July 2009 Highlights

In July, the City Council capped over four years of work by adopting a tree conservation ordinance.

Tree conservation ordinance adopted:     Winston-Salem will now join other major North Carolina cities in requiring a reasonable degree of tree conservation during new development.  Under the new ordinance adopted by the city council on July 20, most new developments must preserve or plant 10 to 12 per cent of their sites in trees.  The percentage will vary depending on factors such as size of the development, its location, its type (commercial, multifamily, residential subdivision, etc.), and where trees exist on the site. Trees provide great value to property owners, the surrounding neighborhoods, and the community at large.  They enhance property values, filter stormwater runoff, reduce flooding, provide bird and wildlife habitat, and help clean the air.  Winston-Salem's tree conservation ordinance aims first at conserving trees which provide the greatest environmental value, such as where they protect floodplains and streams.  Our ordinance also goes beyond many other cities' codes in encouraging planting of new trees.

The process of designing a tree ordinance which protects these values without unfairly burdening new development or property owners was a challenging one.  It was especially rewarding to see all the community stakeholder interests come together to help work out final details.  In the end, the compromise tree ordinance was adopted unanimously by the city council.  It received the support of stakeholder groups ranging from the Winston-Salem Neighborhood Alliance, the Sierra Club, and the Community Appearance Commission, to the Home Builders Association of Winston-Salem and the Winston-Salem Regional Association of Realtors.

I'd like to again thank the hard-working representatives of these groups, city-county Planning staff, and all the others who played roles in achieving this important community milestone.

Stimulus funds will hire more police officers:     Winston-Salem received other good news in late July with word that our application for a federal stimulus funding grant for law enforcement was successful.  The Winston-Salem Police Department will get nearly $3.9 million to hire 25 new police officers.  This is the second largest grant received by any law enforcement agency in North Carolina. 

This funding will put more police officers out in our community to deter crime and protect public safety.  The grant covers the cost of creating and staffing these positions through their first three years.  

National Night Out, August 4:     That good news about new community policing positions comes just in time to help brighten our annual National Night Out events this Tuesday, August 4.  Neighborhood watch groups around our city will join others across the nation in celebrating citizen involvement in preventing crime in our neighborhoods.  At least 30 gatherings (including five in the Southwest Ward) are planned in neighborhoods in Winston-Salem between 6 and 9 p.m. on August 4.  This year, Winston-Salem's citywide opening ceremony will take place at 6 p.m. in the 500 block of Pecan Ridge Circle, located near Union Cross Road and I-40. The opening ceremony moves around the city to a new site each year, to encourage broad community involvement.

Neighborhood watch groups work effectively year-round in helping police keep an eye on the community.  Involved neighbors meet monthly, select block captains, and set up communications plans.  They help watch for suspicious activities such as strangers going through yards or peering in windows, and alert police quickly to respond to observed problems.  If you don't have a neighborhood watch where you live, I will be happy to work with you and your interested neighbors to set one up.

Neighborhoods meet in Salem Woods, Sheffield Gardens:     I was encouraged this month to meet with residents in two areas that have struggled in recent years to create or re-create active neighborhood associations.  I met July 26 at Little Creek Park with residents of the Salem Woods area, and on July 27 with residents of Sheffield Gardens in the South Fork area.  After discussing current neighborhood issues, the Salem Woods residents set a next meeting time of 7 p.m. on Tuesday, August 18, at the Little Creek Recreation Center.  At that time, they will discuss plans for formally reviving the area's neighborhood association. The Sheffield Gardens residents moved even more quickly, selecting interim association leaders at their July 27 meeting, and agreeing to meet again August 3. Neighborhood associations serve to help bring residents of an area together to address a broad range of shared concerns.  These can include public safety and neighborhood appearance issues, housing problems, street traffic and sidewalks, and even community social event opportunities.  Areas with active neighborhood associations tend to become safer, more attractive, and more highly valued places to live.

Baseball stadium update:     In July, the city council approved amendments to the baseball stadium plan which will result in the city acquiring ownership to the new stadium and the land beneath it this year, instead of in 25 years as originally proposed.  This will further protect the public's investment in this new community resource. As I reported last month, repayment of the city's stadium loan will come out of revenues from the baseball team and other stadium uses, not from tax revenues.  The city's participation is also leveraging major contributions from new private investors and a new underwriting consortium of banks. These new revenues will go directly to the costs of completing construction.  None will go to private investor profits, and none will go to pay off the developers. Finally, to help guard against the development of future problems, and to oversee the completion and operation of the stadium, the city is appointing a citizen oversight committee.  This committee will receive regular and frequent reports and financial statements during construction and after completion of the stadium.  Members of the committee, to be approved by the City Council, will include individuals with expertise in construction and business management, banking and financial management, and sports management.  Potential members have been screened to avoid members with financial ties to the team, the developers, or city officials.

Election campaign and politics:     On July 6, I formally filed for re-election to a third term as Winston-Salem City Council Member for the Southwest Ward.  If you decide that I've done a reasonably good job in this post so far, I will welcome your support for re-election. You may have noticed some campaign debates already starting.  If during the campaign you find anything you read or hear about city issues to be of interest or concern, you're more than welcome to contact me.  I'll be happy to respond. In the meantime, I'll try to keep campaign politics separate from these monthly updates.  However, if you'd be interested in receiving my periodic campaign bulletins as well, or otherwise would like to be involved in my re-election campaign, please let me know.  Your help will be welcome.