The Guilford County Board of Commissioners has made its decision: The land at 979 Guilford College Road, just southwest of Greensboro, is going to the dogs.
And to the cats and to the gerbils and birds and other animals that are often held at the Guilford County Animal Shelter. The 12-acre tract of vacant land in unincorporated Guilford County on the west side of Guilford College Road between Greensboro and High Point will be the site of the new $9 million Guilford County Animal Shelter.
The location, expected to be officially announced and approved by the Board of Commissioners on Thursday, August 17, comes after more than two years of searching for a suitable site and after exploring many shelter options. The site is roughly a two-minute drive – 1.6 miles – from the existing county shelter at 4525 W. Wendover Ave. in Greensboro.
Guilford County Commissioner Hank Henning said he and other board members are extremely pleased with the selected site and that it has all the qualities the commissioners were hoping to find in a new location.
“It’s close to High Point, convenient to the interstate and its undeveloped land,” Henning said. “I think it was a no-brainer.”
The site has very easy access to I-73 and I-40.
Henning said he was glad the county was building the shelter on unused land since the county therefore wouldn’t be removing valuable property from the property tax rolls. Guilford County gets no tax revenue from property the county owns so, everything else equal, he said, it’s better to purchase property that’s not being used.
Henning also said he expects a unanimous vote by the board since it is an ideal piece of property.
Guilford County is buying two adjoining six-acre tracts of land – one owned by giant construction supply company Martin Marietta and one owned by Four Grands LLC. That limited liability company was formed in 2012 and is headquartered at 7662 Bentley Road in Greensboro.
Martin Marietta owns a rock quarry near the shelter, on part of the land the company is not selling to Guilford County, and Martin Marietta does conduct blasting there to extract rock.
“That was really the only concern we had about the property,” Henning said.
He said Guilford County staff has studied the effects of the blasting near the site and found it not to be a major issue.
“Staff even took some animals out there to see how they would respond to the blasts and there was no problem,” the commissioner said.
Even given that concern, Henning said, the decision to purchase this property was an easy one. The other main option under consideration was building the new shelter on the existing animal shelter site just south of the intersection of Bridford Parkway and West Wendover Ave. However, building there was considered less than ideal for many reasons: County staff and commissioners were worried about the traffic in the area as well as a topology not conducive to construction, and they weren’t sure what to do with the 300 to 400 animals at the shelter while the new shelter was being built in place of the existing structure. County staff had estimated that building the new shelter on the existing site would add roughly $1 million to the cost of the project due to all those considerations. Now the county can simply keep the animals at the existing shelter until the new shelter on Guilford College Road opens.
County officials plan to sell the property at 4525 W. Wendover Ave. and they believe it will bring a good price since it’s in such a strong area for retail.
The 12-acre new site is vacant and full of trees and shrubs, with the only sign of development being a chain link fence that lines part of the property. The new animal shelter will be in Friendship Township, just north of the intersection of Guilford Jamestown Road and Hickory Grove, and right outside the Greensboro city limits. It’s convenient to High Point – something that was a big concern of High Point city officials and a concern of the three county commissioners who represent residents of the county’s second largest city.
Currently, there is no public water or sewer available for the new site. At the Board of Commissioners August 17 meeting, the commissioners are also expected to enter into an agreement with High Point to provide water and sewer service to the land. Extending those facilities is expected to add roughly $750,000 to the cost of the project according to a note included in an appraisal conducted by real estate consultants Hylton-Crowder & Associates.
Those consultants appraised the value of the two pieces of property at $840,000, with one estimated at a value of $545,000 and the other at $160,000. The appraisal states that together the properties are worth more – $840,000 rather than $705,000 – because the property from Four Grands is “land locked with no public road frontage, which negatively impacts its use and value estimate.” Together, therefore, those two pieces of property are worth more.
The county is expected to pay about $543,000 for the property purchases.
One of the big advocates of buying new land with more space was Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Jeff Phillips, who has said several times that he prefers a larger site because there’s more room to expand county animal operations and bring in related community services. Given that this area is largely undeveloped, walking paths can be created that will offer a scenic trek for volunteers and shelter staff who want to walk the animals or for prospective adoptive families who want to spend some time with an animal they’re considering taking home.
The decision to buy the land comes almost exactly two years after the Board of Commissioners voted to adopt an ordinance to replace Guilford County’s existing animal shelter. The board voted to build a new shelter and find funds for the project in August 2016. Since then, staff and the board have held numerous closed sessions to consider prospective sites – including one in east Greensboro on Burlington Road next to the Guilford County Agricultural Center and another site off Horse Pen Creek Road in northwest Greensboro. The 12 acres on Guilford College Road came available later in the process – apparently early this year – and the commissioners liked what they saw the more they looked into it.
Commissioner Skip Alston said he’s very pleased with the Guilford College Road location and he added that both the county staff and county commissioners are solidly behind the move. Alston said it makes more sense to build the shelter on this land than it did to put it in east Greensboro where the residents didn’t want it and where the facility wouldn’t be convenient to High Point.
“I like this location as opposed to the Burlington Road site,” Alston said. “There’s more area and they are going to design it to hold 450 animals.”
Alston said the county’s current shelter is often overcrowded and at one point he’d heard the animal population at that facility had reached about 600 animals.
Guilford County Senior Budget & Management Analyst Alex Smith said the county has raised the money for the bulk of the project.
“We have money from two-thirds bonds sold in April,” Smith said.
Two-thirds provide a legal loophole for elected bodies in North Carolina to sell additional bonds without going back to voters for approval so these are not voter-approved bonds. In April, Guilford County issued nearly $28 million in two-thirds bonds to raise money for the new shelter as well as for other long-standing capital projects for law enforcement and emergency services.
According to Smith, Guilford County has set aside $8.9 million for the new animal shelter project, though he said project costs can always change depending on design and other factors.
Several county officials said that the project is expected to have a two-year timeline and the new shelter will likely open in 2019.
In the meantime, the existing Guilford County Animal Shelter has many other issues to clean up. Animal Services Director Drew Brinkley recently resigned, and twice this year the Animal Welfare Section of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture has found multiple violations. Those new issues came in the wake of 2015 revelations that, under the United Animal Coalition, there was widespread animal neglect and abuse.
County officials consider building the new facility a key step in providing better care for the animals. The current shelter is poorly ventilated and has issues with chipping paint according to state inspections. It also isn’t energy efficient and has all sorts of other problems that lead to the discomfort of the animals and shelter staff.
The county is currently attempting to fill the animal services director position and, in the meantime, shelter operations are being overseen by Guilford County Deputy Manager Clarence Grier.