assembly, it created a gold-rush of sorts that lead to 10 of thousands of homes being built and sold in western Union County. Add 23 new schools and almost $700 million in debt — you get the picture, right?

Since 2000, there has been a battle to prevent “if you build it they will come” mentality from overwhelming the infrastructure of the county and basically turning Marvin, Weddington and Waxhaw into Charlotte like suburbs of extreme density and high taxes.

Beginning in the  late 1990s, the developers and builders were electing themselves to positions on the County Commission, John Feezor for example, was the Chairman of the County Commissions, while being a Vice President of John Weiland Homes, the builder of the Weddington Chase subdivision. There is a lot of history involved, other Commissioners before and during who were brokers, and sub contractors. The Union County planning board, whose members are appointed by the Commissioners at one point had seven of nine members who were active developer/builders and on at least one occasion, a Marvin developer as I remember, voted to approve his own subdivision.

How did this happen? In order to keep the Commissioners from being overwhelmed with having to approve hundreds of subdivisions, and to prevent having their political fingerprints on them when things turned ugly, they turned the complete responsibility subdivision approval over to the county Planning Board and the “Food Chain” members they had appointed.

Not only did they approve subdivisions, they also recommended (later to be approved) changes to the county subdivision zoning, like giving 30% bonus density for “amenities” like two trees planted in the front yard, or a walking trail ( usually in flood plain). So a developer with a hundred acre clustered subdivision, that typically would yield 100 homes would be allowed 130 homes,  I once called this the “The Law of Crony and Effect“.

THE WALMART BATTLE: Tom Short and Rea Road

Developing the former Wal-Mart property in the Somerset subdivision at Tom Creek and Rea Road was the site of the biggest political battle yet to besiege Union County. Like the Fukushima meltdown, the political fallout has lingered for years. Eight years ago I wrote about in this post: Taxpayers & Home Owners pay the freight for the Wal-Mart fight

On October 10th, candidate David Hoffman made the following post on his candidate Facebook page, the content was like waving a red flag.

RED FLAGS:

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

I want strict ordinances, like most residents in Marvin. I want to preserve as much as possible of our remaining green space, like most residents in Marvin. AND, I want, and Marvin deserves, to have a say on what is inevitably built-in Marvin, and in the Marvin area on the few remaining parcels of bare land. Without a clear long-term vision, we continually steer landowners towards much less desirable building options, by not providing viable, lower-density options for their land; land that won’t stay bare forever; such as on the major intersections of Rea and Tom Short; and Providence and Newtown. Our current plan and long-term vision, or lack thereof, doesn’t give landowners any other solution than to work with Unincorporated Union County, which has much looser standards for building, and doesn’t help us create our own identity that we can be proud of. Sounds like cutting off your nose to spite your face to me. Also, as a part of this long-term vision that the residents should have a say in creating, we not only need to have control over what is built on major roads entering Marvin, we alternatively need to stop allowing high-density development in the heart of the Village, where road safety, public safety, traffic, and infrastructure should be of top priority and concern.

DECODING THE REAL MEANING:

When reading Mr. Hoffman’s post you will note that of the issues facing Marvin, he chooses to highlight a property that is NOT IN Marvin. Additionally, in a typical “Real Estate broker” viewpoint, he states in effect that Marvin’s current zoning standards are short-sighted and are forcing the “developer” into “less desirable” and “lower density” options for their land. Hello! It is not the Village of Marvin’s responsibility to maximize the  investment of any developer by tailoring ordinances to their industries specifications.

If you read closely, Mr. Hoffman speaks from both sides of his mouth, condemning both low density and high density development in the same paragraph.

WHAT IS THIS ALL ABOUT?

Since Mr. Hoffman’s post in essence, only concerns Raley Miller’s Tom Short road property, lets talk about its recent history. Readers should realize the a major reason Raley Miller wants to ANNEX into Marvin is to get a higher density multi-use commercial development, that permits Mixed drink, Beer and Wine sales. Without alcohol sales, which is not available in unincorporated Union County, the up-scale restaurants won’t be interested in leasing in the development. Note, every developer strings this carrot; have you seen an upscale restaurant in Wesley Chapel or Weddington yet?

The Raley-Miller Development has experience developing the Kohls shopping center under county zoning and dealing with the “Pitch Fork” activists in the Hunter Oaks subdivision, but to my knowledge they got everything they wanted.

With Marvin Council member Christina Frazzini’s assistance (explaining her involvement will take a multi-page post), they were able to submit a development application that for all intents, ignored Marvin zoning requirements. Folks, think about the audacity and impudence here. The following is the Zoning Compliance review of Raley Miller’s  submitted plan. Note that in a number of areas, their plan was completely out of compliance – designated by 0%.

Click image to enlarge view

Click image to enlarge view

In another comment,  Mr. Hoffman claims that Marvin doesn’t have an identity it can be proud of, perhaps if he had lived in Marvin more than 10 months, he’d have a better feel for the community and rich history.

I don’t want to belabor the point, but I am astounded at this one sentence Mr. Hoffman wrote “Without a clear long-term vision, we continually steer landowners towards much less desirable building options, by not providing viable, lower-density options for their land; land that won’t stay bare forever; such as on the major intersections of Rea and Tom Short; and Providence and Newtown.” Seriously? The commercial property at Newtown and Providence has had two different plans approved by Marvin already. Hundreds of work hours and untold thousands in tax-dollars as already been poured in the prior plan approvals. The only way to be more accommodating as Mr. Hoffman advocates is to give developers Cart-Blanche.

It seems to me that when you elect a mayor or council member, you expect them to be playing on the town’s team, not the developer. I think it is fair to ask, given what Mr. Hoffman has written on his own Facebook that there will always be doubt about where Mr. Hoffman’s loyalties are placed.

Do take a moment and review his Campaign Finance Report and do note that he is running for the Mayor of Marvin, not Charlotte.

David Hoffman

 Posted by at 7:42 pm
Feb 082013
 

Anthony Burman
Mayor Pro Tem

An Open Letter to the Citizens of Marvin from Mayor Pro Tem Anthony Burman

As Mayor Pro Tem for the Village of Marvin I believe that you as residents should be kept informed and deserve to know the truth about projects currently underway or being considered. This is my response to the politically motivated and inaccurate flyer you received in your newspaper boxes this past week by a small, vocal minority of residents and non-residents.

It is disappointing that there is a segment in our community that continues to spread half-truths, hyperbole, and scare-tactics for personal benefit. The ironic part of the letter is that the author is not saying the Village shouldn’t build a community center or Village Hall, but that the Village shouldn’t build it at Marvin-Efird Park. The letter even states “Yes, it would be nice to have a Center for the Village…” The author wants a new building, but it has to be where they want it located.

In the summer of 2010, when the Village of Marvin made the first offer to purchase the 27.67 acres of land on New Town Road, there was always the intention that this land would fulfill the number one desire of all previous Village surveys, which was a passive park (meaning no athletic fields or structured recreation, other than a playground). Part of the draw to this property was the idea that the old Efird family home could be renovated into a community center and/or Village Hall. Engineering and architectural studies show that it would be more cost-effective to build anew than to renovate the existing house and bring it up to commercial code.

The concept of a community center at Marvin-Efird Park has been discussed for a period of years. There are many examples – here are just three:

1. At the September 14, 2010 Council meeting, the Council held a Public Hearing and later adopted Resolution RS-2010-09-01, which included a community center as an intended use at Marvin-Efird Park.

2. An article in the October 1, 2010 issue of the Union County Weekly titled “A park that makes cents” quoted Councilman Ron Salimao stating that he envisioned a community center in the park.

3. The Village’s PARTF Grant Application, approved at the January 13, 2011 Council meeting, has discussion about a community center.

When Councilman Salimao and I ran for office in 2009, we literally spoke to more than one thousand people about our platform and issues facing the Village. People couldn’t believe there was no park, no community center, and that the Village Hall was still being rented.

Some other issues I would like to address are:

1. What are presented in the letter as facts are either incorrect or taken out of context. For example, the letter quotes a figure for our rent, but does not take into account other costs of the rental. The fact the author chose to only represent one figure, when the actual cost-benefit was readily available, begs the question: Did the author do their homework, or did they cherry-pick what figures they wanted to include to manipulate you? Either way, the heart of the issue is their credibility.

2. In addition, the letter states, “At this rate the payback on spending just the $400,000 is more than 30 years.” Using the author’s logic, it would be much cheaper for everyone if they stayed in their first apartment and not purchase a house, as it will take 30 years to pay your house off. If our analysis leads us to do this project, it will be paid off in 2.5 to 6 years – NO borrowing costs and NO tax increase necessary.

3. The letter states this can “cost you a lot more than $400,000, maybe as much as $700,000.” I’m not sure where the $700,000 figure came from, as there’s been no discussion of spending anywhere near that amount. By contrast, every other municipality in the county that has built or is building a new town hall has spent over $1 million, with the exception of Mineral Springs, who still spent more than Marvin plans.

4. The letter states this will be “a community center you can rent. Yep a taxpayer subsidized service you can ‘rent’ for more of your dollars.” There are only four out of more than 20 subdivisions in Marvin that have clubhouses, and those residents who already pay for the clubhouse with their HOA dues have to pay to “rent” their facility, including a number of people known to be distributing the letter in question. This community center will provide an amenity that more than 80% of the subdivisions do not have, in addition to providing revenue (not factored into the letter) for the Village, similar to the barn at the park.

5. The letter makes alternative suggestions for allocating money in addition to supporting a new community center at a different location. While these are all noble ideas, they are nothing but red herrings used to divert attention away from the discussion at hand – which is really not about a building at all. You already pay for these ideas through the appropriate taxing authorities, the county, and your separate fire tax.

6. Finally, the letter states “One Councilman suggested a public private partnership in an open and accessible parcel of land elsewhere to defray the cost. The rest of the Council ignored this suggestion.” I believe all members of the Council would embrace a concept such as this, but the Councilman put no proposal on the table.

You elected me because I look at all the facts, am detail-oriented, ask the tough questions, and know my commitment to open and transparent government. Those who know me know that I base my decisions and votes on those reasons; not political pressure, emotion, or pressure from “special-interest groups”, including those masquerading themselves as “concerned citizens” hiding behind anonymity.

I encourage you to contact your elected officials, attend meetings, and stay involved. An informed and engaged public is what makes a good community a great community. Once informed, I ask that you base your opinions on fact, not fiction.

{Signed}

Anthony J. Burman
Mayor Pro Tem
Village of Marvin
February 7, 2013

 Posted by at 11:29 am
Sep 252009
 

A
fter witnessing the automobile giants & banks line up for billions in bailouts last fall, why shouldn’t a local PTA seize on the concept and boldly ask government to pay for a walking track at Marvin Elementary? After all, it is a worthy project.

walking-silhouette-clip-art-main_smApparently, funding for the walking track that had been accumulating over years from raffles and collections, was spent on ‘technology’ instead, by a previous principal. So to some, a ‘Bailout’ is the quickest solution to get what they want.

The timing of this request neatly coincides with the November election and from the emails in circulation, pressure is being applied to the incumbents running for re-election and candidates vying for votes. Can you say ‘Pushing Politicians to Pander’ 3 times fast.

On Saturday, September 26 at 9:00 am, the Village of Marvin is holding a ‘Special Meeting’, without public comments I might add, to discuss the proposal from the Marvin Elementary PTA that the Village support monetarily the construction of a the track on school property. The proposal includes a 1/5 mile walking track, irrigation and maintenance for 3 years. Mind you the concept involves the Village giving the funding, but ownership, of course, remains with the UCPS and Marvin Elementary. The Village’s PGR (Parks, Greenways & Recreation Advisory) board even floated the idea of building a Pavilion & Farmers market adjoining the track.

What makes this a non-starter in my view, is that only a small number of Marvin residents will actually benefit, but then again as the Mayor said, “this is the only school in Marvin!”

By the way of comparison, those of you living in Marvin, with children attending Sandy Ridge Elementary, your PTA paid for your walking track without any taxpayer contributions from the Village of Marvin or any other town.

I wouldn’t want to give the impression that Marvin Elementary PTA is coming to the table empty handed, no they’ve accumulated $10,000 to contribute to the estimated $65,000 cost of the project. Unlike a typical taxpayer funded project, like a recreational park, Marvin residents would only be allowed to use the track after 6:15pm and weekends.

The project is still a work in process, but unless lighting is added to the plan, the track will be of no use during the winter hours, unless you like to walk with a miners light or a torch, this further reduces the value to taxpayers, however justified.

We are in a recession, the economy is tough for most of us, so perhaps I am being too hard on the local beneficiary/proponents of the walking track project. Actually, like Oliver Twist, the PTA has every right to ask for more. My objection is if the Marvin Council buckles and says ‘yes’.

Just last month, the town of Weddington was grappling with a proposal to give $145,000 to Weddington High School for a weight & conditioning room. A number of residents and candidates for office came out and blasted (to coin a phrase) the Weddington Council over the idea, which they eventually turned down.

What remains to be seen in Marvin is whether the Council will recognize their fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers and turn down the PTA Moms and as important, for voters to see if any of the candidates running for office has the fortitude to risk the scorn and rejection to do the ‘right thing’ and advocate the protecting of taxpayers money. It doesn’t get any clearer than this.

 Posted by at 6:12 pm
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