What are your strategies to improve housing affordability?

Tracy Mattison Brandon: To improve and expand affordable housing in Davidson it will take collaboration like the purchase of eight of the townhomes on Jetton Street to make them permanently affordable rentals and Davidson Housing Coalition’s Affordable for US rental subsidy initiative. Additionally, it would be helpful to conduct an assessment to possibly identify a more comprehensive definition of affordable housing.

Jane Campbell: (1) Continue to press – as I have over the past 4 years – for builders and developers to put units on the ground vs. writing a “PIL check.” (2) Look for opportunities to preserve Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing in our community. (3) Including ongoing efforts help neighbors stay in their own homes. (4) Push for partnerships with Davidson College, as well as our bigger employers (I-R/Trane and MSC), to build staff/work force housing.

Matthew Dellinger: The process through which the Town’s Affordable Housing Plan is developed and ultimately implemented should be robust, reflective of informative case studies from other communities, and disciplined in its exercise of authority and willing collaboration with key stakeholders and proponents. As I’ve learned in 5 years on the Planning Board, successes with Affordable Housing can come in varying ways and through different means, but are most often the product of a respectful, diligent process.  

Ryan Fay: Our Payment in Lieu (PIL) fee is woefully low. I would like to call for an immediate review of the program to strengthen the incentive for developers to build affordable housing and not choose the PIL. Chapel Hill’s PIL is nearly $90,000 while ours is only $40,000. We need to re-evaluate either the fee amount or a new metric to determine the fee, including a per square foot charge for development without proper affordable housing, to push developers toward building. 

Autumn Rierson Michael: First of all, I am hopeful that our comprehensive Affordable Housing Plan will help guide our vision and decision making in the coming years. As well, in addition to our current inclusionary zoning/payment-in-lieu program, we should also be actively looking for partnerships with the development community, nonprofit organizations (Davidson Housing Coalition, Habitat for Humanity, and area churches ), Davidson College and Mecklenburg County to identify opportunities for lowering the costs of building affordable housing.

How can community involvement be assured in decision making around affordable housing with a plan to involve younger, low income, and African American residents?

Tracy Mattison Brandon: One suggestion is to disseminate information that may directly affect or benefit younger, low income, and minority residents by enlisting assistance of neighborhood advocates. This will take effort to identify such individuals (those persons who are engaged with their neighbors) and best method of communications to include but not limited to (social media, email, phone, neighborhood gatherings).

Jane Campbell: Encourage greater participation in our new Affordable Housing and Equity Board. Their meetings, even when virtual, are open to the public.

Matthew Dellinger: Community involvement is important and is best achieved when our citizens actively engage with plans, topics, fellow citizens, and our local government. Ensuring educational opportunities and communications are shared consistently and widely throughout the community, so that interested and willing citizens capture those opportunities, will continue to be invaluable parts of addressing our affordable housing needs. 

Ryan Fay: I believe the best way to get residents involved in affordable housing decisions is a multi-faceted approach. First, we must bring meetings into the neighborhoods where residents are directly affected by affordable housing decisions. We also need to host information sessions at town hall and in other communities throughout Davidson to educate our entire community on the benefits of affordable housing. We cannot expect residents to always come to Town Hall, we need to go to where they are as well.

Autumn Rierson Michael: This Fall of 2021, the Town of Davidson is developing an “Affordable Housing Action Plan” to actively address affordable housing needs. The plan will address existing naturally occurring housing, as well as new build affordable opportunities. The Plan process should have many built-in opportunities for community and public input–both on-line and in person (with the opportunity to reach different audience demographics in both places).  

What are strategies to advocate for residents whose property owner/manager is not properly maintaining units?

Tracy Mattison Brandon: Individuals should be able to contact the town board with concerns without fear of negative repercussions. If necessary, Commissioners should be willing to advocate on behalf of residents through soliciting ongoing feedback from residents, follow-up, helping residents know their rights ensuring residents are being treated fairly.

Jane Campbell: Ensure that the Town leads by example. We have to be a better property owner/manager. Determine the appropriate role of our newly established Affordable Housing/Equity Board. I believe that Board can establish itself as the primary conduit with our nonprofit and for-profit organizations what have affordable housing in Davidson. 

Matthew Dellinger: This is a more complex question than it may appear on its surface. The short answer is it could depend on specific facts as to how a local government might attempt to advocate for such residents, what legal mechanisms our municipal code and ordinance might offer, whether it involves purely contractual issues between private parties, what maintenance is lacking, and what potential consequences are arising as a result. So, the best and first strategy in any such case will be to ask the right questions and responsibly gather the necessary information.  

Ryan Fay: Property owners must feel safe coming to designated town staff when their property managers are not maintaining the units properly. Currently residents are afraid of eviction or other reprisals if they are known to complain about conditions. I would like to create a team headed by Eugene Bradley that residents could contact in these situations to request a review of their concern. Once concerns are verified, the town can then work as the intermediary with the management company to get the issues handled in a timely and satisfactory fashion. 

Autumn Rierson Michael: Now that we are seeing some of our earliest units of affordable housing age, questions about long-term maintenance and upkeep become paramount. Even as we look for opportunities to build more supply of affordable housing, it is likely time to also begin reviewing our existing town ordinances for minimum maintenance standards and upkeep of rental properties. Another strategy could include giving greater town financial and other support to Davidson Housing Coalition’s HAMMERS program that works to repair homes and assist with long term maintenance for lower income residents in town.

Asbestos is a community problem. How can you facilitate and complete a community health assessment, including the impact of asbestos on the health of the community. What steps do you recommend for remediation?

Tracy Mattison Brandon: It’s important to identify the end goal of health assessment findings. As part of the remediation work completed by EPA, residents have been encouraged to report any related health concerns to EPA. Additionally, Board of Commissioners can be intentional about finding safe solutions for Linden Mill property to avoid further health risks.

Jane Campbell: The town can start with potentially partnering with the college to create an initial community health assessment that can drive the need for a more expansive, detailed study. Potential development of the Linden Mill, as mentioned above, is the best way to ensure that we can get a long-term viable and safe solution that encapsulates the remaining asbestos. The Town’s role must be complementary to the already stated roles of the EPA and NCDEQ. We must continue to be a strong, vocal advocate on behalf of our citizens. As I have participated in virtual and in-person community meetings about asbestos – most, but not all, citizens have been pleased with the remediation efforts that the EPA has undertaken.

Matthew Dellinger: Having litigated cases for clients facing asbestos contamination problems, I respect that it is a serious problem and involves many experts in their respective fields to address fully and properly. The first step is always to engage with the proper experts to identify and articulate the scope and extent of an existing problem, so that the proper remedial measures can then be developed and executed. Again, it is critical to be detailed and thorough in the inquiry and communication of facts and questions in such circumstances—asking the right questions so you get to the right answers. 

Ryan Fay: I would strongly support promoting information through local neighborhood meetings encouraging every resident in the identified area to take advantage of the opportunity for free expanded residential soil sampling by the EPA. I believe a heavy marketing campaign creating additional awareness of the health concerns associated with extended exposure to asbestos should also be conducted in affected areas. I would also like to tap into our vast residential base to determine if we have any attorneys familiar with the Asbestos Trust Fund process willing to volunteer to help effected citizens navigate these difficult waters. 

Autumn Rierson Michael: I think advocating for a community health assessment is a great idea, and could help address residual impacts of past environmental wrongs, such as the impact of asbestos on our community. Because the town doesn’t have its own public health staff to do such an assessment, we would need to reach out to other partners, including the county health department and local private health professionals, as well as Davidson College, UNC-Charlotte or other academic institutions. As for the current remediation plans, I understand that the state DEQ and federal EPA have been undertaking remediation in town and on individual properties for several years. Should the actual mill redevelopment move forward, the permanent remediation and capping of the site will take place under the Brownfields Agreement, and hopefully provide a permanent solution to the environmental hazards on-site. 

How would you improve pedestrian safety?

Tracy Mattison Brandon: A good step in the right direction is the Pedestrian Safety Task Force soliciting input from the community. It would be helpful to identify blind spots, address areas where shrubbery is causing blocked vision, increase caution signs and even public service announcements to bring more awareness to serve as caution for drivers and pedestrians.

Jane Campbell: As noted previously, we need to start by listening to the (upcoming) recommendations of the Pedestrian Safety Task Force. If for any reason their recommendations don’t measure up to expectations, we must determine how to proceed. 

Matthew Dellinger: I would start with ensuring we actively implement the Mobility Plan and its many excellent ideas, proposed projects, and policies and initiatives that improve pedestrian safety and user education (many of which have not been implemented since its adoption in 2019). And, I would supplement and enhance those with good ideas and efforts that come from our Pedestrian Safety Task Force currently engaged on the topic.

Ryan Fay: First and foremost, we must support the Pedestrian Task Force and allow them to do their job. Once suggestions are made, the Board and Town must review and act swiftly. Personally, I would be a proponent of longer Leading Pedestrian Intervals, raised intersections, in-road warning light and increased signage/communication. One thing to remember is that Main St. is a state-managed road, so some options are more viable than others. 

Autumn Rierson Michael: Many NC cities are using the “Three -E” model, addressing pedestrian and bicycle safety through a combination of Engineering, Enforcement, and Education. From an engineering perspective, we should continue to fund and install both HAWKS signals and the rectangular rapid flashing beacons at designated crosswalks. From an education perspective, we should create an educational social media and print marketing campaign, including signage around town, and in partnership with our local businesses, the College, and our K-12 students in town. Finally from an enforcement perspective, we need to work hand in hand with our DPD to create strategies for enforcement around pedestrian safety, which might include increased ticketing, increased law enforcement presence downtown, as well as positive behavioral reinforcement (e.g. handing out ice cream coupons when someone is “caught” doing the right thing, i.e. walking in the crosswalk, etc.) I also look forward to hearing the Recommendations from our communitywide pedestrian safety task force, which has been working diligently on this issue since this summer.

How can the town government strengthen democracy and increase community participation?

Tracy Mattison Brandon: We can strengthen democracy and increase community participation by first building infrastructures that foster inclusion, embraces the power of diversity within community engagement initiatives, stresses connection of how issues affect us individually and as a whole. It begins with strong leadership that engages in people over politics and policies.

Jane Campbell: That’s an interesting question. Ironically, I have watched as community “participation” increases when citizens perceive our town government is not performing well. In contrast, when Town Government is meeting constituent needs, folks disengage. I believe our Civics 101 program is the best initial building block. Too many folks don’t know how Town Government works, and I believe learning how the town works is the best way to increase meaningful community participation. 

Matthew Dellinger: We are fortunate in Davidson to have a very engaged and informed community; however, that can weaken through misinformation and apathy brought on by citizens feeling marginalized or neutralized if ignored or not given timely and comprehensible information. It is vital for our government to lead with humility, discipline, and a respect for multiple audiences and users to ensure a healthy democracy and community.  

Ryan Fay: If elected, I will commit to attending at least one HOA/neighborhood meeting a month. I will ask my fellow commissioners to do the same. The Citizen Survey clearly shows that the town does a great job communicating with residents and giving them a chance to be involved. However, this proactive approach will allow us to go to the residents to share news, information and hear questions and concerns directly. 

Autumn Rierson Michael: I think it’s a combination of “old school” community engagement and face to face forums and neighborhood meetings (which we began before COVID and then ceased as we took greater quarantine measures), and an embrace of technology and social media in responsible ways to take advantage of their ability to make information available to a greater number of people. We have traditionally had tremendous community participation in our town Comp Plan and other smaller plans when they sought community input, so I would hope to continue these outreach efforts. A focus on genuine and open engagement across our silos and differences, coupled with broad access to the ballot, is our best hope for ensuring and strengthening democracy. 

Widespread use of pesticides/herbicides is polluting our environment and endangering the health of our children and wildlife. Would you support a ban on pesticide/herbicide use by Davidson’s Public Works department so that Davidson could be a role model to our citizens? What other limits on pesticide use would you support in Davidson?

Tracy Mattison Brandon: If there are viable alternatives such as organic solutions, it should be pursued. While pesticides and herbicides may be less expensive, it’s the long-term costs of our health that concerns me.

Jane Campbell: Yes, I would support a ban on pesticides by our Public Works department.  I would be more than willing to look at what municipal government is allowed to do on a broader basis. As you know, as a Dillon’s rule state, the NCGA determines a lot of what we can and can’t do. At a minimum, we can increase education. 

Matthew Dellinger: Our Town should ensure the safe use of products by any department so that abuse and overuse do not occur and so that unintended consequences do not arise. This starts with a broad education and understanding of different products and their uses, and any such policy can be tailored as necessary depending on specific concerns or types of pesticides (e.g., herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, etc.) or other products. 

Ryan Fay: As commissioner, I would ask for a full review of pesticides/herbicides used by the Public Works department. I would then rely on subject matter experts to help form an opinion on the town’s usage and alternatives. Of course, I am in favor of limiting chemicals that damage wildlife and hurt children, but I think more information needs to be shared and a full review conducted. 

Autumn Rierson Michael: I certainly support efforts to reduce the Town’s use of pesticides and herbicides for the health of our children and wildlife. However, I think we need to take the time to study how such a transition away from their use can occur without having the unintended consequence of limiting our ability to address other sustainability goals such as removing non-native invasive species – like privet and English ivy – that are choking out our native flora. Many towns and cities are now encouraging residents to “rewild” portions of their lawns with native trees, shrubs and plants, and are even leading the way by committing to the use of native trees and plantings in all public works projects. If we could do more as a town to embrace native landscapes, we could limit the demand for pesticides in the long run. 

Would you support curbside compost service as part of our solid waste service?

Tracy Mattison Brandon: This sounds like a good idea depending on the cost and number of residents who would benefit from it.

Jane Campbell: I would support a formal review of the options associated with curbside composting. As you know, we contract our solid waste and recycling services – versus this being accomplished by Town Staff. As it is, we have challenges with contractors being able to do the job with the fiscal restraints we have. At a minimum, I think we can do more to work with our local farms and farmers to determine how we can start a voluntary composting program. 

Matthew Dellinger: I would support the Town exploring the addition of curbside compost service.

Ryan Fay: While composting is indisputably better for the environment, my concern is regarding the number of residents that currently compost and those that would do so if given the opportunity. To me, the decision is a cost/benefit/utilization decision. I would not be comfortable supporting this without additional information regarding cost and potential resident usage.  

Autumn Rierson Michael: Yes, I would welcome exploration of a curbside compost service, particularly in learning more about how local governments administer such programs. As a family that has long participated in backyard composting, I’m a true believer in the value of composting not only to keep organic matter from going to the landfill, but also for keeping composted material local to enrich and restore our soils.  

gas-powered leaf blowers may break noise ordinances and endanger public health by polluting the air. Would you support a town ordinance that would ban gas-powered leaf blowers in Davidson?

Tracy Mattison Brandon: Quite a few cities & towns, including Davidson, have implemented ordinances laws in an attempt to keep noise pollution to a minimum. In pursuit of further reducing our carbon footprint, I would be in favor of updating the current ordinance to setting additional time limits on the use of gas-powered leaf blowers while exploring the possibility of using battery operated leaf blowers where possible. My concern would be how an outright ban would affect landscapers who provide service to our residents and businesses. 

Jane Campbell: I transitioned to battery-powered lawn equipment several years ago. I encourage my neighbors do to the same when they stop to talk about how quiet my lawnmower is when it is operating. Once again, the Town can lead by example and determine what of our existing equipment can be transitioned to battery power. In terms of a wider-impacting ordinance, we need to determine if that authority resides at the municipal level in North Carolina. 

Matthew Dellinger: A ban or tailored limitation on the use of gas-powered leaf blowers should be explored.

Ryan Fay: While I agree with the concerns, both for the environment and noise, I would support a different approach. I would prefer a marketing/information campaign encouraging residents to consider electric options. Since electric yard work industry-leaders Husqvarna, WORX and Greenworks (which I use) are all located in the Lake Norman area, I would like to work with them to offer incentives for residents to switch. Product demonstrations at the farmers market, or on the Town Green, would help overcome the biggest obstacle by allowing residents to experience and see first-hand that the equipment’s performance is on-par or better than gasoline models. 

Autumn Rierson Michael: I would support education/awareness initiatives and perhaps even incentive programs to encourage more Davidson residents to switch to non-gas-powered leaf blowers, and would be open-minded as I researched how other towns and cities have enacted ordinances banning gas-powered leaf blowers.