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Street Modification Guide to require public hearing

By Jim Buice
For the Clemmons Courier

After approving its new Street Modification Guide in October, the Clemmons Village Council appeared to be poised to move forward with recommendations for changes to a couple of its streets in its meeting Monday night before running into a roadblock.

Gardenspring Drive and Lakefield Drive were both on the agenda as action items, but after Jonathan Guy, an engineer from Kimley-Horn, laid out his analysis on Gardenspring and the council asked some questions and offered input, the board seemed ready for a motion before Mike Combest spoke up.

“Did we have a public hearing on this as required by our Street Modification Guide?” Combest asked, and then proceeded to read from the document: “Once approved by the Transportation Committee, a public hearing will be scheduled to allow property owners, etc.. etc. Have we had that?”

After hearing a “no” reply from one of the council members, Combest continued: “So why are we thinking about voting on this tonight?”

Mayor John Wait said he wasn’t sure how it got on the agenda as an action item but said these requests were already in the pipeline and prompted it. The initial step on the flow chart, the engineer’s analysis, was taken care of but not the rest of it — the public hearing on this particular solution and assessing support.

Village Manager Scott Buffkin said, “Your point is well taken. This probably should have been under an information item at this point. Apologies, this is a bit of a learning process for us all.”

Ultimately, after not getting council consensus to have a public hearing in the December meeting, which is an organizational meeting including the transition from the current council to swearing in of the new council, it was agreed upon to add it to the agenda for the Jan. 13, 2020, meeting.

Representatives of Gardenspring Drive and Lakefield Drive filed the first two applications for street modifications under the new system, and both were heard at a Transportation Committee meeting before Guy appeared before the council to make his recommendations.

For Gardenspring, which is frequently used as a cut-through between Lasater Road and Fair Oaks Drive approaching Harper Road, speeding and the cut-through situation were listed as primary concerns by residents.

Guy’s recommendation is a multi-way stop at Gardenspring and Sandhurst Drive, restriping the existing roadway to provide for 9-foot traffic lanes and 2-foot shoulders and installing 25 mph speed-limit signs on both ends of Gardenspring.

“An all-way stop has nothing to do with speeds,” Guy said. “They are to be used for traffic control. There is a sight-distance issue at this location. A secondary benefit will be with traffic calming. To help control speeds, the establishment of 9-foot travel lanes through here instead of 11-foot travel lanes that are out there today will narrow down the road and make it feel a little uncomfortable driving the speeds that people are driving through there.”

Guy added that he would like for speeds to be monitored after implementation to see what the speeds are with the 25 mph speed limit in what he called a “first-tier approach” to solving the problem.

As councilwoman Michelle Barson stated, this is the “least invasive and most economical” suggestion, but after monitoring, more can be done with further corrections if needed.

For nearby Lakefield Drive, a dense residential neighborhood which runs from Peace Haven Road to North Lakeshore Drive, Guy’s recommendation is to implement multi-way stop sign configurations at the intersections of Lakefield at Glenfield Lake, Lakefield at Meadow Glen Drive, and Lakefield at Meadow Glen Court.

“One important fact that was highlighted in this is that there are bus stops at each of these intersections,” said Guy, who added there has been a change in the development pattern and the presence of pedestrians, particularly minors, making this the best solution for driver awareness.

Following the presentation from Guy, the council debated the order of the flow chart from the Street Modification Guide, including the definition of a public hearing (and how it compares to rezoning), and finally decided to schedule it for the first meeting in January.

“This is the first time we are doing this, and there are some wrinkles to iron out,” Wait said.

Also in the Nov. 25 meeting, outgoing members of the current council — Mike Combest and Pamela (PJ) Lofland — were recognized for their service.

Barson, as mayor pro tem, offered comments on the contributions of each, saying of Combest that his “life experiences as well as his education and professional background have proven to be a huge asset to our council, raising the profile of Clemmons among our county commissioners, state House representatives and state Senate members, and it was accomplished with thorough research and a willingness to try where others before him had not.”

Combest, who is completing a four-year term, expressed his thanks to everyone for allowing him to be part of this “extraordinary team of people” and that there is no municipality in the state that has a “better crew working on behalf of the people.”

He said that he thought the incoming council “is going to be the most productive, the most powerful council in the history of our village, and we’ve had some killers.” He added that “his door is always open and don’t hesitate to call.”

Of Lofland, Barson said: “Pam and I first met while campaigning in 2016. When asked why she was running, she made it clear she was most passionate about making sure everyone felt heard. She really wanted to serve as a voice for all of Clemmons and not just a small fraction of it. As a councilwoman, she stayed true to that passion. She listened to everyone who contacted her and brought their concerns to council quickly. Her empathy for each person was clear.”

Lofland, who is completing a two-year term, said she decided two years ago “to help correct a wrong — to save businesses and homes that would have been destroyed” in order to install a median in the business district along Lewisville-Clemmons Road. “I along with other council members accomplished that,” she said.

She talked about other accomplishments, including stopping the industrial park on Idols Road “that took a new council to make that happen.” She had harsh words for previous council members and actions, praised the mayor and current council members along with the staff, talked repeatedly about having Clemmons values and said that “Clemmons does not end at Peace Haven Road.”

She closed her speech by saying, “In the immortal words of The Terminator, ‘I’ll be back.’ ”

Incoming council members, including incumbent Chris Wrights — who was the top vote-getter in the November election — and returning council members from the past, Mike Rogers and Mary Cameron, who finished second and third, respectively, will be sworn in at the Dec. 9 meeting.

In other business from the Nov. 12 meeting, where following a closed session that was held to discuss a personal matter, the council unanimously approved a 4.5 percent raise for Buffkin, the town manager, effective immediately.