April 2007 Highlights

April was Fair Housing Month in Winston-Salem, and May will see the start of Council meetings on our annual city budget process.

Fair Housing Month:     April was recognized as "Fair Housing Month" across the nation, including here in Winston-Salem.  Each year, programs are held to remind the public that federal law prohibits discrimination in housing sales or rentals on the basis of race, religion, national origin, gender, or family status.  The Winston-Salem Regional Association of Realtors is always an active co-sponsor of these educational programs, along with the City of Winston-Salem's Human Relations Commission.  Thanks go to those who help promote fair and equal access to housing in our community.

Special Use Limited District Zoning:     On April 2, the City Council gave final approval to a new type of zoning district.  "Special Use Limited District" zoning will provide a way to attach simple conditions to the use of rezoned property, without requiring the zoning applicant to prepare a full-blown detailed site plan map.  There are a number of instances where this will be an efficient and helpful option.  For example, there are instances in which the only special issue for a tract of land might be a single item like the width of the buffer between existing homes and any new development.  In other instances, the only special concern may be to bar from a specific site one or more of the uses which could be normally be made of property in that general zoning category.  The "Special Use Limited District" zoning permits the attachment of such simple narrative conditions, without the inefficiency of requiring a full site plan when one is not needed.  Full "Special Use" zoning will still be used when a site plan and complex conditions are needed.

Efficient vehicles:     As I've discussed before, Winston-Salem adopted last year a policy requiring that purchases of new city vehicles be reviewed to ensure that the most fuel- and emissions-efficient alternatives are used.  (In other words, we want to buy vehicles that use less gas and create less pollution.)  On April 16, the Council approved another application of this important policy.  In this case, we approved the purchase of 15 new cars for police department administrative use.  City staff carefully reviewed the department's needs for administrative vehicles, including how large a trunk was needed for hauling police equipment.  In this case, we were able to select a four-cylinder sedan model for the replacement of larger, more powerful cars.  After all, these administrative-use cars are non-pursuit vehicles.  (Never buy gas-guzzlers when they're not needed.)

Southwest Suburban Area Plan "vision" meeting:     As I reported last month, work has started on the Southwest Suburban Area Plan, which covers areas beyond the arc of Silas Creek Parkway toward  Clemmons and southwards.    A Citizens Advisory Committee has begun meeting, and will hold an open "visioning" meeting on Thursday, May 3, beginning at 6 p.m. at Little Creek Recreation Center.  All interested residents are welcome.  For more details, go to www.cityofws.org/planning, then to Area Plans, then Southwest Suburban.  (Small area plans are the detailed guidance documents referred to by city-county planning staff as guides for development in areas of the city.  They're also useful guides to long-range services planning for other city departments.  These plans are created (or updated) with extensive public discussion every few years.)

Budget process begins in May:     The last item for my April report is to note that the city's annual new budget approval process begins in May.  The City Council's Finance Committee has scheduled open-meeting budget workshops for the detailed review of a draft budget proposal, beginning at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, May 29; and at 4 p.m. on Thursday, May 31.  Interested citizens are welcome to sit in on these and later workshops.  (Hearings for formal comment from the public will be held in June.)

As always, you are welcome to contact me with questions or suggestions, at danbesse@danbesse.org or 722-1674.  Thanks.