September 2008 Highlights

In September, the City Council approved goals and a local action plan for reducing our contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and global climate change.

Greenhouse gas emissions and action plan:      On September 15, the city council adopted a greenhouse gas emissions reduction target for Winston-Salem city government operations.  The council also approved an action plan for reaching the reduction targets, and set up a Community Sustainability Program Committee to help move forward "green" initiatives for our community.  The emissions reduction targets are to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions from city government operations by 2010, and by 2010 to determine the best methods for reducing emissions to 2006 levels.  These are modest goals, but meaningful ones, and they should help pave the way for more ambitious work over time. 

     In addition to the sustainability committee, the approved action plan includes steps such as the following:

  • Reduce emissions from city fleet vehicles
  • Implement energy conservation and efficiency measures
  • Promote the use of alternative fuel vehicles
  • Expand and apply sustainable land use planning strategies
  • Promote the use and expansion of public transit and non-motorized transportation options.

It's important to note that most of the strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions are also efficiency measures and money-savers for taxpayers.  The entire Greenhouse Gas Inventory and Local Action Plan to Reduce Emissions can be found online at http://www.cityofws.org/Assets/CityOfWS//Documents/Green/GreenhouseGasInventoryRecommended_www.pdf.

Civic Plaza project:     Also on September 15, the city council authorized city staff to develop a detailed proposal for city participation in a "civic plaza" park/outdoor events venue downtown.  The proposed project concept also includes an underground parking deck for new downtown retail, commercial, and residential use.  The concept includes substantial financial participation from other sources.  During discussion, I noted that the general public has relatively little information on the costs and merits of this proposal, and that much additional public discussion would be required before the council could responsibly adopt a final project plan.  Among the issues which require further discussion are the public purpose need and use for the project, the details of its financing, and security for the public's investment in its development.

"Flag lot" subdivision rules:       "Flag lots" are oddly configured residential lots, laid out to take advantage of undeveloped space which may have only a narrow street access.  The name derives from a typical lot shape, in which the area for construction is the "flag" connected to the street by a narrow accessway "flagpole".  A complaint from residents of the South Fork area recently alerted me to a deficiency in city subdivision standards for these flag lots.  Under current rules, there is no bar to the creation of an undersized construction lot on the street, connected to a "flagpole" which runs behind one or more adjacent lots, but which has no practical value.  Under this misuse of the concept, a new house construction can take place on a badly undersized lot, out of keeping with the character of the neighborhood as a whole.  At my request, the Community Development committee this month asked city planning staff to develop changes to subdivision rules, which would prohibit this kind of unintended result.  I expect staff to report back on options in November.

Southwest Area Plan process begins:     In August, the city council gave final approval to the Southwest Suburban Area Plan.  This month, public work officially begins on the Southwest Area Plan, which covers most of the denser urban areas of the Southwest Ward, especially the Ardmore neighborhood, the area around both hospitals, the commercial areas along Stratford Road between Silas Creek Parkway and Business 40, and the smaller residential neighborhoods nearby.  These 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. 

     The Southwest Area Plan process kicks off with an open public "visioning meeting" tonight (September 30) where all interested people who live or work in the covered area are invited to come hear an explanation of the process and share your thoughts on what the area should look like over the coming years.   It begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Miller Park Recreation Center.

NLC committee work:     I represent Winston-Salem and North Carolina on two committees of the National League of Cities (NLC).  One of those committees is the Steering Committee of the Large Cities Council.  As a steering committee member, I will take part in four meetings a year to discuss issues and policies of particular concern to larger cities (over 200,000 population) around the nation. 

     In order to make the best use of our time, the members of the Large Cities Council have been meeting jointly with other NLC committees which oversee policies in important substantive areas.  For example, last year we met with the Public Safety steering committee in Charlotte.  This month, we met jointly with the Transportation committee, which was holding its fall meeting in Laramie, Wyoming.  (This explains the otherwise pretty funny circumstance of the Large Cities Council meeting in Laramie, population 30,000.)

     At the meeting, we heard from national experts in transportation management, including issues related to both roads and public transit.  We reviewed the future prospects for federal transportation funding, and discussed how we can effectively advocate for funding that is both sufficient and efficient.  Finally, we exchanged information on the best practices under use by cities around the nation for efficient development and management of local roads and transit systems.

Upcoming events:     There's a good event coming up along an edge of the Southwest Ward which can use some good work:  The Peters Creek Festival has been announced by a new group called the Peters Creek Community Initiative.  It will begin this Saturday, Oct. 4, at 12:30 p.m. with a meeting and lunch at the West Salem Shopping Center, followed by a 2 p.m. Peters Creek cleanup project (a part of the citywide "Big Sweep" cleanup day).  More information is available from peterscreekcommunity@gmail.com.

     The Ardmore Neighborhood Association will have its annual meeting on Tuesday, October 14, at 7 p.m. at Ardmore Methodist Church, 630 S. Hawthorne Road.  The Ardmore 5k race will take place on Saturday morning, October 18.  For details, contact ardmore5k@aol.com.  The Knollwood Manor Neighborhood Association will meet on Sunday, October 26, at 4:30 p.m. at Bethesda Moravian Church on Bethesda Road.