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Council again tables rezoning request for apartment complex

By Jim Buice
For the Clemmons Courier

Once again, the proposed rezoning request before the Clemmons Village Council for a multi-family apartment complex adjacent to Kinnamon Village shopping center off U.S. 158 will have to wait until the next meeting.

That’s the result of the council tabling a vote in last Tuesday night’s virtual meeting to consider rezoning 6.86 acres from RS-15 & LO-S to RM-12-S (residential building/multifamily) for the Village of Kinnamon project that includes three large buildings with up to three stories, including 41,835 square feet and 78 units (one, two and three bedrooms).

In the previous meeting in May, the council wasn’t able to take action because of new legislation on public hearings in virtual meetings that required an additional 24 hours for written response.

All the comments were provided to the board for their review and consideration following the closing of that public hearing on May 11, and Mayor John Wait said in last Tuesday night’s meeting that the council could deliberate and ask any questions for the petitioners.

After a lengthy silence, councilman Chris Wrights said that he is a stickler for detail in following the village’s land-use plan and that this rezoning request does not fall into the categories outlined.

“I’m having a hard time finding a way to approve this project,” Wrights said. “Not only does the zoning being requested not fit with what the land-use plan says should go there but the size of the building, the design standards, don’t match with what our land-use plan says should go there either. Our Comp Plan is 10 years old, but we just did an update and approved the new one just last year.”

Councilwoman Michelle Barson agreed with Wrights on the land use and issues with the three stories, and councilwoman Mary Cameron said that she had concerns about the project not being consistent with the Comprehensive Plan. Councilman Scott Binkley and councilman Mike Rogers also fell in line with the sentiments of the others.

Wait then said that based on the discussion he would suggest tabling a vote until the next meeting to allow staff to have more communication with the petitioners to see if they wanted to make any decisions based on conversations up to this point.

Cameron then said: “I don’t understand why we’re tabling.”

Wrights said he thought the mayor was just wanting to give the petitioners the option to withdraw the request if they would like to since a “no” vote would require for the zoning to remain the same for a year.

Village Manager Scott Buffkin said that any council member can request an item on the agenda being deferred to a following meeting, and after a long silence, Buffkin said: “Mr. Mayor, I would say no motion is the same as a motion to table.”

Wait followed by saying, “Listen, I’ll put it in council’s hands. If there is a motion to table a vote on this until the next meeting, so be it. Or if there’s is a motion to approve or deny, that’s fine, too.”

Following more silence, Wrights eventually said: “I guess I’ll make a motion to table it to the next meeting. The petitioner is here. We could ask the petitioners now if they want to withdraw it.”

Developer Ron Davis of Allegro, one of the petitioners speaking in favor of the proposed $11.5-plus million Village of Kinnamon project, said that “removing it does not eliminate that land from being rezoned for some other use. There’s ways around that. You’ve got a planning staff that recommended approval, and the Planning Board that has recommended approval. I don’t know what you’re going to discuss between now and waiting that will make any difference.

“That area of town needs something to revitalize it,” Davis continued. “It is what is needed. We’re down in a low spot and surrounded by commercial, and a lot of it is abandoned or neglected housing. It will totally revitalize that part of this town.”

John Stiltner, who was alongside Davis in the previous meeting during the public hearing, said that this is “a pocket of the community that has been overlooked for going on two decades,” adding that the topography negates a level of the structure and that the project is not sitting along U.S. 158.

Stiltner added that the proponents of the project could wait until the next council meeting.

“We do have time if time helps,” he said. “Comprehensive Plan is Comprehensive Plan, and if that’s how the council’s voting, there’s nothing we can do in two weeks to change that.”

Wait said that this item will be back on the agenda for the Monday, June 8, council meeting for a potential vote if it is not withdrawn before that time.

A similar project on this site was proposed in 2015 by Allegro and denied by the council but later resulted in a conciliation agreement, with Clemmons paying $150,000 in the settlement in January 2019, to resolve claims raised by the N.C. Human Relations Commission that “reasonable grounds exist to believe that unlawful discriminatory housing practices have occurred.”

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

• Approved the updated draft for the State of Emergency Declaration Ordinance 2020-01, which now includes that upon a declaration of a state of emergency by the mayor that an emergency meeting of the council shall automatically be called and proper notice given.

• Heard from Buffkin regarding the 2020-21 fiscal year budget with a General Fund Budget of  $6,971,525 and Stormwater Enterprise Budget of $1,622,050 — for a total of $8,593,575 for the two major funds. The property tax remains unchanged at $0.115 per $100 valuation, and the Stormwater Utility Fee is reflected at $5 per month per equivalent residential unit with a tier system applied to this rate. Rogers also requested that a correction be made to reallocate $500,000 from the Powell Bill Fund to street repaving as was discussed in the recent budget workshop. A public hearing has been called for Monday, June 8, to adopt the budget ordinance and to set the stormwater utility fee rate.

• Approved an amended agreement renewal with the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office. Buffkin explained that it includes a flat fee and the county will provide Worker’s Compensation as well as liability insurance. There is also a reconciliation clause that addresses the village not being billed when deputies are called outside of Clemmons.

• Approved calling for public hearings for a Zoning Map Amendment of Kazakos Brothers Clemmons LLC from LO-S to GB-S (General Business — Special) located at 2225 Lewisville-Clemmons Road Zoning Docket C-230, and for a Zoning Map Amendment of real properties under multiple owners from RS-15 and RS-9 to RM5-S and RS-9 described in the Forsyth County Tax Office as PIN number 5892-58-2261, 5892-57-8680 and 5892-57-0376 — Zoning Docket C-235.

• Heard from Buffkin, who advised the council that Gov. Cooper’s recent order regarding Phase 2 reopenings exempts government meetings from the social distancing limitations and requirements, and attorney Elliot Fus stating that this will allow for government meeting capacity to be up to the fire limit. Concerns were raised about how public hearings would be handled, and the issue of wearing masks and the inability for the audio to be picked up through the sound system with the current microphones. Council consensus was to direct staff to look into the cost of a system upgrade regarding portable microphones. However, the next day it was announced that the next council meeting on Monday, June 8, will again be virtual.

• Approved Resolution 2020-R-4 for collection of 2020 taxes and Resolution 2020-R-5 for collection of 2019 and prior years’ taxes. Buffkin advised these two resolutions are an administrative action to authorize the Forsyth County Tax Office to collect taxes for Clemmons for the current year and for the past 10 years.

• Heard from Wait, who proposed to council that on Sunday, June 7, there will be a car parade open to all graduates. The time and route are to be determined with more details to come. Council and staff consensus was to move forward with the graduation parade.

• Heard from Shannon Ford in the marketing/communications report that the village is planning a drive-in movie on Friday, June 12, at the Jerry Long YMCA. Registration will be required, and more details will be released soon.