Clemmons takes next step in drone program

Published 12:15 pm Tuesday, September 13, 2022

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Traffic concerns highlight council meeting

The Village of Clemmons has taken the next step in possibly being the first Drone as First Responder Program in Forsyth County.
In Monday night’s village council meeting, Mayor Pro Team Michelle Barson gave an update to council members with more information on the high-tech pilot program and an outline on what’s ahead in the process.
Barson, who attended a meeting with county officials that afternoon along with Village Manager Mike Gunnell, Assistant Manager Amy Flyte and council member Mike Combest, said that the only “big ask” from the sheriff’s office during a trial run is that one of the Clemmons deputies would be on the roof running the drone instead of being on the streets for the months of October and November.
“Then they would take a month break (in December) to do an assessment of information, the data and make some recommendations on how to improve,” Barson said, “and then do another two months where they continue to tweak and fine tune things. At the end of that time, they will have the data to present to us as to whether we want to adopt a drone program.
“We could then choose to, or not to, work this into our budget. So at this time, there is no monetary ask for us because it is a pilot program. If you like the drone program, then we would be responsible at that time of buying our drones and some other components. That would be presented to us at the time after having all the data collected.”
Council member Chris Wrights expressed concerns about the county not providing a deputy to fill that role on the streets.
“Having him on the roof and running the drone, he’s still our Clemmons guy,” Barson said. “Drone as first responder is still responding to calls hopefully faster and more efficiently. We’re not down an officer. He’s been moved to a new role for this pilot program.”
The council agreed by consensus to move forward with the program, which was introduced earlier this year when Clemmons was targeted by the county as the first choice for a Drone as First Responder Program.
“My bottom line is they are on track, on target,” Combest said. “They’re after exactly the right target. I’m all in.”
In a business item on Monday night’s agenda, the council held a public hearing for Zoning Map Amendment for real property owned by 30S Equity LLC from GB-S (General Business – Special) to GB-S (General Business – Special) located on the eastern side of Gentry Lane, consisting of 1.35 acres (Zoning Docket C-249).
Caroline Drake, planning technician, provided an overview of the project, including a proposed restaurant/retail site of 10,000 square feet, which received unanimous approval from the planning board.
Steve Causey of Allied Design and developer Steven Ohm spoke during the public hearing on the merits of the project.
Initially, Combest made a motion to defer consideration and action until more information is provided to understand the proposed development’s traffic impact on surrounding neighboring intersections, roadways, businesses, etc.
It received a second, but more conversation ensued, primarily related to the traffic concerns.
Planner Nasser Rahimzadeh said, “Everything is a good use, but I think the traffic impact needs to be fully assessed.”
Ultimately, based on some of the missing elements of the traffic impact analysis in the area and an upcoming NCDOT meeting (see more below) on potential impacts on Lewisville-Clemmons Road, it was decided to wait another month for the council to be able to assess.
So, Combest then amended his motion to include the date of Oct. 10, the council’s first October meeting, to further discuss.
Also in Monday night’s meeting, the council agreed by consensus to seek shifting funds approved for a previous Kinnamon Bridge study to go toward a comprehensive traffic study for the village.
Combest, who is the council’s Transportation Advisory Committee representative, said this money could be redirected at the TAC meeting Sept. 15.
“This sprang from our effort to influence the county commission to expand the scope of the traffic impact study for the Riverwalk development up to the intersection of Middlebrook Drive and Highway 158,” he said. “And it was not included in that traffic impact analysis. And one of the things we realized was that it might be useful to have standing ready to go an understanding of how some traffic developed in some location at some time and some quantity would potentially impact key locations throughout the village.”
The Forsyth County Board of Commissioners recently approved a rezoning request that paves the way for the construction of more than 500 homes on more than 300 acres along the Yadkin River near Tanglewood. Although most of the traffic into and out of the development goes through and impacts Clemmons, the land for the project is in the county’s jurisdiction.
“We have money potentially available in the Kinnamon Bridge study that we could redirect, so I propose by consensus to charge and authorize the village manager to explore conducting the standard engineering sensitivity analysis options for Clemmons traffic infrastructure,” Combest said. “Our aim is to gain and to be able to convincingly articulate the likely impacts of traffic growth on the key intersections and roadways and thereby that businesses, schools and other agencies that those intersections and roads serve.”
In other highlights from Monday night’s meeting, the council:
• Heard that a public meeting regarding improvements to Lewisville-Clemmons Road from Clemmons Road (U.S. 158) to Peace Haven Road has been scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 22, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at River Oaks Community Church, 1855 Lewisville-Clemmons Road, in Clemmons. The proposed project would reconfigure the interchange at I-40/Lewisville-Clemmons Road, add sidewalks and update intersections to address traffic and safety concerns. The purpose of the meeting is to inform the public of the proposed project and gather input on the proposed design. The public can view project information and submit comments. NCDOT representatives will be available to answer questions and receive comments.
• Heard from attorney Elliot Fus about finalizing the settlement agreement between Visible Properties, the plaintiff, and the Village of Clemmons, the defendant, whereas the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendant, and the defendant denied the allegations and claims of the actions and denied liability in this matter, and whereas the parties agreed to an amicable compromise and a settlement agreement where the Village of Clemmons will pay the plaintiff the sum of $25,000 in full and final settlement to be paid by the defendant’s insurance company and where the defendant will issue to the plaintiff a zoning/sign permit no later than Sept. 15, 2022, to permit a digital, monopole billboard anywhere on the parcel in question, subject to the defendant’s setback requirements. The council approved the agreement unanimously.
• Heard from Combest on Gross Density vs. Net Density in zoning where he made a motion to make Net Density as the zoning density standard in Clemmons. After a lengthy discussion involving other council members and planner Rahimzadeh, it was decided to take more time on this proposal to allow staff to gather more information. Combest said he was willing to withdraw his motion.
• Discussed sequencing as it relates to annexation and zoning with a conclusion of directing staff to put together a plan going forward on how to separate the two.
• Approved a quote of $61,879 from Cooper Ford in Carthage for the purchase of a 2023 Expedition. Public Works Director Steve Gearren said he “tried to go local,” but the quote from Parkway Ford was more than $6,000 higher than the low bid from Cooper Ford.
• Heard a presentation from Amber Harris, executive director for SPARK (Share Peace and Rekindle Kindness), about her plan of applying for grant money with a goal to build relationships with the Peace Haven Mobile Home Park through partnering with local organizations by designing and managing community service experiences to help neighbors in need. The council agreed to provide a letter of support for her initiative.
• Appointed Scott Binkley to continue in his role with the Historic Resources Commission.