Letter to the editor — June 4

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 4, 2020

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Does council have an agenda over property?

As I watched the Clemmons Village Council’s last meeting, I was disturbed.

First, if a person in the U.S. wanted to sell and buy something they should have the freedom to make the exchange. That includes land, obviously. As soon as a municipality or county regulates the sale and purchase, it becomes less free. We accept this, generally. The priority of our freedom commands governments seek to support that freedom and allow people to transact business, unless freedom is secondary to governmental authority.

So, land that is behind some properties off Clemmons Road has a seller and buyer, who wants to develop the land. We have to accept that the government can approve or stop the exchange. The Clemmons council is surrounded by people who favor the sale and development.

A prestigious former council member provided a favorable, comprehensive explanation. A well-respected commercial realtor supported it, especially as a positive land development. The Planning Board voted 6 to 3 in favor. And, why not? The land will bring valuable tax revenue. The apartments will be nestled off the roadway. When neighbors oppose it, I have to wonder if they thought the empty land would always stay empty in such a community as Clemmons.

The council members’ unfavorable comments were demure and uniform. They were speaking quietly and without any debate or full explanations.  This surprised me, as a person who observes the council meetings.

They quietly mentioned the village’s UDO (Unified Development Ordinance). Yet, the village’s councils have frequently broken the rules of the UDO.  Several months ago, I had many conversations with people in Clemmons, Forsyth County and others with statewide interests who said that Clemmons council can be expected to change the rules of the UDO and contradict their planning board’s votes, leading to a reputation for unreliability.

Yet, the council members said hardly a word. For now, I must suspect that there’s an undercurrent agenda. Why do people want to serve on the planning board when their work goes disrespected as often as it is? I heard from the village planner, Mr. Rahimzadeh, that the planning board’s meeting concerning this property was long and thoughtful and seen as a proud moment. One minute, their votes don’t matter. Sometimes the UDO matters and other times UDO is contradicted.

Full disclosure: The seller and developer are friends of mine. But they know that if I disagreed with them they would hear that from me. My views are about the council.

— Paul Johnson