Clemmons takes next step in drone program

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 15, 2022

By Jim Buice
Clemmons Courier

CLEMMONS — 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.

Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office photo
The Village of Clemmons has offered “buy in” to being part of a drones as first responders pilot
program offered through the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office.

“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 today.

“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.”