Council covers variety of topics in two-day retreat

Published 12:47 am Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Clemmons officials looking at growth, ordinances, leaves and personnel

Instead of having an actual council meeting last week, the Village of Clemmons changed things up with a two-day retreat just across the Yadkin River at the WinMock at Kinderton in Bermuda Run.
The work session last Monday and Tuesday included discussions on a number of topics, including influencing growth outside of the village’s borders, updating the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO), leaf collection and adding personnel.
“Overall, everybody thought it was really a positive retreat,” Village Manager Mike Gunnell said. “The council feels that way, and Doug (Moore, the new planner) did a great job on his presentation. We have a lot of stuff moving in the right direction.”
Part of that included addressing what happens “outside our borders,” such as the recent approval by the Forsyth County commissioners of Riverwalk, a 500-home development on more than 300 acres off of Idols Road where all that traffic will flow through already overloaded roads in the jurisdiction of Clemmons.
“There’s not much we can do with most stuff in the county,” Gunnell said. “We don’t really have an ETJ (extra-territorial jurisdiction), so that’s basically what we need.”
Gunnell said that a discussion centered on looking at possible developments, like Riverwalk where the village voiced its concerns later in the process before approval, and getting involved earlier, which was part of a presentation by council member Mike Combest.
He stated that study and experience shows the impact of growth outside the borders of Clemmons is going to be one of the most consequential challenges the village will face in the foreseeable future and the benefit of being involved from start to finish.
Combest raised questions such as if Clemmons wanted to undertake the enterprise and, if so, what would the execution mechanism be. He suggested involving other municipalities within Forsyth County and possibly forming a coalition to determine the common issues to be reviewed.
Council consensus was to direct Gunnell to have an initial conversation with other managers and Mayor Pro Tem Michelle Barson to connect with other elected officials to look at revitalizing a mayor’s roundtable or start a municipal roundtable.
The mammoth task of rewriting the ordinances has coincided with the arrival of Moore, who was hired in December 2022 and brings 30 years of local government and nonprofit experience in planning, zoning and development reviews, and new attorney Al Benshoff, with an extensive background as a city planner who was hired at the first of the year.
“That’s something we’re concentrating on,” Gunnell said. “Doug has a lot of experience with UDOs. That’s a big plus with him working through some modifications to our UDO as well as our new attorney who has a strong background there.”
Other areas covered included sign regulations, commercial design standards, parking requirements and landscaping standards, and planned residential developments.
Sign concentration will be in commercial areas with the planning board likely to hold a public hearing in March and council having a public hearing regarding the sign ordinance in April.
As for commercial design standards, Moore advised the council that staff would look at architectural design standards for all of Clemmons, similar to the standards that are in place for Village Point.
Moore explained that there would be options placed in the UDO to create a performance standard of “equal to or better than” the standard for parking requirements and landscaping standards.
Council consensus was to inform staff that they are interested in landscaping standards, which are to be done retroactively when updating the UDO.
Regarding planned residential development, Moore led the discussion, asking council to consider three things in that area — are lot sizes appropriate, should the village look more at density and how is open space being utilized. He added that the Future Land Use Plan is an important tool for new zoning districts.
Leaf collection, with all the rain over recent months, also was discussed in the retreat.
“We’ve had a lot of troubles with the weather and the leaves because it has rained some much,” said Gunnell, who added there were 18 days with rain in November and December 2022 compared to 1 day in November and December 2021. “Everybody needs to understand that if it rains, it doesn’t just affect that day, it affects us the next two or three days.
“And it’s not only the wet leaves, we have to take the leaves to dispose of them. Our trucks are heavy, and when we get those leaves in there, then they naturally get stuck very easily. We often have to go pull them out. It’s very frustrating to us. Actually, we picked up more leaves this year than we did last year in less number of days.”
Clemmons actually sent out a leaf collection update on Monday: “Weather is not our friend this leaf season. As soon as things dry up, we will complete the final round of leaf collection in the village.”
Also in the retreat, the council approved classifications and job descriptions for three new positions — planner I, assistant finance officer and event coordinator (part-time) — with Shannon Ford, marketing and communications director, making a presentation on the increase in the number of events over the last eight years.