May 2011 Highlights

In May, the city council gave final approval to stage two of the Revitalizing Urban Commercial Areas effort, and gave the green light to an improved recycling program citywide. But first, let's remember those who sacrificed their lives for our nation.

Memorial Day:    The City of Winston-Salem is once again partnering with the Triad Vietnam Veterans Association to sponsor a Memorial Day Service on Monday, May 30, at 6 p.m. in the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum Atrium Lobby. The service will honor all American veterans who lost their lives defending our nation, and will include a reading of the names of every service member from Forsyth County in those ranks. Everyone is invited.

Aiding small business and neighborhoods:    A key part of Winston-Salem's economic and neighborhood development strategy is revitalizing the older commercial areas which serve our urban neighborhoods. It's easy to see the connection: Where nearby shopping and dining opportunities have stayed attractive, adjoining neighborhoods have stayed vibrant. When convenient retail opportunities have declined, neighborhoods have struggled. The connection works in reverse as well. Nearby safe and attractive shopping boosts the appeal of neighborhoods.

For decades, public infrastructure investments went overwhelmingly to serve the development of new housing subdivisions sprawling continually further out from city centers. Today, rising gas prices and shifting public living preferences provide us with the opportunity to balance our public infrastructure investment strategy and boost our overall city economy and social vitality, by reinvesting in our core urban areas.

A key part of that balanced public development strategy is to see to it that our older urban commercial centers attract the investments they need to recover and thrive. That's where Winston-Salem's RUCA (Revitalizing Urban Commercial Areas) program comes into play. The RUCA program evaluates our existing urban commercial areas to see which ones rank high for a combination of need for infrastructure (e.g., parking areas, sidewalks, buildings) improvements, new activity (vacancies), and potential for recovery. We publicize the availability of matching city investment and call for private businesses and neighborhood development groups to come together with well-planned redevelopment plans. Then we evaluate the proposals and approve the good ones, within the limits of funding available.

That's what the city council approved at our May 16 meeting: phase two of our RUCA program, adding five new areas to those already underway. We authorized up to $2.8 million from the city's economic development fund to leverage more than $3 million in new private investment into those areas. An important aspect of the RUCA program is that the private funds come from local small business and the investment goes back into assisting local small business. In this effort, we're not relying on huge corporations based elsewhere.

The new RUCA area of greatest immediate interest to many Southwest Ward residents will be the one around the intersection of Academy Street and Peters Creek Parkway. It's referred to as the "West Salem" RUCA, but in fact is key to the large Ardmore neighborhood as well. The Ardmore Neighborhood Association and faith institutions based in Ardmore are active participants in the Peters Creek Community Initiative, which developed the West Salem RUCA proposal and will work with the city and business owners to follow through on its implementation. I look forward to seeing this project and the others grow into long-term improvements in our community.

Additional details of the RUCA phase two approvals are online here: http://www.cwsonline.org/sirepub/cache/2/nv5rdxesvvcc33vcj1lkfvjj/23797205262011044221533.PDF  

Improving recycling citywide:    Also at our May 16 meeting, we gave the formal go-ahead to city staff to prepare final details for the start of citywide use of roll-out recycling carts. The new roll-out carts will be much larger than the current bins (which have to be hand-carried to the curb). They will also be "single-stream" containers, in which all the recyclable materials can be mixed together (paper, plastics, metals, glass, cardboard). To save energy and money in the collection process, recycling pickup will move from weekly to once every two weeks.

A pilot program in eight neighborhoods around the city showed that recycling volume increased substantially with the large single-stream roll-out carts, even with the reduced frequency of pickups. (That will mean that the city will pay less for landfilling of wastes.) We hope to be using the roll-out carts citywide by next year. Once the new system is fully implemented, it is expected to save about $1 million per year, compared to the current carry-out bin system.

More details are online here: http://www.cwsonline.org/sirepub/cache/2/nv5rdxesvvcc33vcj1lkfvjj/23808405262011044054500.PDF

City financial information and proposed 2011-12 budget now online:    Just in time for the final month of the annual city budget preparation process, Winston-Salem's city financial information is now more easily accessible online. For information on the data available and links to access it, see http://www.cityofws.org/Home/Departments/MarketingAndCommunications/NewsArchive/News2011/Articles/CityFinancialInformationNowOnline  

An overview and the details of the city manager's proposed budget have now also been posted online. As usual, the city council will focus the month of June on reviewing, refining, and finalizing our annual budget. Read the details at http://www.cityofws.org/Home/Departments/MarketingAndCommunications/NewsArchive/News2011/Articles/BudgetProposedFor2011-2012

Ardmore post office:    The new contract post office branch is now open inside the new Ace Hardware in the Cloverdale Shopping Center. One advantage of the new contract office is its extended hours, including Saturdays. The new contract office will offer all the usual postal services except for individual rental mail boxes. The old Ardmore post office branch will close June 17, and the rental boxes there will be relocated to the center city station at 200 Town Run Lane downtown.

Neighborhood zoning notices:    The council at our May 2 meeting gave final approval to an expansion of the public notice requirements for proposed zoning changes and special use permits which have to be considered by the city council. The new provision requires that first class mail notice of the proposed permit or zoning change be sent to every property owner within 500 feet of any part of the property for which a change is proposed. Previously, only property owners whose property actually touched the affected lot had to be notified. That had resulted in some changes being considered before residents of an adjacent neighborhood even heard of the request. To see the language as approved, see http://www.cwsonline.org/sirepub/cache/2/nv5rdxesvvcc33vcj1lkfvjj/23434305262011043652714.PDF

In addition to that rule change, Planning Department staff have started other enhanced public notice procedures, including improved placement of zoning change notice signs where they are most likely to be seen by neighbors; showing upcoming zoning requests on TV13 and the city website; and encouraging neighborhood groups to appoint a "zoning watch" person to keep up with requests in their areas.