In August, the City Council approved an update to Winston-Salem's minimum housing code, as well as the new Southwest Suburban Area Plan.
Minimum housing code: Fire and suffocation hazards were a leading target of updates to Winston-Salem's minimum housing code, approved August 18 by the city council. These changes were the subject of a year-long public review, with hearings and participation by affected parties, including homeowners, realtors, public housing managers, and others.
As urged by fire safety professionals, the updated code requires that residential properties have a permanent heating facility (not just rely on unvented space heaters), and that all bedrooms have smoke detectors. Reliance on unvented combustion heaters in residences is a fire hazard and creates a serious risk of carbon monoxide suffocation.
To be effective warning devices, smoke detectors need to be installed on individual bedroom ceilings. (That is already a requirement of state building code for new residential construction.) Otherwise, a fire which originates in a bedroom (from a cigarette, candle, or wiring short) can easily result in the death or unconciousness of that room's occupants before smoke reaches an alarm outside the room. This minimum housing code requirement for existing housing can be met using inexpensive battery-powered smoke alarms. In order to permit plenty of time to bring residences into compliance, this smoke-alarm code change does not take effect for 18 months following August 18.
These and other changes are primarily of benefit to low-income families relying on rental housing—as well as all neighborhoods which may be affected by the quality and safety of rental housing. For homeowner-occupants, the practical value of these changes will continue to be primarily educational. There is currently no city program for routine inside inspections of non-commercial residential housing, and no plan to create one.
Southwest Suburban Area Plan approved: On August 4, the city council gave final approval to the Southwest Suburban Area Plan. This city/county small area plan covers parts of the West, Southwest, and South Wards, as well as some unincorporated area. Covered Southwest Ward neighborhoods include Burke Park, Hannaford, Atwood, Ashford, Westbrook, and Salem Woods, for example. The small area plans are intended to give city/county planners guidance in reviewing requests for new or improved facilities or zoning requests in the affected areas. They also serve as useful guidance for city investment in needed facilities, from parks to transportation. Among other details, the new plan calls for protecting residential areas from inappropriate development intrusions, and for expanding sidewalks and other pedestrian and biking opportunities. The plan was drafted over the past year with assistance from a Citizen Advisory Committee and several public input meetings. It can be reviewed online at www.cityofws.org/planning.
Southwest Area Plan study to begin: Now that the Southwest Suburban Area Plan has been completed, City/County Planning staff have started work on the updated Southwest Area Plan. This plan covers the more urban neighborhoods within the southwestern quadrant of the city, and includes the large Ardmore neighborhood plus some smaller neighborhoods between Business 40 and Stratford Road. Residents and business people within this area who wish to be on the notice list for public meetings discussing this plan should please let me know at your earliest convenience.
Greenhouse gas emissions and action plan: City staff will discuss a draft greenhouse gas emissions inventory and local action plan at city council committee meetings in September. I expect the item to appear on the agenda of the Community Development/Housing/General Government Committee on Tuesday, Sept. 9, at City Hall, beginning at 4 p.m.
Upcoming events: Winston-Salem's Fire and Police Departments will lead our annual September 11 Commemoration on Thursday, Sept. 11, at 10 a.m. at Fire Station No. 1, 651 N. Marshall Street.
Winston-Salem will host a series of Green City/Sustainability events and workshops the week of Sept. 15-19. For details, see http://www.cityofws.org/Home/CityGovernment/Mayor/Forms/Winston-SalemSustainableCityCelebration.
Winston-Salem will celebrate our annual downtown Rock the Block street festival on Friday, Sept. 19, 6 p.m. to midnight.