The village of Clemmons has settled a second housing discrimination lawsuit for $150,000.
In August 2020, Allegro Investment Properties filed a lawsuit in Forsyth Superior Court, alleging that village officials used overly technical reasons to deny a 78-unit apartment complex proposed on 8 acres at 3462 Clemmons Road, near Kinnamon Village off U.S. 158.
The real reason, attorneys for Allegro said, was that the apartment complex would be for low-income housing for predominantly Black and Hispanic tenants in a suburb of Winston-Salem that is 82 percent white. Village officials denied those allegations in court papers.
Allegro and another developer, Sylvan Road Properties proposed a similar development on the same property in 2015, but the Village of Clemmons Council denied a rezoning request. The developers filed a lawsuit, also alleging housing discrimination. In an agreement signed in January 2019, the village of Clemmons settled the complaint, paying $150,000 to Legal Aid of North Carolina and having members of the council agree to attend training sponsored by the state Human Relations Commission for the next three years.
The N.C. Human Relations Commission investigated that earlier complaint and concluded that the council’s decision “was a pretext for unlawful discrimination.” The commission based its conclusion partially on comments made by members of the council and private citizens that dealt with concerns about crime and income levels.
The new lawsuit said that village officials claimed they denied Allegro’s proposed development because it didn’t comply with the village’s comprehensive plan. But the lawsuit alleged that the council’s denial “was motivated by numerous citizens’ written and public-hearing comments that referred to potential crime, drugs, decline in property values, ‘those people,’ and other alleged problems that suggested the Village should deny the rezoning because of the race and nationality of the anticipated tenants.”
The lawsuit was voluntarily dismissed on June 8, according to court papers. The Village of Clemmons Council voted 3-2 to approve the $150,000 settlement during a April 30 meeting. As with most settlements, village officials did not admit any liability. Another requirement of the settlement was that the Village of Clemmons Council approve the rezoning for the development, which it did on May 24.
Mayor John Wait declined to comment Monday, citing the settlement’s confidentiality agreement. The agreement prohibits both parties in the lawsuit from comment about the terms, conditions and provisions of the settlement.
During a June 8, 2020 meeting on the redevelopment, Wait accused Allegro of using bullying tactics, according to minutes from that meeting. Wait said he had received a demand letter, saying “you either need to approve this or you’re going to get sued.”
John Taylor, an attorney for Allegro, did not immediately return a request for comment on Monday.