County should tap the brakes on business park

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 19, 2018

Based on evidence gathered and presented by councilman Mike Combest at recent Clemmons Village Council meetings regarding the viability of a business park on Idols Road, perhaps Forsyth County should put on the brakes and do some more homework before moving forward with the project.

Combest and councilwoman Michelle Barson have served as council representatives in meetings with county staff, Village staff and county commissioners. Combest has gone through in great detail in the last couple of council meetings on why the Village feels like the county’s goals are at risk for the project, the potential negative impact on Clemmons and how the numbers don’t add up for Forsyth County.

A letter stating concerns over some of these issues has also been sent to the commissioners so that Clemmons is officially on record. It leads off with the Village urging the county not to extend Beaufurn’s contract for purchase because Beaufurn (Phase 1 and the only company to commit to the park) is inseparable from the development of the entire park (Phase 2).

Clemmons officials say they believe county staff has made it clear that closing with Beaufurn must be followed by full-park development.

The county has requested $1.5 million for utility upgrades from the Village for the 170-acre park, but the two parties went back and forth for some time and have been unable to reach an agreement on being partners on the former Idols Road Industrial Park, which was renamed Tanglewood Business Park. Now, they’re at an impasse with the Village no longer supporting a project based on a number of factors, including what they consider to be a lack of the county doing its due diligence.

In a slideshow, Combest called the “bottom line, evidence-based analysis shows that as currently programmed, the park:

• Does not comply with Forsyth County UDO standards

• Has a significant likelihood of harming neighboring property values

• Will adversely affect neighbors’ quality of life

• Will struggle to generate significant tax revenue for Forsyth County

Combest said that the message the Village wanted to send was that the commissioners’ development goals are at risk, based on the work required to achieve them not being performed.

As an example, he cited Section 3.1 of the Tanglewood Protective Covenant, Goal of Development, of the “creation of a harmonious development which will preserve and enhance the long-term property values” and “create development compatible with property adjacent to the Tanglewood Business Park.”

Obviously, they haven’t been listening to property owners in Clemmons West, who have voiced their displeasure on the potential impact of this project in this (and other) areas.

“They want exactly the same thing we want,” Combest said of the commissioners. “Our concern is that the work required to achieve those goals isn’t being adequately performed. One of the things that we aspired to was to offer the commissioners a very unvarnished appraisal but at the same time we hoped not to be indicting anyone.”

Combest admitted that there is some conflicting evidence on how property values might be affected by having a neighboring business park, but he offered an example of the completed Union Cross Industrial Center in Forsyth County as a comparison. He said that assessed tax values for neighboring properties dropped by 72 percent from 2005-2015 while Clemmons West assessed tax values during the same time frame without a business park increased 92 percent.

“That ought to make the alarm bell go off at least enough to encourage further study before a decision is made,” said Combest, who added, “our point is there are enough that say one thing and enough that say another that we need to go look at it hard and not just gamble that it won’t happen.”

It goes without saying that declining property values are not just important to homeowners; it takes away tax revenue from the county, too.

Among the many specific points that Combest covered, the UDO requires “measures to ensure compatibility. Provisions that will be made to assure that the proposed new use will be compatible with the surrounding neighborhood.”

Combest said that no compatibility analysis has been performed, and in an assessment of the park’s impact on the community, only “Local Traffic Impact, AADT Count” got a check mark out of 12 overall categories.

And Clemmons challenged that with an independent third-party review of the county’s traffic study that showed some more things that need to be revised to meet DOT and Village traffic impact analysis guidelines. This study further confirmed that the infrastructure is Clemmons is inadequate to support this project.

Regarding the financials, Combest provided a chart that showed a profit of $3.21 million at full build-out with 20 years of tax revenue and five-year incentives. However, that only amounts to a 1.3 percent annualized return on investment, but that doesn’t even factor in inflation, which makes it “a money loser.”

And then there’s the traffic and the possibility of an additional 29,000 18-wheelers per year barreling down an already maxed out Lewisville-Clemmons Road at full buildout, if that ever happens.

The council had discussed putting together a resolution “outlining why this is a poor decision for the taxpayers of Forsyth County and an even worse one for those that happen to reside in Clemmons.”

But they have held off, opting instead to send a letter, with the hope of continuing the dialogue while hoping that have finally gotten the county commissioners’ attention.

We’ll see what happens next.