Council presents more information on business park: Updated traffic analysis shows additional turn lanes needed

Published 12:10 am Thursday, July 12, 2018

By Jim Buice
For the Clemmons Courier

The Clemmons Village Council continued to build its case that the Tanglewood Business Park, as currently planned, is a losing proposition for the county that will also have an adverse impact on the Village.

For the third straight meeting, the council raised more questions about the viability of the project, based on a number of factors. After pulling support for the park in its first meeting in June, the council expounded further in its last meeting on why Clemmons feels like the county’s goals are at risk for the project, the potential negative effect on the Village and why the financials don’t add up.

Then in Monday night’s meeting at Village Hall, councilman Mike Combest provided a more in-depth analysis of the financials, calling the park “a money loser” for the county. Also, Jonathan Guy of Kimley Horn, who completed an independent third-party review for the Village of the county’s traffic study, presented his findings, which included items that he thought should be clarified.

“Overall, there are several things that need to be revised,” Guy said. “The traffic study needs to be into concurrence with the Village of Clemmons and their TIA (traffic impact analysis) guidelines as well as NCDOT’s. Those should be addressed to have an appropriately completed TIA.”

His review also recommended trip generation being based on ITE LUC 130 rather than local data, background traffic volumes being developed using Idols Road forecast volumes or the utilization of an approved growth rate, providing justification for a phased distribution and assignment or utilize a single distribution and assignment, and providing auxiliary turn lane warrants for all unsignalized intersections within the study area.

Major John Wait interjected: “If you’ll allow me to summarize, in your opinion, Davenport, that did the impact analysis for the county, they didn’t use the correct data, in your opinion. They didn’t give enough reasoning, and they didn’t account for growth, among other deficiencies. They didn’t account for turn lanes and other things that you think should have appropriately been in there.”

Guy agreed with the assessment, and then councilman Chris Wrights added, “I’m assuming this is based on their own traffic counts they did, but according to this, what is actually warranted for infrastructure improvement is a 100-foot left turn lane on Idols Road at Dillon’s Industrial Park, a 100-foot right turn lane at Middlebrook at Idols, a 100-foot left turn lane when you’re heading east on Idols at Middlebrook and a 125-foot right-turn lane when you’re heading west on Idols on Middlebrook. Even though all those things were warranted based on their own traffic analysis, they just ignored all of that and said let’s just adjust the light at Middlebrook, and that’s going to solve everything.”

Again, Guy concurred, adding: “And to go further, NCDOT, their guidelines, as well as the Village, require you to identify mitigation associated with the intersection of Middlebrook and 158. They call out that it operates, it’s deficient and the right of way is not there for us to improve. That’s not the point of the traffic study. The point of the traffic study is to point out where there are areas of deficiencies, identify potential mitigation, and that was not done. So there’s additional ones that should have even been pointed out beyond those that you listed.

“Just because you recommend mitigation doesn’t mean that it’s feasible to construct, doesn’t mean that you can actually get the money to do it. There are a lot of factors, but the traffic study is supposed to point out here’s the fix, here’s what should be done, and here’s the reason we’re making this recommendation — not just there’s no right of way. That’s just an insufficient answer in my opinion.”

Combest, who provided a detailed slideshow in the previous council meeting that was part of a discussion held with the commissioners in a recent meeting between the parties, said Monday night he wanted to provide more information on the economics of the park.

“This is the bottom line,” Combest said. “Tanglewood Business Park will lose taxpayer money. The state of intent from the commissioners is that it will be profitable and be positive. That will not be achieved if it continues as it’s designed. In a briefing to county commissioners by the county staff in March 2017, the very first takeaway they listed, and this is a quote, ‘(the) project is not profitable for private market.’ ”

Combest showed a slide, with data sources being a March 2017 briefing to county commissioners and a May 2018 email to Clemmons Council, showing a profit for the park of $3.21 million at full build-out with 20 years of tax revenue and five-year incentives. He said that amounts to a 1.3 percent annualized return on investment, but when factoring in inflation (which he said wasn’t included), “we’re losing money every year. We’re going to lose $4 million worth of purchasing power over 20 years just because the way this park is structured. That’s not our information. That’s our analysis of the county staff’s information.”

With the possibility of declining tax values for an adjoining neighborhood such as Clemmons West, Wrights said that with even just a 2 percent drop in property values, that would more than negate the $3.21 million profit.

As of now, Beaufurn, a furniture company, is the only business committed to the park, and apparently its latest scheduled closing has been pushed back.

“My thing is, this is a buildout for 20 years,” Wait said. “They can’t even get their first customer in there. So to assume it will be built out in 20 years is, right now, just a fantasy.”

Councilwoman Michelle Barson added, “I think it’s been made clear that this only includes tax revenue and job creation in a vacuum.”

Combest said he is baffled that there is no economic impact analyst for a project of this magnitude.

“If there is, we can’t find one,” he said. “What we have here is the potential decision to construct a business park immediately adjacent to a set of homes, the largest homeowners association in Forsyth County, with the distinct possibility they could adverse impact those home values and drive them down. That hasn’t been studied by the county staff. With the distinct possibility that it will generate unacceptable amounts of traffic through our principal business district to the tune, if the park builds out like the staff projects, 29,000 18-wheelers a year. That’s got to have a significant impact.”

Combest said he would like to see as many residents as possible communicate with the commissioners and say, “hey, we just heard something pretty alarming.”

Also, Barson said that since the last meeting, the Village learned in a meeting with NCDOT that the scoping documents for the transportation impact analysis for the project have not been signed off on with signatures from all stakeholders, including Clemmons. She added that the Village was still awaiting follow-up information on the matter and also working on other responses with the county regarding the project.

“We’re going at this in multiple routes to see which one works best,” she said.

In other business, the council:

• Approved equipment bids for a F-250 truck, accepting the low bid of $38,708 from Cooper Ford, and for a 2018 grinder — a 3010 with loader — accepting the bid of $388,365 from Public Works Supply.

• Approved the following resolutions — 2018-R-7 acceptance of street responsibility for Hampton Chase Drive and 2018-R-8 acceptance of street responsibility for Halls Ferry Road.

• Heard from Shannon Ford in her marketing report about exploring a Clemmons Wonderland website in conjunction with the Tanglewood Festival of Lights in an effort to promote local businesses during the holiday season.

• Heard from Scott Buffkin in the manager’s report that the new ad-hoc Transportation Committee has gotten together and tentatively plans to meet the second and fourth Tuesdays at 6 p.m. each month.

• Approved an ordinance enacting and adopting the 21st Supplement to the Code of Ordinances.

• Heard from Paul Johnson in the public comments portion of the meeting. He said he had gotten in touch with Pat Ivey of Division 9 DOT regarding accidents on Lewisville-Clemmons Road south of the U.S. 421 ramps to south of Forest Oak Road, and from south of Forest Oak Road to north of Peace Haven Road since a median was added and that crash rates, severity rate and total number of crashes have all decreased significantly while the amount of traffic per day has increased by 29 percent.