May 2006 Highlights

During May, the city approved our first Neighborhood Conservation Overlay district, adopted the new plan to end chronic homelessness, and began public meetings on the proposed Sidewalk and Pedestrian Facilities Plan. We also started review of the city manager’s proposed city budget for 2006-2007.

Neighborhood Conservation Overlay district approved: At our May 1 meeting, the City Council unanimously approved the petition from the Country Club Estates Neighborhood Association for creation of the city’s first Neighborhood Conservation Overlay (NCO) zoning district. Last year, the City Council updated and clarified the NCO planning ordinance, to make it easier to understand and use. It is intended as one tool which neighborhoods may pursue to help preserve and enhance the appearance and special character of older neighborhoods. Using this tool, neighborhoods can work with planning staff to propose special zoning rules for their area, dealing with criteria such as lot and building size and appearance, to encourage the reuse of older buildings and infill development which is compatible with the character of that neighborhood.

Representatives of the Country Club Estates (CCE) neighborhood began working on their NCO proposal last October. They followed the process designed to ensure active public discussion and careful consideration of any proposed new standards. This process included public discussions, complete home-by-home surveys of the area, a vote by all property owners, and public hearings before the City/County Planning Board (twice) and the City Council. In the end, nearly 70% of the property owners supported the proposal, and turned out in strength at the City Council meeting to show their support. In the case of the CCE NCO, the new zoning overlay standards are designed to conserve the neighborhood’s more open and "greener" appearance involving what are relatively large lots and deep setbacks for an urban neighborhood.

By definition, NCOs are not "cookie-cutter" approaches which would work in all the city’s neighborhoods. However, these standards suited the residents of the CCE neighborhood, and I was happy to support them. The families and individuals who led this NCO effort worked hard and deserve much credit for their success.

Plan to End Chronic Homelessness adopted: At our May 15 meeting, the City Council formally adopted the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Ten-Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness in our community. The plan focuses on strategies to address "chronic" homelessness, defined as the situation of those who have been without a permanent address for several months straight, or repeatedly. It proposes ways to better coordinate services, and more effectively use resources, to move these individuals into stable housing situations. It anticipates placing homeless persons and families into permanent housing as quickly as possible, with the provision of longer-term support services to help keep them there, by addressing health, disability, and other severe problems. These strategies recognize that the cost of these services to the public is actually less than the per-person cost of repeatedly dealing with the same folks through shelters and emergency services. It’s also a more humane approach. Winston-Salem’s plan was developed with the support of the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, and led by a local commission appointed by Mayor Allen Joines and County Commission Chair Gloria Whisenhunt.

Sidewalk and Pedestrian Facilities Plan hearings: The draft Winston-Salem Urban Area Sidewalk and Pedestrian Facilities Plan was released May 15, and public review and comment is underway. The plan lays out policies for ensuring the maintenance and growth of sidewalks, greenways, and other pedestrian facilities, to meet public safety, transportation, and recreation needs. It also contains maps of existing and planned sidewalks, and ranking criteria for identifying priority locations for additional sidewalks. To review the plan in full detail, go to www.cityofws.org and click on the link to the Sidewalk and Pedestrian Plan. For an in-person review and comment opportunity, stop by one of the remaining public review drop-in sessions: Wednesday, June 7, 4 to 7 p.m., Southside Branch Library, 3185 Buchanan Street; and Wednesday, June 14, 10 a.m. to noon, and 4 to 7 p.m., City Hall South (3rd Floor Conference Room), 100 E. First Street. Written comments can also be submitted through June 15 to gregv@cityofws.org.

Draft city annual budget released: The City Council has begun to review the City Manager’s draft annual city budget, which was released on May 18. Due to strong growth this past year in the city’s property tax base, and projected growth in sales tax revenues, the draft budget is able to meet public service needs without a property tax rate increase. The draft budget includes a continued market pay rate increase for police and firefighters, and the addition of another 12-officer police squad to focus on street crime (including gang activity). The draft budget does include some proposed fee increases, most notably water, sewer, and stormwater. Those fee increases are proposed to cover increased water and sewer operating costs, and to begin paying for a backlog of stormdrain repair and upfits. For the first time, the draft budget also includes funding to begin implementing "traffic calming" projects to address traffic and pedestrian safety problems. Formal public hearings will be held June 8 and June 19, and the draft budget is available for review now, at www.cityofws.org. (Click on 06-07 Budget.)

In general, May was another active month for me as your council representative. In addition to the formal council and committee meetings, and constituent service call responses, I participated in a quick pace of public events. Those included the Community Appearance Commission’s Heritage Awards Event, where the Ardmore Neighborhood Association was recognized with the community advocacy award of the year; a new bike route launch (East Winston Loop); a farewell ceremony for the 105th Engineer Group of the N.C. National Guard, being deployed to Iraq; the opening ceremony for Law Enforcement Month, recognizing officers who were injured or lost their lives in the line of duty; the opening of the Piedmont Triad Research Park’s Bioscience Research Building One; the annual meeting of the Forsyth County Infant Mortality Reduction Coalition; the CHANGE community delegates assembly; and the Memorial Day observation event at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum.