The Summerfield Town Council made a dramatic move on Monday, Sept. 18 – doing an about-face and, in a unanimous vote, promising developer David Couch most of what he wanted for his proposed large mixed-use development.
The move was obviously a response to a bill in the state legislature that de-annexes Couch’s land from Summerfield so that he could proceed with his proposed 973-acre residential and mixed-use development – The Villages of Summerfield Farms.
The Summerfield Town Council made several moves and promised other steps, demonstrating sudden support for the project in order to keep a large and key chunk of the town from being removed.
However, the situation remains remarkably complex and it is still far from clear as to what will happen from here. Couch hasn’t publicly stated his intentions, but a representative of his was on local news this week saying that the move by Summerfield was a step in the right direction but that there was still skepticism regarding the best path forward.
Here are some of the key considerations according to several prominent Summerfield residents and leaders who don’t wish to be named.
• There’s no guarantee what state legislators will do. Right now, the threat of the state de-annexing a nearly 1,000-acre slice of land is there, but if Couch pushes forward with that effort, and the state says no, then that card would no longer be the ace in the hole it appears to be now.
• The promises are being made adamantly and seemingly quite sincerely by the Summerfield Town Council. However, the current council cannot bind future councils to any actions, and there’s an election in the town coming this fall that could change the Town Council.
• The current Summerfield Town Council is giving Couch much of what he has been asking for with regard to the Villages of Summerfield Farms, but what they are offering is a deal that would allow him to build his development based on where negotiations were in April of this year. However, while the Town Council is promising a lot, it’s not everything Couch wanted at the start. Couch would almost certainly be granted more freedom on housing density and other aspects of the project if that land were in Guilford County rather than in Summerfield. Couch has already changed the project plans to make the development more palatable to opponents who live in Summerfield.
So, at the moment, it’s a game of wait and see.
One longtime friend of Couch said that, right now, he didn’t think even Couch was sure what he wanted to do given all the factors at play – including Couch’s love for the town and Couch’s vision of what he considered to be his “legacy” project.