Faced with an arena-sized public-relations gaffe, Forsyth County officials quickly decided Thursday to postpone action on plans to build a 50,000-square-foot event center at Tanglewood Park.
People who live in Clemmons West near the park are complaining that they knew nothing of the event center plans until reading about it in Monday’s Journal, and say an event center that close to their homes will disrupt their lives and spoil their use of the park.
“It will be very obtrusive and very detrimental to the peace and tranquility we enjoy,” said Robyn Williams, who lives on Maidstone Lane near Tanglewood. “There is someone from my family walking, biking or running there every single day. I don’t go there to walk around a building. I go there to walk around the trees.”
Williams was among a number of people who showed up at Thursday’s briefing session of the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners in hopes of expressing displeasure over the event center plans.
County officials had already gotten their emails of objection and knew the residents were coming. While there was no public comment period for residents to voice their concerns directly during the meeting, county officials wasted no time moving the event center to a back burner.
Residents had plenty to say to anyone who would listen before the meeting and during the break that immediately followed the decision to postpone action.
“I’m extremely concerned about my house value, traffic flow and my 16- and 14-year old children who use (the park) for cross-country practice,” said Jennifer Richardson, who lives on Tanglewood Trail.
That street is one of the closest ones to the park, and Richardson said she can see the Tanglewood Christmas lights every year from her front door. “The Clemmons West neighborhood has not had a fair chance to voice any concerns at this point,” she said.
The county is planning to build the event center from money raised by a 2016 recreation bond referendum. Last November, commissioners received the recommendation that the event center go on a site near the horse barns at Tanglewood, a situation that seemed to harmonize with the equestrian events that are among those envisioned for the center.
Thursday, County Manager Dudley Watts told the board and residents attending the briefing session that he made a “grave error” assuming people were aware of the recommended site.
“Maybe there’s a site we haven’t identified yet that is the one best site,” Watts said. “There are some fears out there around this thing. Would we ever do a monster truck show at the horse facility across from Tanglewood barns? No. I like my job too much. Whatever we do there has got to be consistent with the surroundings there.”
The county is planning meetings in Clemmons with the Tanglewood neighbors and others to explain the event center concept and the issues surrounding where it is located. The commissioners will consider what to do about the event center in October.
“Clearly we needed to do more outreach around this,” Watts said during Thursday’s briefing session.
Commissioner Don Martin said on Thursday that a lot of misinformation has been circulating — for instance, that the work would destroy a horse riding ring on the east side of the park road.
Martin said that the center is meant to harmonize with the equestrian activities at Tanglewood. He said he does not think the presence of the center would interfere with people walking or doing other activities.
On Thursday, county officials had signup sheets for people to fill out their contact information so they can find out more about the planned informational meetings.
Among those attending the briefing session were some folks who have links to the equestrian activities, rather than houses near the park.
Evie Good, a Surry County woman who rides at Tanglewood, said she’s against the proposed center site because it might make flooding worse on Johnson Creek in the park.
Anne Gould, who keeps two horses at the stables, said more facilities for equestrian events would be good, but faulted the plans for including other non-equestrian activities.