Council unanimously votes against business park

Published 12:10 am Thursday, March 14, 2019

By Jim Buice
For the Clemmons Courier

The Clemmons Village Council unanimously voted “no” to supporting Tanglewood Business Park  — Phase I or II — as currently planned in Monday night’s meeting at Village Hall.

This comes a week after a special work session called by the council inviting Forsyth County officials to join them in the continuing discussion of the business park.

The council felt like it needed to provide some type of response to the county Monday night as the Forsyth County commissioners will vote today on whether to move forward or not with Phase I of the development.

Councilwoman Michelle Barson and councilman Mike Combest were appointed to represent Clemmons a year ago to work with the county commissioners for the proposed business park, which is located outside of the Village jurisdiction in Forsyth County.

Barson made the formal recommendation to the council to not only vote no to supporting the Tanglewood Business Park development and also encourage the county commissioners to vote no to continuing with Phase I, which only includes furniture manufacturer Beaufurn.

“No matter how the commissioners vote — for or against continuing with Phase I and II development — we propose that this council reinforce the letter of Feb. 11, 2019, asking the commissioners to rezone the Tanglewood Business Park area to the Corporate Park District zoning as quickly as possible,” Barson read in her statement. “This special zoning district was jointly developed by Forsyth County and Village of Clemmons planners and staff and is unanimously supported by this council.”

She added to recommend that this council direct Mayor John Wait to officially communicate its decision to the county commissioners by Tuesday evening — two days in advance of its meeting.

Residents of Clemmons have voiced their concerns, including four individuals who spoke against the project during Monday night’s public comments portion of the meeting, with home values, traffic and quality of life topping the list. While some new numbers were revealed in the work session last Monday night with the commissioners, council members have questioned whether the project makes financial sense for Clemmons as currently planned.

County officials say at full buildout that the park projects a job creation of nearly 1,900 employees with an average salary of $55,000 — with a recent change in focus shifting from an industrial park to a business park focusing on advanced manufacturing, medical technology, and research and development.

Combest has frequently said that the objective from the Village perspective all along has been that the development “at Tanglewood corner” must be profitable and compatible with the character of neighborhood communities.

Councilwoman P.J. Lofland expressed her disappointment with the county commissioners, saying this isn’t a good use for this land. “This is a terrible thing for this community,” she said. “We have no guarantees for anything.”

Combest offered a different take, saying that this was not city land, and that the county owned it but “has never dismissed our concerns. They could have forced this on us.”

Councilman Chris Wrights said there was some confusion about funding and that the county still was requesting $1.2 million from the Village, not just sewer reserve funds of $460,884, if Clemmons decided to participate financially in the park.

Wait added that after all the hard work from the council, particularly Barson and Combest in their roles, and the staff, the end result was that it wasn’t a good fit for Clemmons, “but nobody can say both parties didn’t try their best.”

Barson said that even if the Village doesn’t contribute financially that conversations won’t stop. She said that if the park does develop, there may still an opportunity to participate on a case-by-case basis “to take advantage of the park from a tax perspective and annexation perspective.”

At the end of the discussion following the vote, Combest added a new twist — the Village offering to acquire the 170 acres being considered for the park from the county.

“I think everyone’s concern is right,” he said. “Now that we’ve taken this position, that land is still zoned General Industrial, so the second half still has to be played out. We are chartered to try to shape and develop that as much as possible.

“I’d offer that we ought to consider, I think the time might be right, to direct our staff to approach the county staff to see if there’s a way we can devise to acquire that land and thereby bring it in the Village limits and ensure that it’s developed to Clemmons standards.”

The council agreed by consensus to ask the staff to do an inquiry.

While the council said no to the business park, it unanimously said yes to Tanglewood BMX’s request for funding to help with track improvements as the track will serve as the host of the Gold Cup Finals Southeast Sept. 27-29.

In addition to the Feb. 25 request of $4,500, which would go toward buying a product called Soiltac that gets sprayed on the dirt and helps eliminate the runoff and water absorption into the ground, Clemmons also approved $30,000 for a new barrel starting gate.

The total of $34,500 going to the BMX, which is a volunteer-based organization, also includes an additional 10 percent buffer of $3,450 and will require a budget amendment.

The funding will come from the Village’s restricted-use occupancy tax fund, which has to be used for anything with the potential for overnight stays.

A chart provided by Tanglewood BMX officials showed that last year’s Gold Cup event in Evans, Ga., attracted visitors from 15 other states, and projections for those speaking on behalf of the BMX call for a national bike race coming here could have an economic impact of more than $620,000.

In another matter that has been discussed in the previous two meetings, Village Manager Scott Buffkin gave an update on positive developments involving safety concerns over students parking across the street from West Forsyth High School and crossing four lanes of traffic on Lewisville-Clemmons Road. Much of that has been the result of students parking this year at Friends Baptist Church, which is on the opposite side of the street from the school.

Buffkin said that he and councilwoman Lofland were part of a well-attended “very productive” meeting last Tuesday at Friends Baptist that included school officials, church officials, public safety officers and a number of parents.

River Oaks Community Church, which is on the same side of the street as the high school and allowed parking in its lot previously but discontinued it this year because of a number of incidents and safety concerns, agreed to allow students to park on its campus again.

Buffkin said that the church is setting up a permit program where students will have assigned spaces and that Clemmons policing officers have agreed to circle through the lot periodically.

“I think the most important thing that came out of the entire meeting was the directive to the students, who are parking at Friends Baptist Church while River Oaks works through their process, stressing the importance of staying on the west side of Lewisville-Clemmons Road until they get down to either where the crossing guard is or continuing north to the signalized intersection and crossing with the light as it permits,” Buffkin said. “Sgt. (Brian) Gieger said that the students have been observed actually following that directive, so for the first week it seems we have addressed the issue and made some amount of success in keeping the students safe.”

In other business, the council:

• Received an update from planner Megan Ledbetter regarding the Market Street Drive project on meeting with Davie Construction and scheduling a construction date for Phase IA with property owners of Village Square and Verizon for the first of June, and receiving final construction documents for the roadway design for Phase II and submitting those to Hubbard Realty and the property owner of Wells Fargo.

• Approved a contract with Carolina Video Security Inc. for $1,994 for a camera, related equipment, installation and project management to provide livestreaming for Clemmons Village Council meetings.

• Decided again to not move forward with any painting for the water tower in Clemmons.

• Accepted the resignation from Casey Matuszak from the Planning Board. He is moving to the Raleigh area to be closer to family.

• Heard from Shannon Ford in the marketing/communications report regarding a couple of upcoming events – Family Fishing Fun on Saturday, March 23, from 10 a.m. to noon at River Oaks Community Church and Operation Medicine Drop on Monday, March 25, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Clemmons Fire Department (James Street location).