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Clemmons seeks answers on event center at Tanglewood

By Jim Buice
For the Clemmons Courier

Did you know that a $5 million, 50,000-square-foot event center was possibly coming to Tanglewood Park?

Well, apparently the Clemmons Village Council and many residents in the community didn’t, prompting the council to form a committee in Monday night’s meeting to reach out to Forsyth County officials for more details.

“We don’t really know what is going on,” said councilwoman Mary Cameron, who will serve on the committee with councilwoman Michelle Barson. “And since it is going to impact all of Clemmons, I think it’s important that we work with the county to find out: A) What their plans are, and B) If we can influence them in some way, and sit down with whoever we can sit down with at the county level and find out what exactly the plans are.”

A story in the Winston-Salem Journal last Monday reported that Forsyth County was considering a big event center at Tanglewood — located near the horse stables in the middle of the park — that could be used for concerts, expositions and other indoor events. Money for the project was to come from a 2016 recreation bond referendum.

However, not having any advance notice about the county’s plans caused a stir in Monday night’s council meeting.

“How could this have happened without the town of Clemmons not even knowing anything about it?” asked resident Luci Lazorchak, who lives across in the street from Tanglewood in River Oaks.

“The answer to that is ‘easily,’ ” Cameron said.

Mayor Pro Tem Chris Wrights, who was running the meeting in place of Mayor John Wait, said that Clemmons was not made aware of it.

“It was kind of disappointing to hear at the last county commissioners meeting (last Thursday) when they stated that when they decided to move forward with this project and had contacted municipalities to see if there was any interest. The ones they contacted said ‘no thank you,’ but they never bothered to tell us about it.”

Wrights added that they also said in their meeting last week that they would have a public input session at Town Hall and asked Village Manager Scott Buffkin if Clemmons had been contacted.

“We would certainly be happy to host such a session,” Buffkin said, “but the short answer is ‘no.’ ”

However, a public information session was scheduled for Wednesday night at the Red Barn at Tanglewood — with confirmation coming late in Monday night’s meeting.

In the public comments portion of the meeting, Charles Sherrill, who is the former HOA president of Clemmons West but stated he was not speaking on behalf of the association, said there were lots of reasons to be against this project.

Sherrill mentioned the betrayal of the Reynolds family and their original bequest of the Tanglewood property along with issues involving noise and litter, stormwater runoff and so forth — and “the impact to my neighbors, especially along Tanglebrook Trail whose home equity will be wiped out most likely by this project.”

Sherrill said that a petition launched against “the county’s last little fiasco,” the Idols Road Industrial Park that went away after years of conservations and negotiations, took nine months and walking to every house in Clemmons West to get 500 signatures in opposition.

After the sudden emergence of the event center, Sherrill said that a petition against the project got 500 signatures in the first 12 hours and was just shy of 1,000 on Monday — in less than a week — without knocking on a single door.

“This existential threat really doesn’t make any sense,” Sherrill said. “Our intent is to oppose this down the line as vigorously as we can using any lawful means available to us.”

Some Clemmons residents were on hand for last week’s briefing session of the county commissioners to voice concerns over property values, increased traffic and changing the character of the park.

Barson reminded those at Monday night’s council meeting that the park is actually in the county and it doesn’t need the approval of Clemmons to proceed.

“I understand as far as the approval,” said Lazorchak, who posed the question about not knowing this was project was even close to proceeding. “But it’s just the knowledge of it. I think we were hoodwinked.”

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

• Called for a public hearing for a Zoning Map Amendment for real property owned by Kakewalk LLC from PB-S (Pedestrian Business-Special) to PB-S (Pedestrian Business-Special) for property addressed 1415 River Ridge Drive, consisting of 1.05 acres (Zoning Docket C-241).

• Approved budget amendments regarding the stormwater revenue fee and manager’s salary increases.

• Heard from Shannon Ford in the marketing/communications report that more than 400 customers came to the Farmers Market on each of the last two Saturday mornings at the Jerry Long YMCA.  She added that more than 400 also attended Movie Night in the Village last Friday night when “The Sandlot” was shown. In upcoming events, another Movie Night in the Village is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 18, when “Night at the Museum” will be shown at the Jerry Long Family YMCA at sunset. The village will be helping the Y in co-sponsoring the Dirty Dozen & Clemmons Bash on Saturday, Sept. 25.

• Also heard from Ford about talking with Steve Gearren, Public Works director of operations, who met with some folks at West Forsyth recently and received positive feedback on the new “Welcome to Clemmons” signs. Ford showed a photo of West’s home football jerseys that display “The Village” on the front.