As Davidson Day School has grown, residents in Davidson’s Spinnaker Cove neighborhood say, they’ve been fighting a losing battle with their neighbor, and it is affecting their home values and privacy.Although the neighborhood’s issues with the school date back nearly to the time it opened, resident Jerry Sloan said, the residents’ most recent concern involves a growing menagerie of storage units, field-goal posts, a batting cage and more on the property facing Spinnaker Cove. “It looks like a carnival in a way over there,” Sloan said.School officials say they have tried to respond to neighbors’ concerns.“We value our relationships with all our individual neighbors, our adjoining neighborhoods, and the Town of Davidson overall,” school spokeswoman Danielle Johnson said in a statement. “Even though we are in compliance with the Town of Davidson, over the years when we have heard concerns from individuals from Spinnaker Cove, we have addressed them to the best of our ability.”Now, town manager Leamon Brice has directed staff to investigate whether the private school is in compliance with town nuisance and planning ordinances.“When we were made aware of these issues, we realized there were some things we needed to look into,” Brice said. “We’re looking at everything to see whether there might be some kind of violation.”John Shirilla, who moved into the neighborhood in 2006, shortly after the school’s ground-breaking, recalled how he did his due diligence as a homebuyer by meeting with the developer at the time. He was comforted to learn of the school’s plans, which called for a 100-foot buffer. The 50 feet closest to the neighborhood was to remain “undisturbed buffer,” with the remaining 50 feet landscaped within 60 days of completion of grading on the soccer fields, according to original planning documents. Brice said that as provided by the plan, the buffer was relaxed a little in exchange for landscaping, which was planted near the property line between the school and Spinnaker Cove.The 50-foot undisturbed buffer begins at the property line between Spinnaker Cove and the school and runs west. It protects the trees and prohibits building by the school, according to town documents.The developer also told Shirilla the school would build a berm to block sights and sounds from the neighbors, he said.But that berm was never built. And over the years, the school built its gymnasium and expanded its athletic fields near the buffer. In a letter dated May 1, 2009, then-planning manager Kris Krider said that the expansion of the existing soccer field to a football field was not “a substantial change to the conditional rezoning” that was approved by town officials in May 2004. So, Krider said, he could approve the changes without town board input.To accommodate the growth, the school cut down many of the hardwood trees within the buffer zone, Shirilla said. By disturbing the tree line, the remaining pine trees were exposed to the elements, which caused many of them to tilt and die. When the school built its gymnasium on a hill, it exacerbated the health of the remaining trees by causing flooding when it rains, Shirilla said.“All of our homes have windows in the back because these homes were designed so we could enjoy the woods,” Shirilla said. “They’re not just devaluing our home values, they’re devaluing our way of life.”The school’s expansion has encroached into the buffer between the properties, which has brought neighbors and school attendees into closer contact.Shirilla said he often must shoo away students who come on his property to sneak a smoke during games or relieve themselves in the woods. In an email to Sloan, Commissioner Jim Fuller, who lives in the neighborhood, said he shared the same concern.“I ... am familiar with the occasionally unpleasant history of lack of neighborly concern and communications,” he said. The recent accumulation of items alongside the gymnasium encouraged Sloan to write an email to Brice in early February, requesting that the town research whether the school is breaking the nuisance ordinance. “I am requesting the town of Davidson take action to force Davidson Day School to leave the 50-foot buffer undisturbed. Davidson Day School was apparently built with inadequate storage space within the School, particularly the athletic department,” Sloan said in the email. “Now things are tossed, stored, piled up and strewn without any regard to what it looks like and what damage it is doing to the neighborhood – our neighborhood.”But school officials say they are in full compliance with the town of Davidson.For example, Johnson said, two years ago the school planted shrubs to act as a buffer between the side of the building and Spinnaker Cove.But Sloan said those shrubs hardly hide the growing clutter.Shirilla said that had he known how things would have developed, he likely would not have invested in the neighborhood. At the very least, he wouldn’t have purchased the home he did.“One of the reasons I bought this house was because I had privacy on two huge sides. Now that’s gone,” he said.
Friday, Mar. 08, 2013
Neighbors say school intrudes on their space
John Shirilla, whose property borders Davidson Day School, has been collecting baseballs that come onto his property from the school. Elisabeth Arriero - email@example.com
John Shirilla, whose property borders Davidson Day School, has had issues with the school for years, he said. Elisabeth Arriero - firstname.lastname@example.org
Davidson Day has recently put storage units on the side of the property facing Spinnaker Cove. Elisabeth Arriero - email@example.com