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Developers want to turn a Jamestown farm into a mixed-use development

JAMESTOWN — A Greensboro company wants to transform a large farm into a mixed-used development that would significantly alter the town’s footprint.

The proposal from Diamondback Investment Group would turn a massive piece of land — 467 wooded acres — at the intersection of Guilford College and Mackay roads into a development with roughly 1,700 residences.

“Our intended goal for this project is to make something that is meaningful and lasting,” said Zack Tran, who co-founded and operates Diamondback with Hal Kern.

According to Tran, the median home price would be around $250,000.

“This land is going to be developed in a modern fashion very close to what everything else is already developed there,” said Robbie Perkins, the former Greensboro mayor and realtor who helped put the deal together. “The benefit is this layout flows together and is blended ... as opposed to a disjointed kind of hodge-podge of individual properties.”

Diamondback is buying the farm from the family of the late Ted Johnson, the former executive director of Piedmont Triad International Airport.

The development, which would be named Castleton Village, also calls for 311 apartments and a retail area anchored by a grocer that would front Guilford College Road.

Tran said having a grocery store in the development is a benefit because it will cut down on the number of cars entering Guilford College Road.

“It’s just good planning,” he said.

Guilford College Road is one of the draws for Diamondback because, unlike other residential projects of this type, significant improvements won’t be needed to accommodate the additional traffic a new development would bring.

“Rarely do you have a road system just about fully developed before you start building,” Perkins said. “There is no traffic issue with this site.”

Two tracts on the corners of the property would be reserved for low-impact commercial development such as medical or professional offices.

The plan calls for more than one-fourth of the property to remain as green space with walking trails.

It would also include other amenities, including a swimming pool and play areas for children.

The property is at the eastern edge of Jamestown although it hasn’t been formally annexed.

Diamondback, which has developments across the state, would like to get a “planned use” ordinance that would allow the company to have residential homes and commercial development as basically part of the same project.

Jamestown currently doesn’t have such an ordinance, but the town council will vote on one at a meeting next week.

If things move forward, Tran said the planning phase could take four to six months with the first homes completed between one to two years after that.

Overall, the whole project could take anywhere from five to 10 years to complete.

“As the market continues to absorb these sites, we will continue to develop,” Tran said. “We are going to be prudent about it.”

'I know how to deal with New York bullies,' Michael Bloomberg tells crowd at Greensboro stop

GREENSBORO — About 300 people braved the chilly wet weather Thursday morning to see Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg, whom some saw as the best candidate to become president this November.

“I am running to beat Donald Trump,” Bloomberg said, spurring thunderous applause from the crowd. He said he is the candidate who will “start getting things done and get the united back in the United States of America.”

Early in his speech, Bloomberg got the city’s name wrong: “We have eight offices, including one here in Gainsboro,” he said, prompting a murmur among the crowd correcting his gaffe. He later correctly used Greensboro when referring to the city.

Referencing the 60th anniversary of the Woolworth sit-ins, when four N.C. A&T students sat down at a whites-only lunch counter in downtown, Bloomberg said, “(They) returned day after day and it’s that kind of determination that we must have to realize all the rights that we’re all fighting for.”

Bloomberg, who also spoke in Winston-Salem and Raleigh on Thursday, called Trump a bully. “I know how to deal with New York bullies,” the former New York City mayor told the mostly white crowd. He also touted plans to create new jobs with higher wages, provide health care to all Americans, fight climate change, improve social inequality and pass “common sense” gun laws.

“Getting it done (his campaign slogan) means finally fixing our broken immigration system and creating a path to citizenship to the 11 million people living in the shadows,” Bloomberg said. “And getting it done also means protecting a woman’s right to choose.”

He said he raised salaries by 43% while mayor in New York City. He also claimed graduation rates rose by more than 40% while he was in office and that he cut the number of people without health insurance by 40% “and raised life expectancy by three whole years.”

Bloomberg said he was the only candidate who could “send Donald Trump permanently to Mar-a-Lago,” referring to Trump’s Florida residence. He shared the same message at his earlier stop in Winston-Salem.

“I think he’s the only one who can beat Donald Trump,” said 26-year-old Lee Goldston, district director for the Progressive Turnout Project, a grassroots organization aimed at getting Democrats to vote.

Robin Williams thought Bloomberg gave a good speech. “I like his positions on health care, his positions on education and his just sheer ability to beat Donald Trump, who’s an uncaring person,” she said. Still, Williams said she hasn’t decided on whom she will vote for. “But I do think it’s going to take a more moderate candidate to bring our country together, to get all the votes we need.”

James Bennett, 83, said, “I want somebody strong enough to beat Trump.”

Bennett, who describes himself as a moderate, said he initially was for former Vice President Joe Biden, but that “he’s not showing the strength I want.”

About half a dozen protesters stood in the rain across Market Street from the event venue at Cadillac Service Garage. They carried signs that read “Guns Save Lives” and “Bloomberg Wants to Buy a Fiefdom/Show Him You Will Not Be Slaves!”

Andrew J. Stevens, director of legislative affairs for Grass Roots North Carolina and the protesters’ spokesman, said Bloomberg is trying to buy his way into the Democratic presidential primary. Grass Roots North Carolina is a nonprofit that primarily focuses on the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

“He’s trying to spend $60 million of his money to turn state legislatures blue like he turned the state of Virginia blue, taking gun rights and turning them into gun crimes,” said Stevens, who lives in King in Stokes County. “North Carolina will not be allowed to be bought by Michael Bloomberg’s money.”

Melodie Wigent of Jamestown said she liked Bloomberg’s strong stance on gun control. “We need more restrictions on guns,” Wigent said, adding that she also liked Bloomberg’s intent be a global leader in the fight against climate change.

Sarah Lamb said she’s a registered Republican and mainly came to the rally to learn more about Bloomberg. “I don’t vote for the party, I vote for the person and what they stand for,” the 63-year-old Greensboro woman said.

Jerry Pinsker of Greensboro was impressed with Bloomberg’s speech. “He has a record of actually doing something and being a collaborative leader, where he was in New York for 12 years,” the 70-year-old said. “We need to address the new issues, not just do video clips.”

But Bloomberg’s mayoral record — he served from 2002 through 2013 — also could hurt him, according to John Dinan, a political science professor at Wake Forest University.

He faces the challenge of justifying his support for the controversial “stop-and-frisk” policing tactic that has been found to disproportionately affect minorities, Dinan said. “Especially in light of this week’s release of years-old audio of Bloomberg commenting on and defending these policies.”

Bloomberg’s campaigning as an alternative to the more progressive wing of the party also is problematic, Dinan said.

“First, he is competing against several other candidates, including Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, who also want to represent the moderate wing of the party, and nobody knows how this competition among moderate candidates will shake out.

“Second, even if Bloomberg does emerge as the choice of the moderate wing of the party, he would still have to face off against the choice of the progressive wing, which increasingly looks to be Bernie Sanders,” Dinan said. “And it is not clear how Bloomberg would fare in such a competition.”

Bloomberg ignored campaigning for the Democratic nomination in the four early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. Instead, he has focused his efforts on states like North Carolina that vote in the March 3 “Super Tuesday” contests, when the largest number of delegates are up for grabs.

A High Point University poll released Wednesday said that Bloomberg is ranked third in North Carolina among likely Democratic voters for the March 3 primary, with 16% saying they prefer him. Biden leads among likely voters with 24% and Sanders comes in second with 20%.

The Biden campaign also had a presence in Greensboro on Thursday. At another early-voting campaign event, Biden’s sister, Valerie Biden Owens, was scheduled to make an afternoon appearance on his behalf at N.C. A&T’s Dudley Building.

Bloomberg, who founded business-information and news service Bloomberg LP in 1981, is now the eighth-wealthiest American with a net worth of $62 billion according to Forbes.

Forbes reported that he has donated $8 billion to gun control, climate change and other causes.

The Associated Press reported that Bloomberg has already spent more than $300 million on TV, radio and digital advertising, according to the ad tracking firm Advertising Analytics. His campaign told the news service earlier this week that he plans to double his spending in the coming weeks.

The AP said he has flooded TV, Facebook and Google with advertising that has improved his standing, even though he has not appeared in a single debate.

In addition to the new advertising spending, AP reported, Bloomberg’s campaign announced it will also double its number of staff, taking the campaign’s headcount to 2,100.

His campaign told AP that he will have 125 offices by the week’s end and staffers in 40 states and territories, including 450 workers in the battlegrounds of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Arizona, Florida and Michigan.

Bloomberg was a Democrat before he ran for the mayor’s office in New York, changing his affiliation to Republican for the election.

The New York Times reported that he registered as an independent midway through his time at City Hall. In 2016, he spoke in support of Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention. In 2018, he officially returned to the party.

Dinan said North Carolina can expect more visits from political candidates in the coming weeks.

“The first four states are naturally getting most of candidates’ attention these weeks,” Dinan said, “but North Carolina and other populous states voting as part of the March 3 Super Tuesday primaries are going to start attracting even more candidate attention.”

An interesting article in today's newspaper

Valentine’s Day poll: You’re probably not stressed today but might get some chocolates. Page A3

Paper vs. touchscreen? Voters have mixed views on Guilford's new hand-written ballot system

GREENSBORO — Voters on Thursday got to try out the county’s new paper ballot voting system as they took part in the first day of early voting for the March 3 primary.

Guilford County had been using touchscreen machines, but switched to the new system after changes to state law. The old machines produced a paper receipt that fed through the machine, but not a paper ballot that voters could verify, as is now required.

The new system involves filling out a paper ballot by hand, then feeding it into a scanner to be read. The county also has separate units for people whose disabilities prevent them from using the standard equipment.

The county tested the system in a single precinct in November’s municipal elections. Now all voters will be using the machines. Early voting, which kicked off Thursday, runs through Feb. 29.

Among a half dozen people interviewed after voting Thursday morning, people were mixed on which system they liked better.

“I thought the (touchscreen) machines were a lot simpler,” Greensboro voter Tametrous Boone said of the old system. “I’m kind of a tech guy, a little more tech savvy.”

Greensboro resident Darrell Bryant felt the opposite.

“It’s just easier with a paper ballot in casting the vote,” he said. He also said he felt it was better to have the paper ballots for security against potential computer viruses or Russian election interference.

John Bryson of High Point said voting seemed to take longer under the new system, but he didn’t mind.

“I have no problem doing this,” he said. “This is a little slower, but that’s all right, that’s the price you pay for security.”

State legislators created the need for new voting equipment in Guilford and a number of other North Carolina counties by changing the law to require that voting machines use paper ballots.

A final deadline was set for December 2019 to end any use of machines like those Guilford has relied upon for years.

County election officials and the Guilford County Board of Commissioners decided late last year to spend about $2 million on the new equipment, which uses computerized readers to scan ballots marked by hand.

The new equipment includes 220 scanners that read ballots filled out by hand, 200 related units for people whose disabilities prevent them from using the standard equipment and two high-speed tabulators to tally votes.

The county has enough new machines to service 15 early-voting sites and all 165 of the county’s precincts during the March 3 primary, plus have several dozen in reserve for situations where extras or replacements might be needed, Chris Duffey, deputy elections director, told county commissioners last month.

For workers, there’s a big plus to the new system, according to poll worker Paul Hunnemann. The old voting machines, he said, were bulky and unwieldy on their stands, and back-breaking to move around.

Charlie Collicutt, director of the Guilford County Board of Elections, said from what he’s seen everything is going well with the new voting system. He said he’d had fears that poll workers might have issues adapting to a new system, but that’s not been the case.

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised,” he said.