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Public comment extended for rezoning

Proposed apartment complex will return to council agenda

By Jim Buice
For the Clemmons Courier

So many of the rules have changed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and that includes new legislation on public hearings in virtual meetings providing an additional 24 hours for written response — meaning any action on Monday night’s rezoning request for a multi-family apartment complex off U.S. 158 can’t take place until the May 26 Clemmons Village Council meeting.

Therefore, the proposed rezoning for 6.86 acres from RS-15 & LO-S to RM-12-S (residential building/multifamily) for three large buildings with up to three stories, including 41,835 square feet and 78 units (one, two and three bedrooms) will be back on the agenda in the council’s next meeting, which is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 26.

Monday night’s public hearing for Zoning Map Amendment for owner Carlos Pereira for the property at 3462 Clemmons Road included two representatives of Allegro Investment Properties LLC and two local residents, who wanted to speak against the project.

Others had submitted written comments after April’s virtual public hearing during the planning board meeting that lasted nearly three hours.

Nasser Rahimzadeh, the planning and community development director for Clemmons, called the process “a little peculiar” in these times where restrictions on large gatherings are in place.

“The nature of this is that I’ve emphasized people to write in to me instead of calling and then I  write it up and send it to you guys (the council),” Rahimzadeh said of compiling responses for and against the project, as he did for the planning board meeting.

Developer Ron Davis of Allegro said that the $11.5-plus million Village at Kinnamon project was in a good location and should revitalize and trigger redevelopment of this part of Clemmons.

Davis added that he has met with people around the community and discussed the plans, and had detailed in a letter to the planning board on how the project meets the Unified Development Ordinance and is consistent with major components in the Community Compass.

In addition, Davis said he has tried to address issues that came up in the planning board meeting, such as sidewalks, fences and landscaping while answering questions from bordering Stadium Ridge, a townhome community, in detail.

However, Nancy Lang, who is president of the Stadium Ridge HOA and one of the opponents who was able to respond through a phone call in the Zoom format, said that everyone she has spoken with in the community — not just on her street — was against the project.

“A lot of people are very concerned about it,” she said. “We’ve already got a lot of apartment buildings in this area, and it seems like 78 apartments in that small of an area is a lot. To me, it’s going to be an eyesore. Clemmons is more of a village. I can understand some of those in the shopping center being in favor of this.”

Lang said that Stadium Drive is already used as a cut through and that this will add to the traffic problem while further taxing the schools, which are already overcrowded.

Adam Kearns, who also lives on Stadium Drive, also spoke against the project.

“Hearing the developer mention the fact that they’re going to be putting in a structure back there that is going to have 12 security cameras around it does not sound like anything I want to have behind my house,” Kearns said. “A six-foot tall fence is not going to block a 45-foot tall building. It breaks my heart that this is even being proposed.”

Kearns then asked the council: “I want to ask you guys: Would you want this in your backyard?”

Although council discussion was limited in this meeting, points raised included the possibility of adding sidewalks in the area to help with connectivity and not taking down too many trees on the property.

John Stiltner, a proponent who is with Landmark and was alongside Davis for their presentation, said that the property would have onsite management, a number of amenities for residents and should be an asset to the community in more ways than one.

“There’s sales tax and what you collect on property taxes and revenues increase,” Stiltner said. “These are 78 more pocketbooks.”

After the public hearing and rebuttals from the same parties, the public hearing was closed. The 24-hour period for written comments was to extend to Tuesday night.

“We’ll have discussion at the next meeting because we don’t have all the potential input this evening,” Mayor John Wait said, adding there are a lot of comments for and against that will be part of the record.

A similar project on this site was proposed in 2015 by Allegro and denied by the council but later resulted in a conciliation agreement, with Clemmons paying $150,000 in the settlement in January 2019, to resolve claims raised by the N.C. Human Relations Commission that “reasonable grounds exist to believe that unlawful discriminatory housing practices have occurred.”

In other highlights from Monday night’s virtual meeting, the council:

• Moved a step closer to updating an old ordinance regarding who can declare a state of emergency after attorney Elliot Fus provided a couple of versions to review. Councilman Mike Rogers said he’d like to add the following sentence to what was in place: “Upon the mayor’s declaration of a state of emergency, an emergency meeting of the council shall automatically be called and proper notice given.” The updated document will be added to the agenda for consideration at the next meeting.

• Received an update from Councilwoman Mary Cameron on the new Clemmons library after hearing from Damon Sanders-Pratt, Forsyth County’s deputy county manager, last Friday. Cameron read an email she received last week from Sanders-Pratt, who said “permit approval was a matter of fits and starts at first, but now the project is progressing steadily” — with the completion of slab on grade and the beginning exterior wall framing, followed by setting trusses next week to frame and support the roof. He said that the expected completion date is January 2021.

• Cameron said she attended a Clemmons Foundation board meeting last week at Novant Health Clemmons Medical Center and received an update from Dr. John Mann, who said he did not want anyone to delay going to the hospital with any kind of medical problem because of the fear of not feeling safe. His quote was, “It’s probably cleaner than any place in town.”

• Discussed an amended contract with the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, receiving consensus from council on an option including limited liability after this past year when a sheriff’s office vehicle was wrecked with an estimated loss of $26,000 and a Worker’s Compensation claim attributed to one of the Clemmons deputies is possible. Under the new scenario, the budgeted amount for the village would increase from $20,000 annually to a cap of $50,000 regardless of losses. As Village Manager Scott Buffkin said, “Basically we’re buying the insurance.”

• Scheduled a budget workshop on Monday at 10 a.m. at village hall.

• Heard from Wait that village offices will be closed Monday, May 25, for the Memorial Day holiday and that trash picked will be delayed one day that week. In addition, the next council meeting will be 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 26, because of the holiday instead of Monday, the 25th. In addition, he announced that public works was open again.

• Heard from Shannon Ford in the marketing/communications report that the village had a “great opening” in the first Clemmons Farmers Market last Saturday morning at the Jerry Long YMCA with 10 vendors and 270 customers. The next farmers market is scheduled for this Saturday morning at 8:30 a.m., with proper social distancing still in effect, with more vendors expected.