April 2009 Highlights

During April, Winston-Salem made important decisions on federal stimulus bill projects and moved forward on other work.

Recovery Act projects approved:     In April, important local projects in transportation and energy efficiency were among those receiving approval from the City Council for use of federal Recovery Act funding.    

  • Surface transportation system (including repaving roads and highways, intersection safety improvements, sidewalks, bike facilities, and greenways).  Approved projects in (or benefiting) Winston-Salem include repaving I-40 between Harper Road and Jonestown Road; installing sidewalk and a bus shelter on New Walkertown Road; installing sidewalk and bus shelters on Peters Creek Parkway; and resurfacing NW Boulevard with added bike lane and sidewalk.  Criteria for project approval in this first round of Recovery Act funding included the need to be ready to start almost immediately.  Many additional projects are eligible for consideration in a second phase of funding later this year.
  • Public transit (WSTA bus system).  Projects approved for funding include extensive bus repair and maintenance; additional Trans-Aid small vehicles; and one additional diesel-electric hybrid bus.
  • Energy efficiency.  These projects will help reduce energy use by the city, thereby saving local tax dollars, reducing air pollution, and cutting our dependence on fossil fuels.  Projects approved by the city (subject to final approval by the U.S. Dept. of Energy) include energy efficiency improvements (lighting, HVAC, and remotely programable thermostats) in a large number of city facilities; LED lighting in pilot project locations (a parking garage, and selected street and pedestrian lighting locations); and several other "shovel-ready" energy projects.  The City Council also approved putting half of the annual savings from these projects over the next ten years back into an Energy Conservation Fund to help finance additional city energy efficiency capital projects.

     Please keep in mind that the legislation passed by Congress and signed by President Obama includes specific directions on the types of projects eligible for funding.  These categories are intended to accomplish both job creation during the current severe recession, and to advance specific national goals—like improving our transportation system or reducing dependence on imported oil.  That means that we at the local level don't have discretion to shift funding between categories (for example, between energy efficiency and law enforcement).  However, we won't at the city level approve spending the available federal funds on a project unless we believe that the project will provide benefits for our residents here in our community.

New parks facilities:      I'd like to call park users' attention to newly restored facilities in two of our Southwest Ward parks.  First, the tot swings in Miller Park have now been replaced with new safe equipment and landscaping, and are ready for kids to use!  Second, tennis players should note that Ardmore Park (on Melrose Street behind Redeemer School) has two newly resurfaced tennis courts ready for your spring weather use, so come on down.  I'll note here that other Southwest Ward projects, like replacement of playground equipment at Little Creek Rec Center, and phase one of the Little Creek Greenway, are still on our priority to-do list.

"Flag lot" rules:     Builders know that a "flag lot" is shorthand for an irregularly-shaped land lot in a subdivision, often characterized by a rectangle with a long "handle" or "flag pole".  Proper use of the flag lot can involve an extended driveway to an otherwise buildable piece of land which only lacks extended street frontage.  Unfortunately, there have been some examples of misuse of the flag lot concept as well.  One was called to my attention last year by concerned neighbors in the South Fork area.  A developer there had squeezed a house onto an undersized lot by attaching to it a useless "flag pole" of land extending through the back yards of three other adjacent houses which he also owned.  In order to prevent similar future problems, the City Council in April approved changes to the detailed requirements for subdivision lot shapes.  These changes should allow city Planning staff to weed out such tricks during the subdivision review process.

Tree ordinance update:     I know that many of you are avidly interested in our ongoing efforts to craft new development rules that will result in saving and planting more trees in new residential and commercial projects.  We're working hard on those, so please bear with us a little longer.  It's a complex process in which we're trying to balance tree-save goals, new tree planting, new housing costs, and other legitimate concerns.  Those of you who are especially interested in this process are invited to participate in a public review and comment session on the latest draft tree ordinance.  That session will begin at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, May 12, in City Hall, and last up to two hours.  

Neighborhood Stabilization Program:     Finally this month, I'm happy to report that Winston-Salem and Forsyth County will participate in the Neighborhood Stabilization Program which was authorized by the federal Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 to help respond to the ongoing foreclosure crisis.  Under this program, the city will administer $1.575 million (a little over one and a half million) in federal funds for this program.  The goal of the program is to help prevent destabilization of property values and housing conditions in neighborhoods hardest hit by large numbers of foreclosures.  The program provides down payment and rehabilitation assistance for low- and moderate-income families (up to 120% of area median income) to purchase homes which have been foreclosed on in these harder-hit areas.  It can also provide assistance to non-profit organizations to purchase and/or rehabilitate foreclosed rental properties in these areas.  Much of Winston-Salem, including most of the Southwest Ward, is in areas eligible for this program. 

   Further details on this program are available from Winston-Salem's Dept. of Housing and Neighborhood Development.