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Proposed county project could help with Festival of Lights traffic

By Jim Buice
For the Clemmons Courier

While the Clemmons Village Council held a public hearing Monday night to allow residents to provide input for a traffic-calming request for Gardenspring Drive, another resolution presented could help with traffic for the annual Tanglewood Festival of Lights.

The council approved the resolution of support for Forsyth County to construct an enhanced traffic flow and stacking design for Tanglewood Park’s special events, including the Festival of Lights, which typically averages 250,000-plus visitors a year in November and December.

Village Manager Scott Buffkin said that the Forsyth County commissioners would be considering awarding the construction bid in their meeting today.

Mayor John Wait elaborated on the project, saying that the county is looking at expanding the roads inside the park to help with the queuing to get more traffic off U.S. 158, including doubling the width of the entrance to the park to four lanes and continuing as it snakes through the park.

The resolution states “the proposed project will make traffic control less burdensome for the Forsyth County sheriff’s deputies, will help improve access for local businesses and decrease complaints and safety concerns from Clemmons residents.”

Councilwoman Michelle Barson said that the county project has a price tag of about $1 million and would “directly benefit our businesses and our residents.”

The public hearing to consider the Street Modification Guide’s recommendation for Gardenspring Drive made at the Nov. 25 meeting took up the majority of Monday night’s meeting with 10 individuals speaking (14 actually signed up, but the other four chose not to speak, saying similar comments had already been made by others).

The council appeared to be poised to move forward with engineer Jonathan Guy’s recommendation made in that November 2019 meeting for 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.

However, former councilman Mike Combest brought up in that meeting that a public hearing was required after approval by the Transportation Committee, and that resulted in another opportunity for residents to speak in Monday night’s meeting.

Wait provided some context regarding the process before a full house in Village Hall, stating that the first step under the new Street Modification Guide was for an application to be submitted (which was done by Gardenspring residents), followed by a review by the Transportation Committee, then collection of data, analysis and recommendations from an engineer, and then a public hearing.

The overwhelming sentiment expressed by those who came to the podium was against striping the road and for installing speed humps, which the residents originally requested, and putting up a three-way stop sign.

Bob Dorsch, a 30-year Gardenspring resident, said he is in favor of speed humps and that a three-way stop “may very well be a good piece of the puzzle.” He added that the suggestion of painting lines is misguided and that the community would like to “retain our neighborhood feel and not look like Peace Haven (Road).

“Our request is for safety, nothing else,” he added.

Michelle James, another Gardenspring resident, said she was against the solid lines on the street and concerned about the impact on property values. From her standpoint, she said, “If we can’t have the speed humps, or we can’t get a three-way stop sign, we would just prefer to maintain the status quo.”

Richard Felton, who has lived in Clemmons since 1966 and resides on Rolling Oak Court, said that it has to be either a stop sign, a three-way stop sign or a speed hump.

“You’re not going to stop the volume of traffic,” he said. “You just need to slow it down.”

Several residents of Sandhurst Drive, which runs parallel to Gardenspring and is also used as a cut through to Harper Road and I-40, spoke and said that whatever is done on Gardenspring needs to be considered for their street for the traffic that will be diverted there and elsewhere.

“If you’re going to do something to one, you need to do it for everything in the neighborhood if you’re going to slow them down,’ said Joel Easter, a Sandhurst resident.

Wait said after the public hearing that discussions among the council have always been about the entire area, not just Gardenspring.

The conversation with Gardenspring residents regarding speeding and safety concerns on their street extends back to late 2018 before the Street Modification Guide was implemented.

Actually, there was a public hearing on the road in the Dec. 17, 2018, council meeting, which was the fourth consecutive meeting that traffic-calming measures involving Gardenspring were on the agenda.

Representatives of Gardenspring Drive and Lakefield Drive filed the first two applications for street modifications under the new system in 2019.

No action was taken following the public hearing in Monday night’s meeting.

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

• Heard the consideration of a Second Amendment to the Village Point Sewer Extension Agreement, which will be on the agenda for the Jan. 27 council meeting.

• Heard the consideration of a budget amendment for the next meeting to cover the cost of a patrol vehicle that was wrecked during a recent vehicle chase.

• Heard from Sgt. Brian Gieger, who is from the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office and heads up the Clemmons community policing. He introduced new officer Alexander Mills, who was hired as part of a grant position.

• Heard from Buffkin, who wanted to confirm the dates of March 12-13 for the council’s annual retreat.

• Heard from Shannon Ford in the marketing/communications report that February will be the Neighbors Helping Neighbors campaign, which is a month-long food drive for the Clemmons Food Pantry.

• Heard from Wait that the Village of Clemmons will be closed for Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday.