Nearly a dozen towns in Guilford County are holding elections on Tuesday, Nov. 7, but none of those are more important than the election of the mayor and three town councilmembers in Summerfield, which could have a huge impact on the future of land development in the town.
For years, Summerfield has been torn between two warring political factions: those who want less development in Summerfield and those who want more. That tension has come to a head recently due to an intense desire of local farmer and developer David Couch to build a large new residential and mixed-use development on nearly 1,000 acres of land that he owns in the town.
Former Summerfield Mayor BJ Barnes – who’s also the former longtime sheriff of Guilford County – said that the November 7, 2023, election is “no doubt” very pivotal to the future of the town where he resides.
Barnes supports current Summerfield Mayor Tim Sessoms, who’s facing challenger Linda Wendelken in the mayoral race.
Barnes said that Sessoms needs to win that job – as well as maintain a majority of development-friendly Town Council seats – in order for reasonable development in Summerfield to be allowed.
Couch, who went to the NC General Assembly earlier this year to request that the land he owns be de-annexed from Summerfield, is watching the November 7 election closely.
Barnes said that, if the town ends up with anti-development forces as the majority of leadership, Couch will invariably see the de-annexation through and, eventually, the City of Greensboro will end up annexing that development.
“Greensboro would be a fool not to take that and add it to the tax base,” Barnes said of Couch’s proposed development.
He said that if the “NIMBY” forces of the town win out – the “Not In My Back Yard” forces, that is – then de-annexation is likely.
Those in Summerfield who are fighting for lower density and more restrained development have been attempting for years to hold development in check in their small town of about 11,000 people.
Many residents argue that the reason they moved to Summerfield in the first place was due to its small town atmosphere and rural setting.
The last thing they want, they say, is for the town to become a mini-Greensboro.
Former Summerfield Town Councilmember John O’Day, who moved to High Point but still has strong feelings about Summerfield’s future, also said this is a very important election for the town.
O’Day said the next Summerfield mayor and Town Council both need to work with Couch to make sure he isn’t driven to push for de-annexation.
“Letting the state de-annex is surrendering control to another entity – Greensboro,” O’ Day said, adding that that would lead to a loss of tax revenue, traffic congestion and school overcrowding.
“All the things people don’t want will be worse,” O’Day predicted of that outcome.
The mayoral race in the town got more interesting recently when the Wendelken campaign filed a complaint against Sessoms with the Guilford County Board of Elections. The complaint alleged that Sessoms illegally used town resources – the town’s website and Facebook page – to further his reelection bid.
Summerfield voters have the ultimate say in all these disputes by casting their votes.