Bermuda Run approves zoning change

Published 2:33 pm Monday, February 14, 2022

Town Council votes in favor of village mixed designation for land, paving the way for multi-family development near busy intersection

By Jim Buice
For the Clemmons Courier

Before a packed Town Hall, the Bermuda Run Town Council held four public hearings in its February meeting, including a zoning map amendment to rezone six tracts of 6.54 acres of land near the busy N.C. 801/U.S. 158 intersection for a potential multi-family development.

Concerns were expressed about increased traffic in an already congested area along with water runoff if the zoning change was approved and the combined parcels became home for a 98-unit high-end apartment complex, but after listening and weighing all the information, the council voted 4-1 in approval of developer Michael Kelly’s rezoning request in last Tuesday night’s meeting.

That followed an earlier public hearing on a petition for voluntary annexation from the property owners of 139 S. N.C. 801 and 155 S. N.C. 801 (the two parcels contain single-family homes), which was unanimously approved by the council and also included a recommendation to extend the corporate limits.

A third public hearing related to the property was a 10/70 Request from Kelly that would allow up to 10% of the watershed area to be developed and built upon up to 70% built-upon surface, and it was also approved in a 5-0 vote. Scott Miller, engineer for the project, said that “right now we are at 56%.”

The zoning amendment to rezone the land located east of N.C. 801 and west of Ivy Circle south of Walgreens — from Commercial Mixed (CM), Club Residential (CR) and Gateway Corridor Overlay (GC-O) to Village Mixed (VM) — drew most of the attention from the large crowd.

The Planning Board had voted 3-1 to deny the rezoning request in its meeting on Jan. 19, citing increased traffic and water runoff of the property, and adding it wasn’t ready to move forward without first resolving those issues.

In one of the comments in the public hearing, Georgia Maner read a letter from Gary LeBlanc stating he and others thought that action by the planning board was actually the “final word” before learning later it wasn’t. He proceeded to spend time learning more about the project.

In the letter, LeBlanc shared some of the things he discovered, including the DOT signing off on the 98-unit project using existing projections that the development will not create more of a traffic problem and that an underground system designed to collect and defuse will not add to excess runoff in the town.

LeBlanc added that he found out needed improvements to the busy intersection were not possible until the I-40 project was completed and that commercial business on the property in question would create $3-5 million in tax value to the town while 98 apartments would add about $15 million.

“To keep this area and the residential benefit, the town, without creating additional water problems plus knowing that traffic relief is coming, I am in favor of adding the apartments,” he wrote in a summary statement detailing a change of sentiment.

Others shared some of the same concerns and comments with Bobbie Thacker saying, “We need to concentrate and take care of the problems and issues we have now before we create more. This is the busiest intersection in Davie County. Can we not find another area where it is not quite so busy?”

Doug Arfmann, another one of the eight to speak during the public hearing, said he agreed with the decision reached by the Planning Board and urged the council to vote against the zoning change, saying he would rather see other uses for the property — such as medical or doctor’s offices.
Meanwhile, Keith Joyce said he thought it was “an excellent plan. My sole concern is the traffic.”

Kelly, who has lived in Bermuda Run for 15 years and has a long background in commercial development, including the Lowes Foods shopping centers in Clemmons and Bermuda Run, said he had big concerns when he saw this property going up for sale and being zoned Commercial Mixed.
“Being a retail developer, I thought this was good news, but when I took a step back and thought, ‘Do I really want this to become Lewisville-Clemmons Road, or do I really want it to become Stratford Road?’ Everybody is in the retail business,” he said. “I wouldn’t even have to be here if I wanted to do what it is zoned for today, and that is Commercial Mixed. I could go in there and do a car wash or a Dollar General or put up anything else, but I don’t want to see that there for everybody’s sake and doing something that we already have 5-10 minutes away.”

So, instead of following his usual career path as a developer, Kelly said that he opted to pursue the zoning change to allow the number of units necessary to support a high-end, multi-family residential development named Ariston Place, which would also benefit the town with significantly more revenue than a commercial project.

Although most uses for Commercial Mixed are also allowed in Village Mixed, there are a few exceptions, including a car wash, fuel dealer, nursery/lawn garden supply store and a restaurant with a drive-through service.

“At the end of the day I’m here to protect Bermuda Run, not interfere with Bermuda Run,” Kelly said.

Following the 4-1 vote in favor of the zoning change, council member Mike Brannon explained why he cast the lone “no” vote.

“I’m neither anti-growth nor anti-business,” Brannon said. “I do look at things from a risk/reward perspective, and I believe the community feedback tilted this more in the risk than the reward.”

Council member Mike Ernst said that “decisions made on growth and things of this nature are tough, but do you control your own destiny or have it controlled for you? I know the traffic is huge issue, but a lot of traffic that comes through 801 is not Bermuda Run traffic. We’re not the destination. It starts somewhere else, and that’s not going to change. It’s just going to intensify. What we’re doing with the mayor, the town manager and the council is trying to push from the DOT perspective to move us along and get things done. Having places for people to live that work here is important. We want to grow in a very responsible and thoughtful way. Everyone is not going to happy. We do not do anything in haste.”

In the final item on the agenda, the council unanimously adopted Resolution 2022-01 supporting the request for the allocation of contingency funds necessary for NCDOT to complete an improvement of two northbound through lanes of N.C. 801 to I-40 and the addition of a right-turn lane from N.C. 801 onto U.S. 158 east in front of Walgreens.

“That last item speaks to some of the traffic challenges that we have at 801 and 158,” said Mayor Rick Cross.

In other items on the agenda, the council:

• Approved a zoning text amendment regarding food trucks, after the other public hearing of the evening, to allow temporary uses in all zoning districts and specifying conditions for their operation.

• Approved an amendment to the landscape maintenance contract with Blakley Landscape Services for a one-year extension of the current agreement for an annual price of $90,000 following a three-year agreement with an annual price of $74,136. Rollins stated the increase was proposed due to current market pricing instability and awaiting the proposed landscape plans with NCDOT for the I-40/N.C. 801 quadrants.