The Guilford County Animal Shelter is moving to a new site very near the current site and closer to High Point than the existing shelter.

Located in the I-40 corridor, Guilford County commissioners say the new site is convenient to major population areas, will be easier for animal control workers to get in and out of and will offer enough space to accommodate future growth as well as give the county the ability to locate additional animal-related services on the same property. Once the new shelter is built, the county plans to sell the land at 4525 W. Wendover Ave. where the existing shelter is.

The Guilford County commissioners have agreed to purchase, for roughly $700,000, two tracts of land that, combined, make up nearly 12 acres where the county will build the $9 million shelter.

The commissioners have chosen to build on the new location, which will be announced shortly – rather than build on the existing shelter site – for a number of reasons: The topology of the current Wendover site is not favorable to construction; it is in a very congested business district; the property where the shelter now sits has a high resale value, and, if Guilford County had chosen to build a new shelter on the site of the current shelter, it would have had to find a place to put the hundreds of animals at the shelter for a year or more while the construction took place.

The new site – which will be announced after “due diligence” real estate related details are finalized – offers easy access to I-40, much less congestion than the current site, and, very importantly, it is in a place where it’s not expected to raise the ire of any neighborhoods or nearby residents. In early 2016, when the commissioners voted to request a rezoning to locate the new shelter in east Greensboro next to the Guilford County Agricultural Center, residents in that area – along with the Greensboro city councilmembers who represent them – objected greatly, and that intense opposition ultimately killed those plans.

Guilford County Commissioner Hank Henning said that, in the end, the decision came down to several factors – a key one being that the new animal shelter in the new location would have much more usable space than the current shelter, given the available land on the current Wendover site – or, rather, given the lack of it. The existing Guilford County Animal Shelter sits on two adjacent lots, one 3.6 acres and the other 2.7 acres.

Henning said the new site will be a lot roomier than that.

“It’s about double the size of the current location,” Henning said.

Henning represents many constituents in High Point and he said one thing he likes about the new site is that it will be close enough to that city to accommodate the residents and the High Point police officers who often transport animals to the shelter. Some High Point citizens have been worried they might end up having to drive all the way across Greensboro to get to the next animal shelter.

“It might actually have a High Point address,” Henning said of the new property the county is buying, adding that he wasn’t sure if it fell within the city limits of High Point or not.

Henning said that, once the site is revealed, he expects nearly all citizens will be very pleased with the choice since the location meets so many of the criteria the county hoped to find in a site – and, he added, due to the nature of its surroundings, the decision shouldn’t cause any angst for any nearby neighborhoods.

Henning also said he was glad to see this long process finally coming to a close. The need for a new Guilford County Animal Shelter has been stressed for years and, in a meeting in 2014, Guilford County Manager Marty Lawing spoke emphatically on the problems with the current structure on Wendover and the need for a new facility.

Henning said this week, “I’ve been very, very anxious for us to hurry up.”

Commissioner Alan Branson also spoke about the new site as being a no-brainer and he said he expects very few objections, if any at all, when the new site is revealed.

“It’s a better location for public access,” Branson said, adding that it may be a little harder for the constituents he represents in eastern and southeastern Guilford County to get to – though he said that the proximity to the highway should help in that regard.

“It will be a win as far as location goes,” Branson said of the new site. “It will be a win for High Point; it will be a win for Greensboro.”

Like Henning, Branson said High Point residents should be pleased with the new site given its proximity to that city.

When the Board of Commissioners first voted, in early 2016, to build the new shelter in east Greensboro next to the Guilford County Agricultural Center, some in High Point were worried about that added travel time for the city’s animals services workers as well as for residents wishing to adopt new pets.

“The drawback is that it’s not as inexpensive as the east Greensboro site,” Branson said. “Now you’ve got taxpayers spending $600,000 to $800,000 for new property when the last site in east Greensboro wouldn’t have cost anything.”

Branson said he still believes the shelter would have been a real benefit to east Greensboro if the project had ended up in the first chosen location. Other commissioners made that same point strongly last year when the debate over that site was raging, and they continue to state that they believe that, once the residents and representatives of east Greensboro see what a well-built, well-run new facility this is – and the economic activity it brings with it – they’ll regret fighting so vehemently against what was an opportunity to bring visitors, businesses and job growth to that part of the county.

“It’s going to be a nice new $8 million to $10 million facility,” Branson said, adding that it should attract things like vet practices, dog parks and other operations.

“The opportunity is definitely there for expansion,” Branson said.

Branson said that, given the vitriol that came out of east Greensboro when the commissioners voted to put the new animal shelter near the Agricultural Center last year, he really had to hold his nose to vote to approve $25,000 in the latest county budget for Renaissance Community Cooperative, a grocery store that serves that area.

Branson said that though there were some details being wrapped up before a public vote on the new site by the commissioners, there was nothing at this point he could conceive of that would kill the deal or change the commissioners’ minds. Branson said there’s simply not much he doesn’t like about the new site.

Commissioner Carolyn Coleman, who voted against building the shelter in east Greensboro, said she was very pleased with the planned new location. She said she was relieved the residents of east Greensboro who lived near the Agricultural Center weren’t going to get a shelter they didn’t want.

The decision by the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, which has been made after a series of closed sessions in recent months, comes on the heels of nearly two years of debate concerning the best location for a new animal shelter. The county has been in negotiations over the property for months; the asking price was thought to be too high by some – but an agreement on an acceptable price has now been reached.

Over the last year and a half the county commissioners have considered several locations. Earlier this year they looked at building the new shelter off of Horse Pen Creek Road in northern Greensboro. Late in the process, this new site came available and the board gravitated toward it. The choice is now nearly unanimous, with Commissioner Carlvena Foster the one commissioner who may vote no.

“At this time, I seem to be the only person opposed to it,” said Foster, who represents sections of High Point.

She sounds like her view may change.

“It’s not a major disagreement,” she said.

Many county officials are scratching their heads at Foster’s opposition, because they say the new site checks all the boxes and is definitely closer to High Point than the current site.

Foster said she’s just listening to her constituents in High Point and she pointed out that the High Point City Council approved a resolution stating that the county should keep the shelter where it is.

It’s true that the High Point City Council voted to adopt a resolution that supported keeping the county’s shelter at the current location, but the whole thrust of that resolution was that the High Point City Council didn’t want to see the shelter move farther away than it is. The city’s opposition was clearly a reaction to the commissioners’ vote to build the shelter in east Greensboro, which is a long way from High Point.

The resolution adopted by High Point stated that the High Point Police Department transported 2,400 animals to the shelter in 2016 and added that “moving the shelter from its current location off Wendover Avenue to a site farther north in Guilford County will significantly increase travel time for High Point Animal Control Officers, causing them to be unavailable for service for additional hours each week, and … a shelter location farther away will increase the wait time for an animal to receive needed care.”

That High Point City Council resolution also pointed out that the Wendover Avenue site is centrally located, making it easier for High Point citizens to claim animals and drop them off. But the new shelter site will make it easier than ever for those residents and workers to do that.

Foster seemed to have another, more ethereal, objection to the move.

“It’s like sometimes you have more allegiance to animals than you do to children,” she said of the Republican-majority Board of Commissioners. Foster, who’s a former member of the Guilford County Board of Education, added, “We have money to build a new shelter but not to renovate schools when there are kids in trailers.”

Foster clearly wanted to see more money in the county budget for Guilford County Schools – though she did cast her vote for the 2016-2017 budget, as all nine commissioners did, at the Thursday, June 15 meeting.

Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Jeff Phillips said that, while a price had been reached and the overwhelming majority of the board was behind the move, there were a few details yet to be ironed out before an announcement.

“Speaking for myself, I’m excited,” Phillip said. “The announcement should be made soon.”

He said citizen accessibility should be much improved and he added that the amount of flexibility for dog runs and future expansion were big positives that helped sell the board on the property. He said there will still be traffic – but nothing like the shelter now has all around it.

“Another benefit to moving is eventually we’ll sell the property at the current location,” Phillips said, adding that that will create some “economic development opportunity” for a new owner in that high-value business district.

The shelter is expected to take 18 to 24 months to build, which means it’s likely to open sometime in 2019.