Council denies de-annexation request for development

Published 12:10 am Thursday, March 28, 2019

By Jim Buice
For the Clemmons Courier

The Clemmons Village Council refused to give its blessing in Monday night’s meeting for a de-annexation request for a small segment of land in the Village limits for a proposed development project on 38 acres on the western side of Lewisville-Clemmons Road near River Center Drive.

Instead of agreeing to a request from Stan Forester for the de-annexation of 2.5 acres of land at that prime location, the Clemmons Village Council asked why he wouldn’t just allow the other 36.5 acres on the tract in the unincorporated area of Forsyth County to be annexed into the Village.

Council members agreed by consensus that they would rather see Forester ask to annex the larger part of land in the county jurisdiction (93 percent) into Clemmons and let it go through the Village’s zoning and planning department.

However, Forester has made a de-annexation request of the 2.5 acres from Clemmons to the N.C. Legislature with the intent to develop the land through the county’s zoning auspices. Village Manager Scott Buffkin said that bills have been introduced in the State Senate and House that would essentially accomplish that.

Buffkin added that he had reached out to Sen. Joyce Krawiec and asked for any action to be delayed until the council could hear Forester’s request and have the opportunity to take a position.

“The reason it has to go through the Legislature is there is nothing in the statute that gives a mechanism for that to happen,” Buffkin said. “If the pieces of property are going to be de-annexed, it must go through the Legislature in this process.”

Mayor John Wait said that the Legislature can take action with or without Council’s input.

Regardless, councilman Mike Combest said that based on the sentiment of the Council on preferring to annex the entire property into Clemmons instead of de-annextion of the 2.5 acres, “I would recommend that we convey that as clearly and forcefully as possible to our elected representatives.”

Forester went before the Clemmons Planning Board in February, making a request for revising the land use for the property in question from mixed residential to commercial/high density/multifamily on the updated Comprehensive Plan to allow his plan for development.

Forester requested Mixed Use Commercial and Highway Commercial, which were two of the four possible land uses for the property. The Planning Board approved the Draft Comprehensive Plan at its March meeting, subject to modification of the land use requested by Forester for the property.

Later in the meeting, the Council called for a public hearing for the Comprehensive Plan update at its April 8 meeting.

“I’ve been working on this project for 11 years,” Forester told the Council. “I really don’t want to square off with you. I came to ask you for your help to make Clemmons a better place. I think I’ve contributed my part with the projects I’ve done for this community.

“This received 100 percent support from your Planning Board on the Comprehensive Plan. I came to you not because the Legislature required me to. I’m not trying to burn a bridge. I’m trying to build a bridge and build a development that you’d be proud of. I’m sorry you won’t consider it.”

Councilwoman P.J. Lofland said that Forester, who developed River Ridge Shopping Center, has been involved in some nice projects in the community and didn’t think anyone on the board was against developing the property.

“But we would prefer it being to Clemmons standards rather than the county,” Lofland said.

Councilwoman Michelle Barson added that what the Planning Board supported was adjusting the Comprehensive Plan to what Forester would like to build there.

“Previously, it was contradictory,” Barson said. “What they didn’t approve, or didn’t have the authority to approve, was the de-annexation request. They’re two different things.”

Councilman Chris Wrights asked Forester: “Why are you so opposed to just annexing it in to Clemmons? What’s so bad about doing it that way?”

Forester’s reply was, “It wouldn’t be the proper use of land the way the Comprehensive Plan is designed now. It’s not single-family residential property.”

“But you said the Planning Board amended that,” Wrights countered.

To which Forester replied, “It hasn’t been adopted yet.”

In another item on the agenda, Barson provided an update on Tanglewood Business Park after the Forsyth County Commissioners tabled taking any action on how to proceed with Phase I/Beaufurn in their March 14 meeting.

“This is a positive move and shows their continued willingness to listen to the Clemmons Council and community,” Barson said. “In all our conversations, we reinforced the letter of the prior meeting, which is to vote no to Phase I and explore other opportunities for that land.  Beaufurn is a wonderful company, and I would personally love to welcome them to Clemmons, but not in that location and not as part of the greater Tanglewood Business Park as currently proposed.

“We also reinforced our willingness to be partners on future endeavors regarding that property. At this point, we have to sit and wait to hear from the county commissioners on their decision regarding Phase I, as well as their interest in entertaining other opportunities.”

In other business, the council:

• Heard from Fire Chief Jerry Brooks during the public comments portion of the meeting and later in an agenda item asking for support from Clemmons in being included in the Forsyth Countywide Service District to assist rural volunteer fire departments, including putting two support suppression vehicles in place in the county.

• Heard from Buffkin regarding the budget for Phase IA of the Market Center Drive project and the low bid of $383,138 from Yadkin Valley Paving Inc. The anticipated start date for the contractor is June 1. It was agreed to add this as an action item for the next meeting.

• Received an update on a pavement condition survey from Public Works Director Mike Gunnell, who followed up on a presentation in the Feb. 25 meeting from Steve Lander, PE, from The Kercher Group on a possible “analytical tool for a long-term approach to paving management” in Clemmons. Gunnell said the cost would be $40,830 in the first year to collect data for every street in Clemmons and $36,000 in the next three years for additional services for a total cost of just over $76,000. It was agreed to add this as an action item for the next meeting.

• Heard from Buffkin regarding information received from Lewisville about its opposition to N.C. House Bill 294 that would require every election in the state to be held as a partisan election and reaching out to other municipalities in Forsyth County to join them in the efforts to continue to determine their preferred form of government.

• Approved the preliminary subdivision site review of Hampton Place C-19-001 for seven lots on 3.047 acres at 4379 Hampton Road.

• Approved retaining the services of Cannon & Company for audit services for the next three years at a projected cost of $41,350.

• Heard from Shannon Ford in the marketing/communications report regarding upcoming events in Clemmons — Coffee with a Cop next Thursday (April 4) at 8 a.m. at Chick-fil-A; the annual spring cleanup on Saturday, April 27; and the first Movie Night of the Year, also on April 27, which will be “Ralph Breaks the Internet” at the Jerry Long YMCA.

• Heard from Wait in the announcements portion of the meeting, congratulating the West Forsyth girls basketball team on the “monumental” achievement of winning the State 4-A Championship on March 16 in Raleigh with a 47-36 victory over Southeast Raleigh.

• Heard from Mark Beckmann and Allen Daniel during the public comments portion of the meeting. Both offered their thanks to the Council for their efforts in representing Clemmons in the Tanglewood Business Park project.