Year in Review: Another busy year for local municipalities

Published 12:10 am Thursday, December 28, 2023

Before moving forward to the new year, let’s revisit what happened in 2023 with a look back at highlights from the front pages of The Clemmons Courier:

 

JANUARY

  • The Village of Clemmons didn’t have to look far to find its new planner. Doug Moore, who joined the staff in December 2022, most recently served as housing programs manager for the city of Winston-Salem. He brings 30 years of local government and nonprofit experience in planning, zoning, development reviews and project management. (Jan. 5)
  • The Clemmons Village Council met for the first time in 2023 and received some new information about the Drone as First Responder pilot program through the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office. It went “live” in Clemmons in the fall and is the first of its kind in the state.  

Mayor Pro Tem Michelle Barson said she met with county officials last month, adding “we talked a little bit about adopting the program, and they’re working on numbers and things like that for us.” (Jan. 12)

  • The Town of Lewisville reached a settlement agreement with Solomon Development, LLC for $1,975,000 regarding an apartment building project behind Shallowford Square that was previously turned down by the town council. A voluntary mediated settlement conference was held last month in Town Hall between the two parties where a tentative settlement agreement was reached — ultimately leading to unanimous council approval. (Jan. 19)
  • It’s been a long and sometimes winding road for NCDOT’s Lewisville-Clemmons Road improvements project, but a decision on the final design is near after receiving all the feedback.

Connie James, project engineer, said that all the comments from last fall’s public meeting at River Oaks Community Church were reviewed after residents were given an opportunity to look at maps and other information offering alternatives for project manager Kimley-Horn on how to  proceed with improvements to the busy road. (Jan. 26)

FEBRUARY

  • Instead of having an actual council meeting, the Clemmons Village Council changed things up with a two-day retreat just across the Yadkin River at the WinMock at Kinderton in Bermuda Run. The work session 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. (Feb. 2)
  • Many saw the signs lining Harper Road between Peace Haven Road and Styers Ferry Road and wondered exactly what was involved with the message: “NO Commercial Rezoning: Forsyth County Case F-1626. At stake is a Special Use Limited Rezoning request from property owner New Hope Presbyterian Church, the petitioner — with a project name of Clemmons Gymnastics — for existing zoning of RS-40 (residential) to proposed zoning of LB-L (limited business). (Feb. 9)
  • The Idols Road Industrial Park, which eventually became named the Tanglewood Business Park, was back in the news and on the agenda for the Forsyth County commissioners briefing with a resolution and amendment calling for accepting $2.4 million from the N.C. Department of Commerce that was approved by the General Assembly to fund water/sewer infrastructure improvements at the park. The item was brought up in the Village Council meeting regarding the county property, which is off of Idols Road but not in the city limits. (Feb. 16)
  • With a population of around 3,000, Bermuda Run is considered a small town by most standards, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a busy place. A pair of sports complexes — RISE Indoor Sports and Truist Sports Park — draw huge throngs of participants and guests in their respective locations next door to each other overlooking the Yadkin River — with the newcomer RISE, which opened in May 2021, drawing more than a million visitors to the massive 123,000-square-foot, multi-sports complex in its first 18 months. (Feb. 23)

MARCH

  • The village of Clemmons received the results of a December 2022 state inspection, prompting an improvement from a score of 3 to a score of 2, placing the town among an elite group of fewer than 10 percent in the state with that updated insurance rating. (March 2)
  • The City-County Planning Board held a public hearing in Winston-Salem regarding the zoning petition of New Hope Presbyterian Church on Harper Road from RS-40 (residential) to LB-L (limited business) and agreed with the staff’s earlier recommendation of denial. The special-use limited rezoning request asked for by the petitioner (the current owner, New Hope Presbyterian Church) involves a proposed move by Clemmons Gymnastics to the site of the church. Regardless of the staff and Planning Board vote of unanimous denial for Zoning Docket F-1626, the final say will ultimately come from the elected body — the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners. (March 9, 16)
  • The Lewisville Town Council took the next step in moving forward with a couple of significant road projects, approving resolutions involving the execution of the Lewisville-Vienna Road and Robinhood Road roundabout supplemental agreement, and documents related to the Great Wagon Road rights-of-way project. The town also reported in its monthly meeting that the finalized settlement agreement and release with Solomon Development was signed. (March 16)
  • The Bermuda Run Town Council received an update on what former town manager Lee Rollins called “a once in a generation” financial bonanza coming to local communities through the American Rescue Plan Act — the federal government’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan. Town Manager Andrew Meadwell gave an overview of the consideration of accepting $863,351 as a standard allowance to use those funds to reimburse prior salary and benefits, pay for the Davie County Sheriff’s Community Officer contract, and other contract services — which are all allowable uses under ARPA. (March 23)
  • Following a vote of denial by the City-County Planning Board earlier in March, the case involving the zoning petition of New Hope Presbyterian Church on Harper Road from RS-40 to LB-L was officially requested for withdrawal. The special-use limited rezoning request asked for by the petitioner (the current owner, New Hope Presbyterian Church) involved a proposed move by Clemmons Gymnastics to the site of the church. Attorney La-Deidre Matthews, an attorney for Fox Rothschild who spoke during the public hearing, made the request for withdrawal, but there was no further comment. (March 30)

APRIL

  • From growth/development to roads/traffic to employment/jobs to housing/real estate and much more at the Lewisville-Clemmons Chamber of Commerce Economic Forum panel discussion wasn’t short on topics. Speakers for the breakfast gathering and two-hour discussion at the Historic Broyhill Office Suites included Mayor Mike Rogers of Clemmons, Mayor Mike Horn of Lewisville, Davie County Economic Development Commission President Terry Bralley, NCDOT Division 9 Engineer Pat Ivey and Baldwin Properties President Lou Baldwin. (April 6)
  • The Clemmons Village Council took a strong stand against Senate Bill 317 with a resolution opposing proposed legislation amending local control over certain styled “workforce housing.”

In fact, council members recommended that village attorney Al Benshoff craft a resolution to state what Mike Combest called “strong opposition to this harmful legislation.” (April 13)

  • Focus On The Future — Clemmons & Lewisville Moving Forward In 2023 took a closer look at the growth in the area in The Courier’s first-ever Progress Edition, a special 28-page insert. (April 20)
  • Not only is Clemmons home for Forsyth County Sheriff Bobby Kimbrough, it’s the location for the Drone as a First Responder program, which is the first of its kind in the state. The pilot program, which was designed to provide deputies with additional support, went live in 2020. Kimbrough paid a visit to the council meeting to check in and see if the board had any questions as to “what we’re doing, how we’re doing and what is the future of it.” (April 27)

MAY

  • Even before the official early morning start of Clemmons Community Day 2023, parking spots were already hard to find around the Jerry Long Family YMCA with the popular 12th annual event combining forces with the growing Clemmons Farmers Market for the second straight year. Denise Heidel, the executive director of the Lewisville-Clemmons Chamber of Commerce, said that it was great to partner again with the Farmers Market, which is operated by the Village of Clemmons. (May 4).
  • The Clemmons branch of Piedmont Federal Savings Bank held an open house to help celebrate the bank’s 120th birthday. The bank was founded in downtown Winston-Salem in 1903. The Clemmons bank, which opened in August 1982, has been a steady presence in the community for more than 40 years. (May 11)
  • Bermuda Run officials responded to traffic that “caused significant disruption across much of the town” the weekend of April 29-30 with a pledge to address why it happened and hopefully to take steps preventing a recurrence in the future. Mayor Rick Cross, in a statement receiving the backing and approval of council, said that a tournament at Truist Sports Park that weekend prompted providing additional communication and perspective along with gathering the appropriate parties together to address the situation. (May 18)
  • The Clemmons Village Council approved an interlocal agreement with the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office for fiscal year 2023-2024, but one item wasn’t resolved. “This does not include the drone (program),” Village Manager Mike Gunnell said. “We’re still waiting for information from them on that. So it will be handled as a separate item once we get the information that we asked for.” (May 25)

JUNE

  • After a rezoning petition submitted by New Hope Presbyterian Church to the City of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Planning Board was denied earlier this spring and subsequently withdrawn, another church came forward to purchase the property on Harper Road. Friendly Arabic Church, which has been based in Kernersville since 2006, became the new buyer of the church building and property in which the petitioner (New Hope Presbyterian) had applied for a special-use limited rezoning request involving a proposed move by Clemmons Gymnastics to the site earlier this year. (June 1)
  • Photos of the West Forsyth Class of 2023 filled the pages of The Courier. (June 8)
  • Clemmons was a big winner in the Golden LEAF Foundation’s Flood Mitigation Program, receiving word of a windfall of over $600,000 in grant funding to be used on three major Stormwater Capital Improvement Projects. (June 15)
  • Bermuda Run celebrated Davie County’s national accomplishment of being named an All-America County by the National Civic League in its monthly meeting. Town Manager Andrew Meadwell and council member Melinda Szeliga, who represented Bermuda Run in Denver, Colo., headed a presentation that culminated with the mayor and council being presented with the plaque and enjoying a team picture. There were 20 cities/counties chosen as finalists before the last 10 were announced as winners. (June 22)
  • The Lewisville Historical Society announced more information about the history and establishment of the Shallow Ford Historic Site, which is not open yet but will be soon. It will offer interpretive markers, walking trails, picnicking and more for the public. The property owner, Jean Messick of Lewisville, wished to preserve the 245-acre site along the Yadkin River and with the help of local citizens, historical groups, county and state government and the Conservation Fund, the site was established, planned and dedicated in December 2022. (June 29)

JULY

  • The Town of Lewisville found the ideal solution to help the environment and save money at the same time for the relatively new Mary Alice Warren Community Center by installing a 51kW solar energy array. The 108 solar panels installed on the roof of the 12,000-square-foot facility, which opened in November 2021, will provide about 96 percent of the building’s energy usage while offsetting some 1.4 million pounds of carbon emissions over the next 30 years. Also, the $121,821 cost to Lewisville for the renewable energy project will be offset by about $70,000 in federal tax credits and rebates from Duke Energy. (July 6)
  • A long journey came to the finish line with a walk through Bermuda Run when the town celebrated not one, but two ribbon cuttings along U.S. 158 at the pedestrian bridge and then in front of the tunnel under I-40 to officially dedicate the Blue Heron Trail. A gathering of the council, staff, county representatives and a hearty group of local residents made the trek from the pedestrian bridge to the tunnel and back — a total distance of close to a mile. (July 13)
  • Clemmons faced another de-annexation request on the western side of Lewisville-Clemmons Road and just like a similar scenario in 2019, it failed to move forward. This time, it was tacked on to an earlier unrelated house bill involving Fuquay Varina. The properties in Clemmons are owned by Robert Vogler and William Vogler, who were admittedly opposed to this unsolicited annexation, stating they wanted to remain a part of the Village of Clemmons. (July 20)
  • If your name is Mike, you’re in great position to win in the local mayoral municipal elections in 2023. That’s because all three — Mike Rogers (Clemmons), Mike Horn (Lewisville) and Mike Brannon (Bermuda Run) — filed for office and will be running unopposed in the Nov. 7 municipal election. (July 27)

AUGUST

  • When Clemmons was targeted by the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office last year as the first choice for a Drone as First Responder Program, both sides agreed that it was a great idea.

Nothing has changed since that time when the pilot program became live in 2022 and has been met with positive feedback and results ever since. However, the approval of the 2023-2024 fiscal year budget for the village came in June with one omission. It didn’t included the drone program. Village Manager Mike Gunnell said he was still waiting to receive information — and that it would be handled as a separate item going forward at that point. (Aug. 3)

  • For years, Lewisville has been looking forward to a new entrance into town. In fact, the Williams Road Gateway Project had been in the plans since 2017 and was originally targeted to be completed by the summer of 2020. But then along came delays from the pandemic and no bids for a project that features improvements such as a sidewalk, bike lane, planted median and wider lanes. Finally, the financial details lined up and as spring arrived, site construction work started in April with an estimated completion within 300 days. (Aug. 10)
  • With the pedestrian plan survey update on the agenda in the Clemmons Village Council meeting, it was time to take a closer look at the data points and what it all meant. Planner Doug Moore talked about the “really good response” from the survey with 875 participants providing on average about 24 data points each, which ended up being 20,959 total data points.

“It gave us a lot of good information,” Moore said. “What I love about this map is that you can look quickly and see where people want to see sidewalks added.” (Aug. 17) 

  • One of the many players rotating among the sparkling blue pickleball courts talked about being in “pickleball heaven” when asked about the official opening at Joanie Moser Park in Lewisville. The nine courts have stayed busy at the new facility, which was approved in 2022 by Forsyth County Commissioners to construct nine pickleball-specific courts at a cost of well over $300,000 to replace the two existing tennis courts and one basketball court. (Aug. 24)
  • With the arrival of COVID-19 in March 2020, the Village of Clemmons decided one retreat wasn’t enough with the upheaval in all aspects of life during the rest of the year. So with all the changes that impacted Clemmons after what was the usual annual gathering earlier in the year, the village decided to add a fall retreat to gauge how priorities may have been altered. That practice continued with plans for an upcoming second retreat in 2023. (Aug. 31)

SEPTEMBER

  • Representatives from the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools district came to Morgan Elementary School to talk about menus. One of the changes revealed was a Global Eats program for middle-school students to focus on food and recipes from different countries around the world. Also, there was a discussion about a relaunch of the Mood Boost program in elementary schools that helps students identify how certain foods can make them feel. (Sept. 7)
  • The 2023 Village Streets Fall Resurfacing Project was on the agenda, and the council approved 

The low bid submitted by APAC Atlantic Inc. (Thompson Arthur Division) of $1,233,676, including a 10 percent contingency, for improvements of 29 streets totaling approximately 28,920 linear feet of pavement. (Sept. 14)

  • Between exploring more details involving projects such as the Blue Heron Trail and wrapping up final revisions on the Comprehensive Plan while sifting through questions from the Town Hall special called meeting last month, these were very busy times in Bermuda Run. One of the top items included the “interconnection” of the Blue Heron Trail, which means an effort to open the Bahnson pedestrian bridge that crosses I-40 — this coming only a couple of months after the ribbon cutting and official opening of Phase I of that project. (Sept. 21)
  • It wasn’t on the agenda, but Mayor Mike Rogers had a big announcement to make in the council meeting: “Clemmons has been awarded funding from the House Bill 259 Appropriations Act.” Then, Rogers said he had several major points to make, including the amount. “Clemmons will receive $4.8 million of state funding to use, for all intents and purposes, as the village best determines.” (Sept. 28)

OCTOBER

  • When Amy Flyte was hired last year as the new assistant manager in Clemmons, she brought with her a background as the senior planner in Davie County. That experience is paying off in her new role in Clemmons as the council recently held a special meeting in September to follow up an earlier retreat with updates on a variety of issues, including collaborative planning and strategic planning with neighboring municipalities. Flyte advised in the retreat that there have been ongoing meetings taking place with the staffs from Lewisville and Bermuda Run to work together on projects, planning and issues affecting the three communities. (Oct. 5)
  • Mike Combest grabbed the spotlight in the council meeting with a report on preemptive zoning legislation and how Clemmons played a key role to stop 14 “disastrous bills” from becoming law. Combest said earlier this year that 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.” Combest said that the bills failed largely because of “a determined, forceful but reasonable, and a widely coordinated response.” (Oct. 12)
  • Although final details have yet to be confirmed, Mayor Rick Cross announced in the Bermuda Run Town Council meeting that the town will get $6 million in funding from the recently passed state budget. Cross expressed his thanks to House Rep. Julia Howard from Davie County and Sen. Steve Jarvis from Davidson County for their assistance. Following the meeting, Town Manager Andrew Meadwell said, “We haven’t gotten our ‘official funding letters’ from the state yet, so we don’t know exactly where the state is funding these requests from.” He did confirm that the windfall was coming from the House Bill 259 Appropriations Act. (Oct. 19)
  • The election season means that candidates are answerable to their constituents now more than ever. Although still under the voting age, members of West Forsyth’s government and politics class moderated a forum for village officials to state their positions on matters the students deemed important. Mayor Mike Rogers and council members Mike Combest and Bradley Taylor sat in for a candidate forum that was hosted by those students along with senior Matthew Lee, who filled in for council candidate Randy Wooden, who was at a planning board meeting. (Oct. 26)

NOVEMBER

  • Although there were no real races for the positions of mayor and council in Clemmons in the upcoming 2023 municipal election — with Mayor Mike Rogers running unopposed and three council candidates seeking three available positions — you never know what might happen.  

Flashback to 2011. Incumbent Mayor John Bost didn’t have any challengers on the ballot, but with a groundswell of support opposed to giving citizens the chance to vote in a bond referendum on whether or not to authorize $6 million in improvements to Lewisville-Clemmons Road, Bost barely hung on to keep his position against a write-in candidate, and all three incumbent council candidates seeking re-election lost. (Nov. 2)

  • There was little drama in the 2023 municipal election as incumbent mayors Mike Rogers (Clemmons) and Mike Horn (Lewisville) faced no opposition on the ballot, and newcomer Mike Brannon (Bermuda Run) also ran unopposed — with all three mayors named Mike winning easily. Incumbent candidates Bradley Taylor and Mike Combest, and newcomer Randy Wooden claimed council seats in Clemmons. In Lewisville, incumbents Melissa Hunt, Ken Sadler and Jane Welch led the ballot while newcomers Monte Long, Julia Puckett and Ivan Huffman secured the other spots on the council. And in Bermuda Run, newcomers Rae Nelson and Jeff Tedder were elected to fill openings on the council. (Nov. 9)
  • It’s called “a gateway to Bermuda Run and Davie County.” And certainly the entrance to the town from the east crossing the Yadkin River on U.S. 158 is impressive with the striking roundabout, featuring a 15-foot-obelisk in the center surrounded by brick pavers, which is adjacent to the iconic WinMock Barn. And now there’s the addition of the newly completed Blue Heron Trail that was dedicated earlier this year … followed by the latest plan to construct a flag plaza with an illuminated three-flag overlook. So on Veterans Day, it seemed to be an appropriate time to more formally launch The Flags at Blue Heron Trail project. (Nov. 16)
  • The Town of Lewisville continued to add to its extensive network of sidewalks with the approval of an ordinance to construct a path along one side of Shallowford Road from Lowes Foods Drive to Shallowford Reserve Drive with a total project cost of $1,314,667.

In its November meeting, the Town Council approved establishing the Shallowford Road CMAQ (Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality) Sidewalk Capital Project Ordinance. (Nov. 23)

  • Good news for local anglers came with the news from the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission that between Nov. 29 and Dec. 21 staff was to stock more than 67,000 trout from its Bobby N. Setzer and Armstrong state fish hatcheries into 44 small lakes and ponds located in the state’s mountain and Piedmont regions. That included Village Point Lake, which was one of the bodies of water for trout restocking. (Nov. 30)

DECEMBER

  • Decca Slaughter started her library career at the young age of 16 at the previous facility on Clemmons Road and admits it was “kind of like full circle” when she was brought back as branch manager of the new Forsyth County Public Library Clemmons Branch in the summer of 2021. “The response of the community has been great,” Slaughter said. “We are the highest circulating branch in the entire (county) system. We actually out circulate the central library each month but not always on a daily basis. For last several months, our circulation has been higher.” (Dec. 7)
  • For the Clemmons Village Council, the final meeting of 2023 focused exclusively on swearing in the mayor and council members elected in November, naming a mayor pro tempore and appointing representatives to boards and committees. Mike Rogers was sworn in for his second term as mayor, and incumbents Bradley Taylor and Mike Combest were sworn in to return to the council along with newcomer Randy Wooden. Combest was then named mayor pro tem, with the motion passing by a 3-2 margin. (Dec. 14)
  • Rick Cross likes to talk, but Bermuda Run’s mayor for the previous four years was almost speechless after an overwhelming stream of positive comments and accolades highlighting his farewell council meeting. Mike Brannon, who ran unopposed, was elected and sworn in as the new mayor after serving on the council. Also, newcomers Rae Nelson and Jeff Tedder took the oath to fill two openings on the council. (Dec. 21)
  • For the Lewisville Town Council, it was a time of transition with three newcomers receiving the oath of office along with three incumbents. Meanwhile, Mike Horn, who has served the town for 26 years — including the last 10 as mayor — took the oath and returned to his familiar spot after again running unopposed. Council members include returnees Melissa Hunt, Ken Sadler and Jane Welch, who were the top three vote-getters in the election, and newcomers Monte Long, Julia Puckett and Ivan Huffman. (Dec. 28)