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Tuesday, 18 April 2017 16:37

Asbestos removal set to begin at Davidson site

Written by  Christina Ritchie Rogers
Street-level rendering of the proposed "Luminous" project on town-owned along Beaty Street. Davidson town commissioners received an update on the proposal by Davidson Development Partners following another round of community meetings. Street-level rendering of the proposed "Luminous" project on town-owned along Beaty Street. Davidson town commissioners received an update on the proposal by Davidson Development Partners following another round of community meetings. Courtesy Davidson Development Partners

DAVIDSON, N.C. — A proposal to build a four-story apartment complex at the site of a former asbestos mill near downtown Davidson has turned into a full-scale environmental clean-up not only of the mill site, but of neighboring properties as well.

In the coming weeks, the Environmental Protection Agency will remove asbestos from about 20 properties surrounding the Metrolina Warehouse site at 301 Depot St. between the railroad track, Depot, Eden and Sloan streets, the Davidson Town Board of Commissioners learned during their pre-meeting work session on April 11. Jordan Garrard, the EPA’s on-site coordinator, told commissioners the process should take three to four months to complete and could mean intermittent road closures and temporary changes in traffic and walking routes.

The warehouse operated as an asbestos mill from the 1930s to 1960s. All of the waste materials were disposed of on-site, and it wasn’t until the 1980s that the Mecklenburg County Health Department required the owner to cap the disposal site.

The Miller-Valentine Group of Charlotte now wants to clean up and develop the property into apartments. Following a public meeting in September 2016 about the proposal, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NC DEQ) requested that the EPA conduct a removal site evaluation. During a site visit on Nov. 1, EPA officials found materials containing asbestos along Eden and Sloan streets. EPA officials say improper disposal and use of asbestos-containing materials to fill low-lying areas and driveways resulted in the spread of the contamination.

In all, the EPA collected 297 samples from 78 parcels, and also sampled the air from the surrounding areas. No asbestos fibers were found in any of the air samples.

The asbestos removal process includes excavating the soil to about one foot deep, installing orange plastic fencing as a notification barrier (indicating that soil beyond that point could be contaminated), replacing the soil and restoring the parcel with sod. The scope of work also includes removal of any driveways and parking lots with visible asbestos materials.

Some residents of asbestos-contaminated properties will be temporarily relocated at no cost to them. The asbestos removal and all associated expenses such as relocation are funded by the Superfund Emergency Response, Removal and Prevention program, which receives about $14 million in federal funding annually for emergency or time-critical removal projects.

Site work prep will begin the week of April 24 with excavation starting the week of May 8, Garrard told commissioners. Workers will begin on Depot Street and then move to Eden and Sloan.

The EPA currently is working to negotiate with Norfolk Southern Railroad to gain access to the land for testing on the east side of the warehouse site, Garrard said, but that will not delay the start of this project. Any residents who wish to have the EPA sample their land now must submit requests by May 5 via e-mail to Garrard at Garrard. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or by phone at 678-644-8648. Garrard also will set up a temporary office nearby, at 121 Depot St., for the duration of the project.

Town Manager Jamie Justice said post-remediation, the town will have to play some role in ensuring that future development on the sites is done with proper precautions. While the EPA is working to minimize the exposure risk, it will not be eliminating all of the asbestos at each site, according to Garrard.

Beaty Street update

Also during their pre-meeting session, commissioners received an update on a proposal to build a “re-imagined retirement community” on the roughly 18 acres of town-owned land on Beaty Street.

The board first saw the Davidson Development Partners’ concept in late February and, at the time, encouraged the group, led by James Harvie and Rick Mildner, to seek input from citizens as reactions to the potential land sale had been mixed. Dozens of Beaty Street neighbors turned out to February board meetings and reached out to town board and staff members individually to express concerns about losing the open space to more development.

Hoping to address some of those concerns and to gather feedback on their proposal, the developers hosted a public meeting March 27, during which they shared their development concept, which includes an independent hotel and community gathering center, a public park and preservation area, restaurants, retail shops and housing options.

The partners summarized the feedback for board members last Tuesday, noting that they heard no negative comments regarding the hotel or the scale and location of the retail options. They also fielded questions from commissioners about plans for the open spaces and pond. The partners said their vision for pedestrian-friendly open spaces includes features such as a bocce court, horseshoes, a dog park, gazebos, seating areas, trails and picnic tables. The pond would be dredged and landscaped, and could be used as an attractive water feature.

All preliminary plans are contingent on many factors, which would be examined in due diligence should Davidson Development Partners be awarded the contract.

The group’s “Luminous” proposal was one of six the town received after issuing a request for proposal for the property in August 2016. A selection committee that included two commissioners, two neighborhood representatives, and representatives from the Livability Board, Planning Board and Design Review Board met in January to review the proposals, which varied significantly in scope, cost and vision. The committee interviewed two finalists Feb. 7, and voted Feb. 15 to recommend the Luminous proposal to the Board of Commissioners. Four selection committee members voted in favor of the Luminous Proposal, one voted in favor of the other finalist, and both neighborhood representatives abstained from voting.

“I haven’t heard as much praise (for the proposal) as you reported in the summary,” Commissioner Jim Fuller said at the pre-meeting Tuesday. “I’ve heard a lot of criticism, and some praise.”

Harvie and Mildner said that, if awarded the contract, they would continue to work with residents to help ensure satisfaction with the design and features.

The town purchased parts of the Beaty Street property in 1987, 1995, and 1998, adding final adjoining parcels in the early 2000s. Over the last two decades, the area has been considered in several small area plans, but thus far has remained open space. In 2015, the zoning for most of the area was changed to “Neighborhood Center 1,” which allows for commercial and retail spaces as well as residential uses.

The town board will consider the Davidson Development Partners contract at its April 25 meeting.

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