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Andrew Dye/Journal  

Tommy Neal (21) leads the pack down the backstretch during the 100-lap Sportsman Division race Saturday night.

Ring of growth surrounds Winston-Salem

Only a year out from the 2020 Census, it seems pretty clear that the hotter growth spots of the last decade in Forsyth County have been on the southern and western fringes of Winston-Salem and in the smaller downtown core.

Still, there are growth spurts to report in other sectors of the county, and the coming years could herald the long-awaited arrival of Kernersville as the heart-of-the-triad center for regional growth.

Census Bureau estimates show that two areas in southern Forsyth County and one in the west may be among the fastest-growing census tracts in the county since 2010, although other contenders are in the mix.

The two census tracts in the south are one on the southern side of Clemmons and another on the west side of Peters Creek Parkway toward the Davidson County boundary. The third area is in the vicinity of Reagan High School in the west.

In fact, the Clemmons census tract, designated as 40.15 and extending south of parts of U.S. 158 and Idols Road, grew anywhere from 30 to 50 percent in between 2010 and 2017, according to American Community Survey population estimates from the Census Bureau.

The tract on Peters Creek Parkway grew between 17 and 35 percent, while the one around Reagan grew from 14 percent to 30 percent.

The wide range of the estimates illustrates an uncomfortable truth about Census estimates applied to small slices of a county: The estimates have large margins of error. But even on their low end, the estimated growth for those three areas indicate healthy increases, as the examples show.

But they’re not the only growing areas. Most of the other areas that seem to be showing healthy growth are in the west and the south, although some areas near Walkertown and Kernersville are growing well, too.

Kirk Ericson, principal planner in the City-County Planning Department, said he’s not surprised that Census Bureau estimates show growth along Peters Creek Parkway.

“For many years, the south suburban corridor along Peters Creek has been one of the strongest growth corridors for the county,” he said.

Ericson noted that a lot of the growth along Peters Creek Parkway stalled in the recession of 2008. Subdivisions already divided into lots ground to a halt. Now, he said, a lot of those are seeing revived development.

Good access to work and shopping and good schools are ingredients that make an area attractive to both developers and the people who buy their houses, planners say.

That’s at least true for many people looking for house sites, planners say, particularly parents who want their children to go to high schools such as Reagan or West Forsyth, which rank at the top of public high schools for test scores.

In between 2000 and 2010, the strongest growth in Forsyth County was in a different quarter: An area to the west of Union Cross Road near Kernersville mushroomed with new development, spurring a 65 percent growth in the census tract covering that area.

Not that growth was much less fast on the southwestern side of Winston-Salem: One tract in that area grew 62 percent, and another grew 61 percent.

The Census Bureau estimates suggest that from 2010 to 2017, growth cooled off in the area between Winston-Salem and Kernersville, though the growth was still healthy. But Ericson predicts that the eastern side of the county is poised to take off in growth because of its central location in the Triad.

Another area planners say to watch is Walkertown, where the Census Bureau estimates, along with housing permits issued, both show development already very active.

Walkertown has a new high school, King pointed out.

Maps showing where residential building permits have been issued over the last few years would show a line of activity running up the west side of Muddy Creek. That’s where the burgeoning Brookberry Farm development has been expanding. Muddy Creek also marks the eastern boundary of the Reagan High School attendance zone.

Farther north, closer to Reagan, more residential development is boosting population estimates for the area. Ericson noted that in addition to access to work, schools and shopping, developers like to develop areas where the land is not too split up.

“If you are a residential developer, you are looking for large lots that don’t have too many owners,” he said. Suburban areas grow more quickly than established neighborhoods because those areas have in many cases already been built out.

Another factor in the west is taxes, said Steve Smotherman, project planner in City-County Planning, looking at the growth rates in the area around Reagan High School.

“There are parts of the county where you can get water and sewer and still only pay county taxes,” Smotherman said.

A different sort of logic drives growth in the very center of Winston-Salem, where people attracted to the lifestyle of living in a downtown apartment are finding their niches. With hundreds of new apartments now coming onto the market — and room for more, planners say — downtown Winston-Salem could be among the fastest-growing census tracts in the county when the 2020 Census is taken.

“More development is coming downtown,” said Aaron King, the director of City-County Planning. “When you go to the older complexes and find that they are leased up, I think that the trend continues.”

Jason Thiel, the president of the Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership, said he’s been hearing about more residential construction coming downtown as well. Since it can take several years between concept and execution, the market has time to see what it will absorb, Thiel said.

The trend of construction is “pretty much in line with what we are seeing in other cities,” he said.

Ericson said he believes both trends — suburban and downtown growth — will continue, noting that “there is room for both of them.”

Forsyth County commissioners OK paying back just over $500,000 to Beaufurn furniture company

The Forsyth County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution Thursday to buy back 14.5 acres in Tanglewood Business Park off Idols Road from Beaufurn LLC.

The resolution also terminates an incentive agreement the county has with Beaufurn.

The county will pay Beaufurn, a commercial furniture manufacturer in Advance, $399,500 for the property and about $110,000 for the company’s out-of-pocket costs, including legal and engineering fees.

Because the county was not able to construct a road that would give the company access to its lot by the end of this year and connect the site to a sewer system by the end of 2020, Beaufurn exercised its option in a repurchase agreement it had with the county.

Forsyth County Manager Dudley Watts said in an interview that county officials are sad about the situation.

“The board really worked hard to accommodate Beaufurn and to recruit them. We think they’re a great company,” Watts said. “We think it’s got a great corporate culture. We think they would be great for that business park.”

But Watts said that “the barriers placed upon us by the Village of Clemmons’ leadership made it impossible to meet” Beaufurn’s deadline.

The county can use Tanglewood Park project funds to repurchase Beaufurn’s property, he said.

He also said that the county put the repurchase agreement language in its agreement with Beaufurn because there were a lot of unknowns.

“They knew it,” Watts said of Beaufurn.

He added that the money to put Beaufurn into the park was more than what the county had available.

“We had budgeted some of it, but we didn’t budget all (of it),” he said. “Now, we don’t have to do anything to get Beaufurn in.”

Forsyth County plans to move forward with the business park.

It has started construction on the Idols Road Sewer Lift Station, which is expected to be completed in mid-2020, with the goal of having the ability to provide sewer to the 170-acre business park.

“This will give us time to regroup and to get the park more fully developed before we sell the next property,” Watts said.

In other business, the board of commissioners approved a resolution that authorizes contracts with Winston-Salem Business Inc. and the Greater Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce for the first six months of fiscal year 2019-2020 in the amount of $50,000 each for the agencies to provide business recruitment, retention and expansion services.

The board also approved the sale of 1.4 acres at 121 N. Church St. for $1.2 million from WFC Property LLC.

Video of WSSU student goes viral when he takes first steps after 4 months in wheelchair

When Jaylen Brown got in his car the night of Dec. 19, he had no way of knowing it would be the last steps he would take for four months.

But after spending Christmas in the hospital and the next semester in a wheelchair, Brown, 21, has managed to find a glimmer of positivity in the traumatic car crash.

“Life is all about perspective, nothing happens by coincidence,” said Brown, who broke his hip and pelvis in a head-on collision. “For me this experience was almost like the validation that (physical therapy) is what I need to be doing. I knew, ‘This is it.’”

Brown — whose Instagram profile describes him as “just an ordinary guy that beat death” — has always had a passion for a career in physical therapy, but the wreck near Charlotte fine-tuned the direction he plans to go in, he said.

After enduring frustration and limited mobility, Brown said he would like to focus on helping other patients who have been injured in traumatic accidents.

From getting caught in the pouring rain in his wheelchair to navigating construction, stairs and cracks in the floor, he said his experience will make it easier to relate to his patients and let them know there is hope.

“I’ve never been unappreciative of life at all but suddenly, when I had so much stripped away from me, I understood how blessed I am,” said Brown, an exercise science major at Winston-Salem State University. “I was only non-weight-bearing for three and a half months, but there are people who are permanently wheelchair-bound.”

Because of the extent of his broken bones, which necessitated a metal plate and eight screws, Brown had to leave campus to live at his parents’ Salisbury home while he recovered.

His father, Edward Brown, took a leave of absence from work to drive Brown to and from WSSU every day so the then-junior could continue his studies.

His mother, Tameka Brown, also left work early to care for him in the evenings.

The daily 90-minute round-trip to school, constant doctor’s appointments and many challenges wore on him, but Brown, now a rising senior, said his family buoyed him through the hard times.

“They really showed me what it is not just to say ‘I love you,’ but to act on it,” said Brown, who also has three sisters. “We’ve always been a strong family, but the sacrifices they made taking care of me during my difficult time meant the world.”

Brown, who was on his way to visit a friend at the time of the December wreck, is still working toward recovery, he said.

The pain and fatigue still linger when he walks, but he has regained the ability to drive and ride the stationary bike and would like to get back to sprinting.

“At first, it was very difficult for me to come to terms with. I hadn’t done anything wrong, I had my seatbelt on, I wasn’t speeding,” said Brown, a self-proclaimed gym-rat who did wrestling, football and baseball in high school. “It ended up being one of those situations that taught me a lot about myself and I realized that I’m stronger than I thought.”

In the spring, Brown, the chief of staff for WSSU’s Student Government Association, became the subject of two viral videos.

The first was at a WSSU basketball game in February of Brown dancing while seated in his wheelchair and in the second March video, Brown takes his first steps since the wreck.

“Before the accident, I was focused a whole lot on the future and what happens next, but this really made me really appreciate and enjoy the moment,” Brown said. “Tomorrow isn’t promised, so I’ve learned to celebrate today.”