Combest: Clemmons helps prevent ‘disastrous bills’ – Council member discusses stopping efforts of ‘giveaways to special interests’

Published 12:10 am Thursday, October 12, 2023

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CLEMMONS — On a night that was light on business items, Mike Combest grabbed the spotlight in the council comments portion of Monday night’s meeting with a report on preemptive zoning legislation and how Clemmons played a major role in preventing 14 “disastrous bills” from becoming law.

Combest said that earlier this year, bills were introduced in both chambers of the N.C. legislature “that would have fundamentally changed local governments’ ability to establish and regulate zoning and housing in their boundaries. These bills had one common theme. They were designed to preempt local governments’ authority to enact and enforce zoning and regulations.”

Combest pointed out that these acts were positioned using terms such as “workforce housing” and “modern-income housing” and sold as programs that would control housing inflation and benefit first-time buyers.

“What these acts actually would have done is restrict, and in many cases remove local authorities’ ability to establish and enforce density standards, requirements to hook up to municipal sewer and power, and so forth,” Combest said. “They were, are, giveaways to special interests. These bills were written for and by lobbyists.

“Had these bills become law, they would, in short order, change the very nature of Clemmons and communities like Clemmons throughout the state. And as a mountain of evidence clearly shows, they would have caused housing inflation to increase, not decrease. They would have made housing more unaffordable — not less.”

Combest said that all 14 of these proposed bills failed largely because of a determined, forceful but reasonable, and widely coordinated response. He said Clemmons played a major role by helping build and be active members of a strong coalition of municipalities, county officials and legislators, staying with “the cold, hard facts” and maintaining constant communication.

“First and foremost, we recognized this legislation for what it actually is — not what it is advertised to be,” Combest said. “And in April, this council raised the alarm when it approved a resolution that identified these acts as the special interest giveaways that they are and served as a call to action to others to join us in actively opposing this legislative agenda. Later, our mayor helped energize statewide support this spring when he spoke at an N.C. League of Municipalities event.”

He added that Clemmons partnered with other municipalities across Forsyth County and the state to press its case along with working closing with the League. However, Combest said that his report is intended to set the stage for the next battle “because these bills and their lobbyists and special interest sponsors are coming back. There is way too much money involved for them not to — probably in 2024. We must be ready to reengage. It is prudent, not alarmist, to say we must be ready for Round Two.”

In a business item on the agenda, the council approved a resolution to declare the council’s intention to close a right-of-way on Lasater Road.
Village Manager Mike Gunnell said that the village received an application for a right-of-way abandonment of the old section of Lasater Road, which ran in front of the mill house. He said that DOT did a recent bridge replacement with the old bridge being removed, so a section of the roadway that is directly in front of the mill house part remains.

Gunnell said that after conferring with Pat Ivey, Division 9 engineer, it becomes the village’s right of way.

“We don’t see any future use for it, so we concur with the abandonment,” Gunnell told the council.

Also, in Monday night’s meeting, the council heard from Gunnell in the manager’s report regarding the West Forsyth school zoning warning signs, saying that the staff had previous dialogue about reactivating them.

“After discussions with DOT, we can do that,” Gunnell said. “We did figure out a way to make them solar, so I’m waiting for a cost from Duke Energy so I can do a comparison on which way is going to be cheaper in the long run.”

In another item on the manager’s report, the council approved a private property drainage cost-share project at 3920 Fieldview Court. RCJ is the contractor for the project with a total cost of $17,190, meaning a split cost to Clemmons and the homeowner for $8,595 each.

Shannon Ford, the marketing/communications director, said that the final seasonal Clemmons Farmers Market for 2023 was held last Saturday.

“We had such a great turnout that a lot of our vendors actually sold out of a lot of things, and they were super excited about the market,” Ford said. “We heard a lot of positive feedback about what a good season it was.”

Ford said she wanted to give accolades to Lynette Fox, events coordinator, for doing a “fantastic job this season” with the market.