Growth is a key issue in this fall's election in the small town of Davidson, in north Mecklenburg County. The mayor faces two challengers in a race that has been shaped in part by a group called Save Davidson, formed to fight a proposed development.
Incumbent John Woods is a native who has been mayor through a decade that brought new commercial and residential development, though he says not as much as other towns. He faces two challengers:
At a forum Wednesday, all three acknowledged that growth is inevitable. But they debated how well the town has followed the council-approved list of core values.
"That core value states that we must maintain the character of a small town," Woods said. "That doesn't mean that we're going to stay at 1,500 people like when I was a child, or 4,000 people in 1990, or 12,000 that we are right now. But we are still a small town, especially relative to our neighbors, who have experienced really out-of-control growth."
Woods is being challenged by Rusty Knox and Laurie Venzon. Knox is also a Davidson native and the son of a former town mayor. He's a musician and real estate agent who has the endorsement of Save Davidson. Venzon is a retired bank executive who has lived in Davidson for 25 years and served three terms as a town commissioner.
Knox and Venzon addressed the same question about core values.
"Yes we're gonna grow," Knox said, "but it's how we grow that will determine whether we keep that core value intact. At our current pace of growth, at the current ordinance that we are practicing right now, which is high-density development, we are losing what, in my opinion, is small-town character in Davidson. For years ... Davidson grew at a slow, gradual pace. And that's changed. And it's changed to generate tax money. "
Venzon said the town is growing too fast, but that some growth is needed, for example bringing the benefits of Main Street to other parts of town.
"It's that whole feeling of downtown. There are people in different parts, like out east, who don't even have the opportunity to really walk to a place like we can if we live downtown. And so the things I would like to see us do is create some more of those opportunities in different areas of Davidson, so that all of us can experience that type of community. "
The forum at Davidson College was hosted by Davidson Precinct 206 Democrats, and moderated by WFAE's David Boraks. There's video on the group's Facebook page. (Note: the forum actually starts at the 20 minute mark on the Facebook Live video.)