by Keith T. Barber and Jordan Green

Elm-Cornwallis rezoning case back before Greensboro council

The Greensboro City Council will hear a rezoning request by developer John Stratton III at its Jan. 5 meeting. Stratton’s request to change the zoning at the site of the 1958 Commencement House near the intersection of North Elm and Cornwallis streets went down in defeat in a vote by the previous council on Nov. 17.

The official vote was three in favor and four opposed, but initially the numbers were reversed. Despite receiving support from a majority of the council (with the exception of at-large Councilman Robbie Perkins, who holds a financial stake in the project, and then atlarge Councilwoman Mary Rakestraw, who was absent) the request failed to meet the 75-percent supermajority threshold necessary for approval. At the last minute, District 3 Councilman Zack Matheny changed his vote from yea to nay on Nov. 17.

That maneuver put him on the prevailing side of the vote, and allowed him to make a motion to reconsider at the last meeting on Dec. 15. New member, at-large Councilman Danny Thompson, seconded the motion, which carried 5-2, with District 1 Councilwoman Dianne Bellamy-Small and District 5 Councilwoman Trudy Wade voting in the minority. New Mayor Pro Tem Nancy Vaughan is recusing herself from voting on the matter because her husband, lawyer and state senator Don Vaughan, has represented some of the residents in the area of the subject property. — JG

Detective claims hazy memory in testimony

Former Winston-Salem police Detective Donald R. Williams testified before the Winston-Salem City Council in June that he and Detective Mike Barker viewed a surveillance videotape from the

Toys ‘R’ Us store, which was adjacent to the Silk Plant Forest shop, taken on the night of a brutal assault against Jill Marker. Williams said he and Barker watched the videotape together, but the video was of such poor quality that it was difficult to identify people in the store. The tape was later returned to the store by Barker, Williams said, and was not placed in evidence. Williams also said the purpose of viewing the tape was to identify Kalvin Michael Smith, the man convicted of the crime, or Eugene Littlejohn, a witness for the state during Smith’s 1997 trial.

Winston-Salem police Lt.

Joseph Ferrelli, who questioned Williams during the hearing, pointed out that Smith didn’t become a suspect until June 1996, and a supplemental report submitted by Barker that documents the viewing of the surveillance video was dated Dec. 28, 1995.

“The dates I’m not clear on,” Williams said in response. “It’s been a long time.”

The city posted the transcript of Williams’ testimony on its website on Christmas Eve. A Forsyth County superior court judge had ordered the document’s release about a week earlier. — KTB

Formerly skeptical candidate supports hotel project

With the Greensboro City Council set to decide the fate of the proposed Ole Asheboro Hotel on Jan. 5, skepticism towards the project’s proposed $200-pernight night rate and projected 70-percent occupancy rate has mounted.

One former skeptic who has been won over is DJ Hardy, a board member of the Ole Asheboro Neighborhood Association and a recent unsuccessful at-large candidate for city council.

“To really turn around that section of town you almost need something that seems impossible,” he said on Monday. “You really need a game-changer in terms of investment and focus.”

Hardy said he remains concerned about the viability of the project, but believes that it poses little risk to the city of Greensboro and if the hotel falls short of its financial goals it will not harm the neighborhood.

“When I first heard [about] it, I was against it,” Hardy said. “I’ve changed my mind. The major reason is jobs are that critical. Something has to change the dynamic, and it’s not going to be a grocery store. The discussion has to be on focused on transformation, not viability. How do we make it work?” — JG

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