Council approves L-C Road project

Published 1:10 pm Tuesday, September 11, 2018

By Jim Buice
For the Clemmons Courier

Before approving improvements to Lewisville-Clemmons Road, including a possible median, a couple of members of the Village Council wanted to make sure Clemmons would be involved in the process going forward with NCDOT.

Hearing a guarantee from Pat Ivey, Division 9 engineer, the council voted by a decisive 4-1 margin (with P.J. Lofland against the project) to allocate all 100 Transportation Advisory Committee points to Project U-6004 in Monday night’s meeting.

It culminated a long process that started nearly a year ago when the mayor and three council members were elected largely on a “no median” platform and then were faced with addressing the dangerous stretch of Lewisville-Clemmons Road — including many twists and turns before the NCDOT ultimately recommended that a median be placed from I-40 to Stadium Drive, which is only 20 percent of the entire corridor.

Ivey said that all the preliminary findings showed the shorter median for the busiest stretch of the road to be the best option. The council has pushed NCDOT for more options and alternatives, and wanted to be assured it would be heard as the process moves ahead with more detailed analysis of the project.

Councilman Scott Binkley wanted to confirm prior to the vote that it wasn’t for or against a median but that if the Village allocated points for the project, it will be part of the discussions with NCDOT.

“I guarantee that,” Ivey said.

“I know, we haven’t got there yet,” Binkley said. “I’m for improvements. I’m not for a median. I’m afraid if we don’t do it, we’ll be in trouble. I’m saying some type of improvements — whatever it is, I’m not a traffic engineer. I don’t know. I don’t want to hurt businesses. Something needs to be done. I’m for alternative solutions to this. I’m afraid if we don’t, then we won’t see alternative solutions. We’re going to see something you don’t want.”

Councilwoman Michelle Barson added this: “So this evening we’re not voting on this design. Tonight we’re voting to allocate points, which would provide more money for further in-depth research to lead us down the line of a design and implementation and during that process Clemmons would be able to interact ongoing.”

Along with the NCDOT’s recommendation for providing solutions for the road (there is no design yet — just preliminary information), which will include the much-needed new interchange at I-40, a couple of economics professors from Winston-Salem State provided an opinion in the previous meeting that the economic benefits outweighed the costs by a 2-1 margin for the project.

Mike Combest, who was on the previous council that supported NCDOT’s request for a median, said that all the evidence points to supporting the project, including the median and how it would help safety, traffic flow and also help businesses because of less congestion.

“We have mountains of compelling, clear evidence that say we have to do this,” Combest said. “For us to trade our opinion for all this incredible amount of expertise is just audacious beyond belief. Any reasonable person with this amount of data says we have to apply our points to this project.”

Councilman Chris Wrights, who is the other remaining member of the previous council — and the only one opposed at that time — said what was presented then was a median all the way from I-40 to U.S. 158 and that his concern was all the standalone businesses from Stadium Drive to U.S. 158 that would have been impacted. He said most of the businesses from I-40 to Stadium Drive at least have rear access.

“There is definitely a problem form Stadium to I-40 that has to be addressed,” Wrights said. “I’m not overly excited about this design. We were sent some modifications that they’re going to consider adding that addresses most of the questions that we had, and they’re no guarantees at this point, but they’re going to at least look at them. We need to be at the table.”

Wrights and Lofland were appointed to be the two delegates from the council to work with NCDOT going forward.

If the council had decided not allocate points, NCDOT has been on record that it would make the I-40 interchange a state project and a median could have still been a possibility without Clemmons having a chance to have any input.

Mayor John Wait provided an overview of the project, as it currently stands, and offered his take: “At the end of the day, it’s not something that I like.”

Lofland, a longtime vocal opponent of any medians, said she ran on a platform of no medians and has not changed her mind for this one. She agreed that improvements to the road are needed but thought the Clemmons community had provided some good possibilities and that NCDOT had three options and only one that it would build.

“The only option was not a good one in my opinion,” she said.

Michael Tingle, the chairman of the new Ad-Hoc Transportation Committee, spoke during the public comments portion of the meeting and said that the committee voted 7-0 in its August meeting to strongly encourage the council to continue to communicate and work with the DOT to find a solution that benefits the Village.

“The committee believes that the worst action that can be taken is outright rejection and dismissal of the project,” he said, adding that the committee admits the current proposal is not perfect but views this project as an opportunity to improve safety and quality of life for both the citizens and business owners. “Take a deeper dive and create a plan that has more details that answer the questions we have.”

During the public comments, eight individuals spoke, offering a variety of opinions.

Gordon Hendrix and Gordon Mellish both stated their opposition to the median and the project. Debra Nelson offered that adding a median “is another symbol of disregard for our mom and pop shops,” and “defaces the way a Village looks and feels, not to mention how it straightjackets traveling.”

Judy Houver said she was in favor of the improvements as DOT has outlined while Andrew Wild added he thought the project was “in the best interests of our Village to work in concert with DOT. There is no way we can go back to the way things were.”

Allen Daniel again brought up the possibility of roundabouts instead of a median, and Wait later asked if a roundabout design might be worthy of consideration instead of a median.

Mary Cameron, who served on the Clemmons Village Council for 24 years before being ousted last November, said: “Now is the time to evaluate the expert opinions of the DOT traffic engineers. Now is the time to evaluate the report and suggestions, for which the Village paid $5,000 from an expert in the field of economics. These experts are telling you that, from a safety and economic perspective, this project is the best solution they can envision.”

After the affirmative vote, Wait asked the council if it might also be time to also look at the Market Center Drive project and see about costs and possibly being integrated into the project, and the council concurred.

In other business, the council:

• Heard from Village Manager Scott Buffkin that the closing for Beaufurn, the first and only business to date in Tanglewood Business Park, occurred on Aug. 15. He added that the staff from the Village is continuing to work with the county on its request to extend Topsider Drive and made comments on improvements that may be needed for that road and Dillon Industrial Drive. Also, planner Megan Ledbetter said she has been involved with county officials regarding zoning options that may be mutually beneficial for the area for Clemmons and the county.

• Approved a request from NCDOT for speed-limit concurrence on the new stretch of Idols Road to be 50 mph for the Clemmons portion from Muddy Creek to Hampton Road.

• Appointed Corrie Massey and Charles Sherrill as new members of the Ad-hoc Transportation Committee.

• Approved the request for voluntary annexation from The Arden Group for Magnolia Park, which is for about 5.5 acres and located at the intersection at Millbridge Road and Lewisville-Clemmons Road, after a public hearing where no one spoke. A rezoning request for the property will be heard in October.

• Heard from Shannon Ford in the marketing/communications report that “Wonder,” Saturday night’s “Movie Night in the Village,” has been rescheduled to Sept. 22 because of Hurricane Florence.

• Designated Barson to be the voting delegate for next week’s 2018 Annual N.C. League of Municipalities business meeting to be held in Hickory.