Council examines potential for acquiring business park land

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 15, 2019

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By Jim Buice
For the Clemmons Courier

After months of silence regarding Tanglewood Business Park on Idols Road, the Clemmons Village Council heard from councilwoman Michelle Barson in Monday night’s meeting on early conversations examining “what potentially acquiring that land would look like.”

Barson, who has served with Mike Combest as council representatives as it relates to the 170-acre tract long owned by Forsyth County and proposed for a business park just outside the village limits, said they have met twice with The Meridian Realty Group as part of “exploring a unique acquisition opportunity.”

She asked council members if they would like to hear more from Meridian about what services it offers and what value it might provide in helping find the best fit for Clemmons in a project that has sputtered after more than two years of meetings and discussions between the county and Clemmons, and they all agreed.

The village has expressed concerns over traffic, quality of life, declining home values and whether the project even made good financial sense, and balked earlier this year when the county asked Clemmons to contribute $1.2 million to the effort.

In a council meeting in March when Tanglewood Business Park was last discussed, Combest brought up this new twist for the first time: “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.”

After Monday night’s meeting, Barson said that she and Combest know that the village staff are not developers, don’t have the time to manage such a large undertaking and can’t determine the highest and best use for the land to all the factors relating to Clemmons. So it was their recommendation to seek outside assistance and that Meridian seemed to be a possible solution.

“It has been articulated to the village by the (county) commissioners numerous times that the land adjacent to Idols Road would be developed either under the county or would be sold and developed privately in the near future,” Barson said. “The good news is Clemmons potentially has time to partner with the county — as our intent has always been. I hope we can give them some uniquely structured acquisition options that are agreeable and mutually beneficial to all county residents and reflect the desire to preserve our neighborhoods, infrastructure and tax base as well as meet the values of our specific Clemmons community.”

In a business item on the agenda, the council approved the new Street Modification Guide’s traffic-calming policy with direction to staff to amend it where the village would cover 100 percent of the expense of an approved modification — instead of property owners of the subject street providing half of the cost — and that the implementation will be delayed until the speed study of streets is completed by Kimley-Horn.

The new guide reflects a restructured process where residents of the community or a home owners association can initiate a request for street modifications and a study, which village staff and the transportation committee will address — working through the council as appropriate.

Jonathan Guy, an engineer from Kimley-Horn, and Public Works Director Mike Gunnell worked together to make modifications that were suggested in two July meetings to give the council, as well as well as the transportation committee and public works, “a lot of flexibility in how you look at this. There is not cut-and-dry cases, and each one is unique,” according to Guy.

In a couple of other items, the council discussed adding new NCDOT reflective green “Welcome to Clemmons” signage, along with considering a smaller sign displaying this being the home of West Forsyth High School, as well as something similar on the town’s water tank — where there is money available in the town’s utilities reserve account.

Stuart Egan, the english department chairman at West, spoke during the public comments portion of the meeting and proposed having some way through signage when people enter Clemmons that this is the home of West Forsyth.

“There are not many towns or zip codes that can send all of their students to one high school,” said Egan of West, which has 2,400 students — the largest high school in the state not in the counties of Wake or Mecklenburg. “When you think about West Forsyth, you think of Clemmons. When you think of Clemmons, you think about West Forsyth. It’s been there for 54 years. You have some funds to paint the water tower and possibly put some city limits signs coming through to Clemmons. I think it might be a fantastic win-win situation.”

Pete Villasmil, the outgoing student body president who served as the “Titan,” concurred with Egan, saying one of the many things he loves about West is the school’s commitment to the community. “It’s a plain fact that West Forsyth is synonymous with Clemmons,” he said.

After council discussion, it was agreed by consensus that Shannon Ford, marketing/communications director, would meet with West Forsyth Principal Charles McAninch to talk about possible verbiage regarding the water tower and entrances signs.

In other highlights from Monday night’s meeting, the council:

• Approved a rezoning request for Salem Presbytery from LO-S to LO-S (Limited Office — Special Use) — offices, misc.; medical, surgical and professional offices for property located at 3950 Clemmons Road, after a public hearing where three proponents spoke, with the stipulation that no more than 50 percent of the building can be occupied for medical/surgical because of the limited number of parking spaces available.

• Approved an amendment to a contract with Forsyth County on behalf of the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Department to clarify language that Clemmons will reimburse the county for 50 percent of salaries and employee benefits for one additional deputy position, effective Jan. 1, 2020, for a period of two years. In the third year, the village may continue this position, reimbursing the county 100 percent of the actual costs, or discontinue the position.

• Heard from Village Manager Scott Buffkin regarding a bike/pedestrian grant opportunity from the Metropolitan Planning Organization for a $50,000 project where Clemmons would only need to commit $10,000 (the local match of 20 percent). It was agreed by council consensus to add this item to the agenda for the next meeting.

• Heard from Ford that Tanglewood BMX, which received a total of $34,500 in funding from the village earlier this year for improvements at the facility, has installed a starting gate and will soon apply Solitac, which will be sprayed on the dirt and helps eliminate the runoff and water absorption into the ground. The local BMX recently hosted two large events, including the Carolina Cup and the State Championship Qualifier, and is gearing up for Gold Cup Finals Southeast on Sept. 28.

• Heard from Buffkin that the county will hold a groundbreaking ceremony for the new library in Clemmons on Thursday (today) at 10:30 a.m. at the site on Stadium Drive.

• Approved the staff’s recommendation of the purchase of a new street sweeper for $269,737 from Carolina Industrial Equipment. Director of Operations Steve Gearren said that although this wasn’t the low bid, the village has been pleased with the reliability of this unit for 15 years, its capability of accomplishing the needs of the town and receiving strong vendor support.

• Approved Ordinance 2019-05 declaring a speed-limit modification for Greenbrook Drive to 25 miles per hour after receiving a valid petition of at least 75 percent signatures of the dwelling units on the street.

• Approved Ordinance 2018-06 enacting and adopting Supplement 22 to the Code of Ordinances.

• Approved the low bid of $44,350 from CKJ Building & Design for the Valve Building for the Market Center Drive project.

• Decided to pursue implementing a Volunteer Recognition Program at a cost of $6,200 and will need a budget amendment to so in the next meeting.

• Heard from Ford in the marketing/communications report that “Small Foot” would be the next Movie Night in the Village on Saturday, Sept. 7, at the Jerry Long Family YMCA.

• Recognized Wesley Haggstrom, a rising ninth-grade student at West Forsyth, who was in the men’s junior road race for the age 13-14 category of the USA Cycling Amateur Road Nationals.