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

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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

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