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Unfinished road delays emergency response

by Jordan Green

POLITICALLY CONNECTED DEVELOPER UNDER PRESSURE TO COMPLETE JOB

A tractor-trailer sits at the end of a section of Winding Creek Drive where it tails off near the edge of the Bennington Village subdivision built by developer Roy Carroll. Further out, three red signs jut from the ground, and an earthen berm blocks a dirt path. About a hundred paces out, the asphalt resumes and the street continues through WoodCreek, a subdivision built by a competing developer. A new fire station lies on the other side of Mount Hope Church Road from Bennington Village. Were Winding Creek Drive completed, emergency personnel could practically make a straight shot into WoodCreek and to its swimming pool and clubhouse near the street’s terminus. Instead, first responders must drive back towards Interstate 40 and around a service road past the Replacements Limited campus to reach Woodcreek. Residents, firefighters and Carroll’s spokeswoman concur that the service road adds an additional two to three minutes to the trip.

“There was an incident a year and a half ago when a gentleman had a heart attack and needed EMS,” said Jason Jordan, a WoodCreek resident who is a member of the subdivision’s advisory committee. “If you call 911, it shows that the road is completed. I know a lady who works dispatch, and she told me that. The ambulance tried to go through there, and then had to turn around and go back out.

“Three minutes may not sound like a lot,” he added, “but when someone is having a heart attack and needs a defibrillator or somebody is drowning in our pool and choking on water, three minutes is a lifetime. Roy Carroll made a promise to complete that road, and I think he needs to get it done.” The matter has been raised by a third developer, Kotis Properties, that sued one of Carroll’s companies and the city of Greensboro over a separate dispute between developers involving access to roadways. “The best that we can recollect is that we have been going round and round with Old South (Roy Carroll) to build this connection since late 2004,” said interim Transportation Director Adam Fischer in a June 29 e-mail to his counterparts in the planning and engineering & inspections departments and to interim City Manager Bob Morgan. DR Horton, the developer of WoodCreek, had “inquired several times when the remaining leg of the street connection will be built,” Fischer said. “The missing link will complete the required street connections of this development, providing more convenient access to all, as well as improved access for emergency responders.” In a return e-mail, Morgan asked when the developer was required to complete the road. “The streets are not typically built per a permit,” Fischer responded, “but completed as part of a phasing plan when the homes are built. There are no planned homes along this missing section of road; however, the road should have been completed when the pond was constructed by the developer.”

The interimtransportation director attached a 2007 aerial photo that shows that adetention pond had been dug out beside the incomplete road. A unifieddevelopment plan for Bennington Village shows the unfinished section ofroadway running through an area designated as open space. Sincethat time, Fischer has backed away from his position that the roadshould have been completed when the pond was installed, characterizingit as “speculating.” “That seemed like it would have been kindof logical because at this point they’d built the culvert and thepond,” he said Monday. “So it seemed logical that they would have goneahead and done the road. Since this time, in meeting with legal and thecity manager’s office, we really don’t have any language in ourdevelopment ordinance that tells us when the road must be built.” Carroll’sname is synonymous with land development in Greensboro, and he hasplayed an active role in municipal politics. In 2007, the developerfounded a political action committee called North Carolinians forLeadership in Government that contributed a total of $6,965 to membersof city council who won their elections that year, including $1,000each to future Mayor Yvonne Johnson and to Dianne Bellamy-Small, whorepresents the residents of Woodcreek and Bennington Village inDistrict 1. At-large Councilman Robbie Perkins, whose commercial realestate company represents Carroll’s CenterPointe development indowntown Greensboro, received $1,000. Other beneficiaries of Carroll’scampaign-finance support include council members Sandra Anderson Groat,Zack Matheny and Trudy Wade, who are seeking reelection this year, andGoldie Wells, who is retiring. The city council approved a$1.1 million incentives grant to Carroll in 2006 to financeCenterPointe, a high-rise redevelopment project that city leaderspromised would create 58 jobs and increase the city’s tax revenue by$180,000 over a fiveyear period. More recently, blogger andjournalist Ed Cone reported that Carroll had offered to pick up the tabfor flying Mayor Johnson and other local leaders to Washington, DC tolobby the city’s congressional delegation for federal funding toredevelop the southern flank of downtown. The mayor abandoned plans tofly on Carroll’s dime after the disclosure prompted a public outcry. SpokeswomanGillean Smith said in an e-mail that Carroll’s political involvement isnot geared towards obtaining financial advantage for his companies. “Mr.Carroll is simply providing assistance to individuals with the visionneeded to lead Greensboro in the future so that Greensboro’s citizensand entire business community will benefit,” she said. “He is notseeking any specific advantage for his business, but rather is helpingthose who share his vision for Greensboro’s future.” In itspending lawsuit, Kotis Properties contends that the city’s technicalreview committee — made up of staff from the transportation, planningand engineering & inspection departments — approved a site plan forone of Carroll’s companies on the other side of Greensboro fromBennington Village as a result of the developer’s “exertion ofpolitical influence.” (Carroll’s company plans to build a mixedresidential, retail and office development along the planned JessupGrove Road extension. Kotis owns property on the other side ofthe planned road zoned for corporate office. The two companies arewrangling over the placement of a curb cut for Kotis’ adjacentdevelopment.)

The city and Carroll have both denied that any political pressure was exerted on elected officials or city employees. Perkinssaid last week that his professional relationship with Carroll, thedeveloper’s substantial investments in the city and his politicalcampaign contributions would not sway him to display favoritism. “I’veknown Marty Kotis since he was nine years old; I’ve known Bill Kotissince 1979,” Perkins said. “I would have a hard time choosing betweenKotis and Carroll. I’ve worked with them both. It’s kind oflike splitting the baby.” Like Perkins, Mayor Johnson said she had notpreviously been aware of the controversy over the incomplete roadbetween Bennington Village and WoodCreek. The mayor said she didn’tthink any of her colleagues on city council would be inclined todiminish the residents’ concerns because of goodwill towards Carroll. “Toa person, we would be asking him to get it done,” Johnson said. “Iappreciate Roy. I like Roy. I want him to get this done.” The mayoradded, “I haven’t talked to him as to what may be going on. I’ll givehim a call Monday and find out.” Internal discussion among city staffmembers also indicates an eagerness to have the roadway completed. “Inever expected 5 years later that this would be an issue,” wrote KennyCarroll, an engineering & inspection employee who is no relation tothe developer in a July 1 e-mail. “Obviously the incompletion of thisconnection can be attributed to the economy and the competition of theadjacent subdivision. If my memory is correct, I consulted with someonein GDOT about the phasing, and the thought was that this would affordthe developer to sell lots and reinvest the profit to complete theconnection. I do not believe any of us would expect to be left withoutthis connection for this amount of time.” Completion of the roadwaywill cost Carroll’s company about $1.4 million, Gillean Smith said.Carroll’s response, through his spokeswoman, to queries about when theroad would be completed was initially noncommittal. “Old SouthHomes is in the planning phase of developing the property adjacent tothe future roadway,” Smith wrote at 3:30 p.m. on Monday. “If all goeswell, Old South Homes hopes to have the roadway complete next year whenthe demand for lots increases in the area.” Around 5 p.m., sheclarified the company’s position in a comment made by telephone. “Weare highly motivated to make this connection because it makes economicsense to open up another marketing window for the company,” she said.“And it helps people. It’s a win-win situation. We are not uncaring. Asfar as the exact date, it’s not tomorrow. The economy right now doesplay a factor. Are we going to wait 10 years? No, we’re not. Had thefire department been built in 2003, we would have done thingsdifferently. It does help, [reducing emergency response time by] two orthree minutes. We are eager to do this for everyone.”

Single-family homesin the WoodCreek subdivision can be seen from the end of a section ofWinding Creek Drive that runs through Bennington Village, a subdivisiondeveloped by Roy Carroll. WoodCreek residents complain that theincomplete road adds three minutes to emergency responders’ trip intothe subdivision. (photo by Jordan Green)

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