Thomas Wolfe might not believe you can go home again but the Guilford County commissioners think you can build an animal shelter again in the same place you built it before.
Given issues with other sites that have been under consideration, the county commissioners – even those who were once opposed to the move – are warming up to the idea of building the county’s new animal shelter at 4525 W. Wendover Ave., just south of I-40, in one of the county’s busiest areas.
“I think it will still be where it’s at,” Commissioner Alan Branson predicted this week.
Branson said there are a lot of inherent advantages to building on the current site.
After an extensive search for suitable property, the commissioners are now only considering one other location for the new shelter and the county’s facilities staff is studying the feasibility of putting the shelter on that site. However, most of the commissioners’ attention seems focused on what it would take to build the shelter on the current site.
For instance, at a Thursday, Feb. 9 meeting of the Guilford County Animal Services Advisory Board, Commissioner Justin Conrad, who chairs that committee, said that Guilford County Facilities, Parks and Property Management Department Director Robert McNiece had been told to explore the possibility of using the Guilford County Prison Farm to house dogs, cats and other animals while construction of the new shelter took place. The county would only need to do that if it builds on the existing site.
Until about two years ago, the Guilford County Sheriff’s Department used inmate labor to grow crops and raise cattle at the farm; however, the Board of Commissioners closed down those operations. There are structures at the Prison Farm that perhaps could be used to hold animals if cages were brought in and some renovations were made.
Several commissioners have been arguing adamantly all along that the county should construct the new shelter on the existing Wendover Avenue site.
The Guilford County Board of Commissioners spent much of 2016 with hopes of building the new animal shelter at a site on Burlington Road in east Greensboro next to the Guilford County Agricultural Center. However, residents in that area expressed a great deal of anti-shelter sentiment. Some Greensboro city councilmembers were upset with the idea of the county putting the shelter in east Greensboro and some said they were troubled that the commissioners made a motion to advance a rezoning request for that piece of property without first consulting city councilmembers – including the two who represent east Greensboro.
Guilford County Commissioner Ray Trapp said the existing shelter sits on a great site for the county’s new shelter, which is estimated to be an $8 million or $9 million project.
“I think that always was the answer,” Trapp said of building on the Wendover site.
The county owns the land, it is already zoned for an animal shelter and the businesses that surround it can’t complain about the noise or traffic since that’s out of control already in that area.
Trapp said he thinks the location is ideal.
“It’s smack dab in the middle of the county,” he said.
The board’s High Point representatives say the site has easy access from Greensboro and High Point.
Trapp also said the county has talked about selling that land because it’s in such a valuable area – near Bridford Parkway, with hundreds of retail stores and a number of restaurants. But Trapp also said selling the land wouldn’t bring the kind of money some county officials hoped it would.
“We don’t own the frontage,” Trapp said, adding that that made the land less valuable to prospective buyers.
Commissioner Carolyn Coleman has been arguing from day one that Guilford County should build its new shelter at the existing Wendover site.
“That site has accommodated us for a number of years and the people who use the shelter know where it is,” Coleman said.
Other commissioners still want to see how the studies of the alternative property come out. Commissioner Alan Perdue said the Board of Commissioners is still in the fact-finding phase with regard to that site and said he still hasn’t made up his mind.
“I’m flexible,” Perdue said, adding, “I’m not opposed to the existing site.”
Perdue said he wants to see more information about the cost of animal services from an ongoing operational perspective – not just the initial cost of buying land.
“I’m waiting to hear those numbers,” Perdue said.
One of the things the commissioners liked about the proposed east Greensboro site is that it sits roughly in the center of where most Guilford County Animal Control calls originate and where pickups are most frequent.
Perdue said another thing the commissioners need to keep in mind as they make this decision is that it is for all county citizens.
“We’re serving Greensboro and High Point – I think that’s important,” he said.
From the standpoint of location, the Wendover site makes a lot more sense for Greensboro and High Point residents than the east Greensboro site, which is in a northeast corner of Greensboro and is about as far from High Point as you can possibly get while still being in Greensboro.
Conrad has been adamant recently that, when it comes to all future construction – and existing services – the county should be extremely cognizant of that fact that it’s very expensive to duplicate every service. Conrad made that point strongly at the Board of Commissioners retreat two weeks ago, and he said this week that the county’s budget is approaching $600 million and, if the county could save even a small percentage of that by having all of its services combined in a central location – as opposed to duplicated in both Greensboro and High Point – that could save the taxpayers a tremendous amount.
At the retreat, Conrad said Greensboro and High Point and other areas of the county need to get rid of the rampant territorialism that has dominated decisions over that last century.
“We can start doing this,” he said. “It’s just common sense. We’ve been fighting the same battles in some cases for more than 100 years.”
Conrad said this week that putting the new shelter at the same place as the existing shelter makes good sense to him.
“My initial reaction was that the Burlington Road site, and where the shelter is now, have always been choices 1 and 1A.”
County staff had talked of putting the new animal shelter in northeast Guilford County and establishing a smaller “satellite shelter” closer to High Point for those clients, but Conrad said that’s a “non-starter” for him.
“That’s the same problem we’ve had,” Conrad said.
Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Jeff Phillips said he expects the board will make a decision in the near future.
“That process is underway,” Phillips said. “I think our goal would be to try to solidify our direction within 60 to 90 days. We’re waiting for the facilities department to work through the numbers.”
Phillips wouldn’t provide any information about the alternative site that’s now under consideration by the board, but he did say it does offer some advantages over the Wendover site. For instance, Phillips said, there would be more room for volunteers to walk the animals and it would be more approachable. He said the alternative site under consideration was “a more open type of parcel.”
“I just want it to be as inviting as possible,” Phillips said of the coming shelter.
“There is a lot to consider because, for instance, even though the existing shelter is central for users, it is not really central for the day to day operations,” the chairman said. “Most of the stray animal pickups and other animal control calls are more to the northeast part of Greensboro, which is one reason commissioners liked the location of the site on Burlington Road.”
High Point has its own animal control service, which reduces the number of calls Guilford County Animal Control gets from the southwest part of the county. However, many of those animals picked up in High Point are taken to the Guilford County shelter.
One source said the alternative site falls within District, 5 the one Phillips represents. That would mean that Phillips is practicing what he has been preaching for the past year – that the animal shelter is a desirable thing to have and he wouldn’t mind having it in his district.
Even advocates of putting the shelter at the Wendover site say they aren’t big fans of the clutter and traffic.
Trapp, for instance, said the area around the shelter is a nightmare at times.
“I hate Wendover,” Trapp said. “Wendover is a perfect example of why you should do land-use planning. It’s an example of the worst of zoning.”
Ironically, however, the mass congestion that has come about at Wendover and I-40 actually is an example of city and county government planning 20 years ago.
Trapp added that perhaps only Battleground Avenue in Greensboro is a worse example.