New information revealed for proposed business park

Published 12:10 am Thursday, March 7, 2019

Area could be zoned corporate instead of industrial

By Jim Buice
For the Clemmons Courier

A special work session called by the Clemmons Village Council Monday night inviting Forsyth County officials to join them in discussing Tanglewood Business Park drew an overflow crowd in Village Hall and revealed some new numbers and information from both sides.

It also included an overview of what Kyle Haney, an economic development specialist for the county, called “a long and winding process” and a Q&A with the public to give them an opportunity to offer input and ask questions.

The council called the meeting because of the timing of a request from the county, where the commissioners meet March 14 and want to make a decision on moving forward with Phase I of the project, which now just includes furniture company Beaufurn.

The county has asked for sewer reserve funds of $460,884 from the Village, if Clemmons desires to participate financially in the park.

Haney said that the new overall cost of the project at full build is $8.45 million, nearly half of the cost from the early estimates when the original plan was first introduced in August 2016. Since then, the focus has shifted from an industrial park to a business park focusing on advanced manufacturing, medical technology, and research and development.

“A lot of decisions were made and a lot studies were done without a clear definition of what this was going to be,” Haney said. “Based on conversations we’ve had, looking at zoning and the surrounding community, trying to figure out what was the best way moving forward with what this park has become, I think, is more clear now than throughout this process.”

The county, which was also represented at the meeting by County Manager Dudley Watts, now projects a job creation of nearly 1,900 employees in the park with an average salary of $55,000.

The two sides have worked on creating a new Corporate Zoning District, which Clemmons officials consider vital regardless of whether they choose to participate financially or not.

“If we don’t execute to that Corporate Park standard, then we introduce the same risk of harmful impact on property values in the neighborhoods, the traffic and the quality of life,” said councilman Mike Combest, outlining what the council considers to be the largest impact on neighboring residents and businesses.

Planner Megan Ledbetter discussed that new zoning district that has discussed at length and that the county commissioners are considering making that change but that Clemmons has no legal right to zone this park since it’s within Forsyth County and not in the municipal boundaries of the Village.

As for the new direction of the park, Ledbetter said that would reduce truck traffic but would increase vehicular traffic and passenger trips.

“The business park, if the park develops at the concept plan, at approximately 1 million square feet, you’re looking at an additional 11,000 trips per day,” she said. “That’s very impactful numbers to our community. Middlebrook and Hampton are the only two roads that can bring you to Clemmons. They’re already overworked, and we would need a comprehensive study if we’re going to be adding those many trips to this general area.”

Haney did say that if the county moved forward with Phase I, it would then “take a pause and work with NCDOT, Village of Clemmons and study the traffic in that area in a larger way.”

The sewer reserve funds being requested by the county could only be used by the Village to extend utility services, and instead paying the lump sum, if Clemmons chose to participate financially, Ledbetter suggested paying incrementally as each lot develops in the park.

“I think you should submit a formal request to the county if you desire to participate in the park,” she said. “If you don’t, then the answer is very simple, it’s no.”

Councilwoman Michelle Barson asked about making a formal request based on three different possibilities — Phase I only, Phase I and II, and no development — at the next meeting Monday night “based on not knowing what the commissioners’ decisions are going to be and us having to make decisions before they meet.”

Village Manager Scott Buffkin said the staff could draft something for consideration.

Early in the meeting, Mayor John Wait told those in attendance that the Village’s part in the matter has been mandatory “because we have been told the county was going to go forward no matter what. It’s only been recently that we found out that now the county says you participate or this won’t go forward. That’s a very significant change.”

However, after a wide range of discussions throughout the meeting, Wait then came back and asked Haney: “Is Phase I going forward no matter what? The Jan. 24 meeting seemed to be pretty clear that without Clemmons’ participation that it wouldn’t.”

Haney responded by saying, “I cannot answer that. That’s a board decision.”

A number of residents came to the podium asking questions ranging from considering an alternative two-mile connector from Idols Road to Harper Road to help with traffic, rail deliveries at the park, environmental impacts, not rushing to make a decision, whether there could be future expansion around the park and what could be done “to protect us so we can continue to have the quiet enjoyment of our property?”

Near the end of the two-plus hour meeting, councilman Chris Wrights drew applause from the crowd over a couple of points he made, after saying if the county is going to move forward on this project, that the proposed corporate zoning would be significantly better than the industrial zoning.

“The problem is that I see for Clemmons is that the corporate is better, but neither in my opinion are good for Clemmons,” Wright said. “The corporate eliminates a lot of the truck traffic, but we’ve added an extra 11,000 cars basically on Middlebrook every day, which is already a nightmare. On top of that, we’ve heard these numbers for tax revenue, but this entire park when fully developed will generate roughly $100,000 in tax revenue for Clemmons. And that’s if they annex us in. That represents less than a 2 percent increase in our total revenues now. That’s minuscule to what we actually gain from this park. And my third point, as we saw from both our comprehensive plan and the county’s own comprehensive plan, this land was designated for park open space. That’s what we both intended for it to be originally.

“I grew up in Clemmons, and in my opinion, Clemmons is and has always been a bedroom community. It’s a place where people come to live and go work in Winston. A giant industrial business corporate park, whatever you want to call it, has no place in Clemmons. I’ve yet to talk to a single person in Clemmons that wants this thing to be built. I know we may not make a decision until next Monday, but in my opinion there shouldn’t be one cent of Clemmons money put toward this project.”