Winston-Salem councilman heads to General Assembly

East ward’s Montgomery will head to Raleigh for special session

Winston-Salem, North Carolina

WINSTON-SALEM — The Winston-Salem City Council met Monday for their regular business meeting and addressed several zoning and development proposals. But the primary move came in the make-up of the council. Councilman Derwin L. Montgomery of the East Ward submitted his official letter of resignation to the council, which was accepted.

Rep. Derwin L. Montgomery

The 10-year veteran of the city council will be moving to the N.C. General Assembly to replace Ed Hanes who resigned after the summer legislative session ended. Montgomery was selected by the Forsyth County Democratic Party to serve as the District 72 representative in the N.C. House. Montgomery was the youngest serving councilman in Winston-Salem history, elected at age 21 in 2009. In his parting remarks to the council, he applauded the work that was accomplished during his term, such as urban revitalization and fighting poverty. However, Montgomery noted that there is still much work to be done. He urged the council to “lead this community in a direction that ensures all citizens of this city have the opportunity to thrive.” Montgomery will be up for election in November. In the meantime, he will be in Raleigh this week for a special session of the legislature focused on Hurricane Florence recovery.

Before the major items on the agenda, a few public announcements were made. October 1st through October 5th, by the order of Mayor Allen Joines, will be Customer Service Week. This week recognizes the hard work and effort of public works and service-oriented government jobs across Winston-Salem. October was also decreed Fire Prevention Month by Joines. When Winston-Salem firefighters responded effectively to the aftermath of Hurricane Florence last month, the surplus of firemen were sent to flooded coastal localities. As a result, Winston-Salem emergency services, specifically the Fire Department, rescued 31 North Carolinians and 6 animals. In recognition of these valiant efforts, the council offered both the Fire Chief William Mayo and the larger department resounding applause.

The zoning and development portion of the meeting included seven items. The Daltonia Trust’s property on Polo Rd. was voted to be rezoned unanimously. A property on the intersection of West Street and Green Street in the South Ward was authorized unanimously to begin development. Councilman John Larson expressed his excitement at the resurgence of this area of the South Ward, and the conservation of the local corner store as a cultural staple in the community. Next, C & M investment group’s property proposal of limiting the use of industrial space to relocate the Winston location of Alpha Omega Construction Group, a leading southeast construction company, also passed. The move will yield over five new contracting jobs in the coming months. An undeveloped residential tract near Mount Tabor High was also authorized for development under the auspices of the Thornhill Homeowners Association.

The council held a public hearing on multi-family and high-density housing development in the downtown general office district. The Planning Board had recommended the proposal.

Advocates for the change argued that housing along growth corridors will stimulate business growth and strengthen the community while addressing the need for housing in the rapidly growing business district. Advocates also said the change towards high-density housing would limit urban sprawl. Opponents expressed concerns over the loss of single-family housing, changes to historic neighborhoods and a process of approval that did not have enough public input. Councilman James Taylor proposed additional public hearings on the proposal to allow for the requested public input. Councilman Montgomery asserted that in his communication with these developers, it was clear to him that they have the best interests of the Winston-Salem community at heart and were not strictly focused on profits. The hearing included many citizen participants and was spirited. Ultimately, the council was split and both provisions of the proposal passed 5-3. Because a six-vote threshold is required for adoption at the initial meeting, the hearing will be reopened at the October 15th meeting of the council.