‘A strong sense of place’: A community center would be focal point for Clemmons

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 4, 2019

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A few years ago, Casey Matuszak came to a Clemmons Village Council meeting to speak in support of building a new library, but he ended up talking more about community.

And when he left Clemmons early last month after living here 23 years to move closer to his children in Raleigh, he did the same.

As Matuszak approached the podium during the public comments portion of the meeting that night and started talking, I remembered that night when he went on a rant about having a Village Center and that “Village feel,” which seems to become more difficult to achieve with the booming growth of Clemmons.

I scrambled to find the quotes from my story archives of his plea.

“We have a chance to do something,” he said in the July 2015 meeting, “When you think about Kernersville, you say, hey, the Korner’s Folly. You think of a city that has soul and heart. You say, Mocksville, you think of the square. Even Lewisville, you’ve got a park. You’ve got a city that builds around something.

“What do we have? Kmart, Dairi-O, Froggies and, of course, Krispy Kreme. We have to have something that when we say Clemmons we think of something that is good. When we say I am from Clemmons, aren’t you the city that has that great community center? Not just a library. A city hall. A park. We have nothing.

“A historical district bound by one school, which is historical in a sense. But on the other side by an outdated post office, Walgreens, a lawnmower shop and Walmart. Gosh, is that great?

“We have to think not about now, not about ourselves. We have to think about our future. If we build a good library and a community center, people will come. People will come to Clemmons because they want to have a community, a community where there’s heart and soul.”

It was almost like he was taking a chapter out of the Clemmons Comprehensive Plan — the one about Community Character and a Village Center.

Fast forward to the March 11, 2019, meeting when he was back to say goodbye and tender his resignation from the Planning Board. Matuszak said he wasn’t there to talk about himself but instead wanted to recognize three staffers — Planner Megan Ledbetter, Public Works Director Mike Gunnell and administrative assistant Patty Fife — “who finally helped me figure out what I was supposed to do and told me how to do it well” to serve the public.

“I was HOA president of Village Club across the street from the Y, and when Publix came we had a real quandary of what to do — do we fight or allow it,” Matuszak said. “Thanks to Megan, she basically worked out a deal that included a 900-foot concrete fence along Peace Haven, a fence Publix paid close to $90,000 for. Megan helped us all the way through and gave us lots of good information.”

Regarding Gunnell, Matuszak recalled having a “terrific argument on where I put my leaves when he was sucking them up with his vacuum cleaner” but later discovered when he talked with him about stormwater projects and flooding in his development that he found Gunnell to always respond professionally with a smile on his face and more information than he needed.

Matuszak said that Fife had all the answers and knew where everybody was along with having a pleasant disposition, and “she always had a full bowl of candy.”

Now, Matuszak is leaving town after plugging in to being a part of the Planning Board and helping to shape the future of Clemmons. The group just finished a Comprehensive Plan update that will be introduced with a public hearing at the next Council meeting.

The Comprehensive Plan from 2010 addressed the concept about Community Character and a Village Center: “At present, Clemmons lacks two assets enjoyed by many communities — a strong sense of place and a traditional pedestrian-friendly mixed-use civic center. The concept of a Village Center is intended to help remedy both issues. The thinking about the specific location of the Village Center evolved during development of the plan. The final recommendation is to develop a future Village Center at the Village Point/Novant area north of I-40 because of its central location in the community, potential for public-private partnership and access to I-40.”

It will be interesting to see what’s ahead for the Village in this area and many others and what changes may be included in the Community Compass update.

The Clemmons planner certainly appreciated the contributions of Matuszak.

“With Mr. Matuszak leaving us, we are dearly going to miss him on the Planning Board,” Ledbetter said. “He’s been a great addition the last three years.”