October 2013 Highlights

Happy Halloween! My report for October includes updates on a number of city transportation projects, plus notes on several events/activities coming up in November. A lot of interest is happening, so this is a long report this month.

Leaf collection begins November 4:    The ever-popular loose leaf collection service begins this year on November 4. First pickups begin this cycle in the northwestern quadrant of the city, so southwest residents should have plenty of time to have our fall leaves ready for pickup. This is the first of three city-wide passes of the leaf collection service for this season. You can track the progress of collection crews online, and get an estimate of when to expect them in your neighborhood, here: http://www.cwsonline.org/leafcollection/

Here are the tips for best collection service:

--Rake leaves to the edge of the yard, behind the curb and not in the street.

--If there's a sidewalk in front of your house, don't block it. Leave plenty of sidewalk space for walkers and baby strollers to pass through.

--Please keep sticks, rocks and other debris out of the leaves; they can damage the collection equipment.

--Don't park on, in front of, or near leaves on any day when the collection trucks may be reaching your area.

--Don't put the leaves on a tarp or over a storm drain.

As always, I'll be available to try to help trouble-shoot collection problems.

Winston-Salem general election voting concludes Nov. 5:    The Winston-Salem municipal general election for mayor and city council seats wraps up in less than a week. Residents of the Southwest Ward will have the opportunity to vote for both mayor and your city council representative. Early voting continues this week at the Forsyth County Government Center, 201 N. Chestnut Street. Voting hours there will be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. tomorrow (Fri. Nov. 1) and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sat. Nov. 2. Election day voting is Nov. 5 at your regular polling place in your individual precinct. If you've recently moved and don't know where your polling place is, check the Forsyth Board of Elections website at www.forsythvotes.org. Remember that if you or someone you know has moved and needs to update voter registration (or register for the first time), you can do that and vote in one stop only during the early voting period.

Sunday bus service begins November 3:    This Sunday for the first time in decades, Winston-Salem residents who depend on the bus system to get to work and elsewhere will have access to affordable transportation seven days a week. It's been a long effort to get our city to this point, and I'm pleased to have been able to help push matters along. One of the seven Sunday routes will run through the Southwest Ward, connecting to both of our major medical centers and the Hanes Mall area, as well as downtown. Sunday service will run 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. For full schedules and more details, go to http://wstransit.com/452/

Road work on Stratford at Business 40 starts November 4:    The state Department of Transportation has notified us that road surfacing work on the Stratford Road bridge across Business 40 is scheduled to begin (weather permitting) at 9 a.m. on Monday, November 4. The announced schedule projects rotating lane closures on the bridge from November 4 through 12. Please be alert for shifting traffic patterns in that area during this time. NC DOT is in the process of re-working some of the connections and installing a new traffic signal on the south side of the bridge to improve safety and ease of traffic movement there. I don't have the detailed schedule on that work yet.

Research Parkway opens:    The new Research Parkway opened last week (Oct. 22) in the former Piedmont Triad Research Park (recently re-branded the "Innovation Quarter"...pr folks and their imaginations...). Substantively, this new road connector should be a major boost to continuing development of this key economic center for our city. It connects the north and south sides of the research park expansion area, facilitating expanded construction and new development there. As I commented at the opening, we also expect it to connect Winston-Salem residents to new jobs.

Pedestrian projects update:    Work on the Cloverdale Avenue pedestrian safety project is nearing a conclusion. The intersection reconfiguration is complete and the road base reconstruction is finally done. Final concrete pouring and the surface layer of asphalt are anticipated over the next week. The multiple days of bad weather (rain or cold) during the project work period pushed the expected completion date out from its original November 1. The contractor is working toward a November 8 goal to re-open Cloverdale to through traffic. This very busy stretch of Cloverdale will have new sidewalk and safer pedestrian intersection crossings.

In addition, the Little Creek Greenway is most of the way through the clearing stage, and installation of the rock base has begun. That greenway's phase one will connect the Atwood neighborhoods to Little Creek Park and Recreation Center, and connect those neighborhoods and Salem Woods to the Little Creek shopping center on Hanes Mall Boulevard. Target date for opening of the greenway is May next year.

Sidewalk requests:    Every time we open a new sidewalk, I'm reminded of the popularity of sidewalks--as new or renewed requests for sidewalk construction elsewhere come in as a response. Residents along Griffith Road are now vocally pressing their case (a good one, in my opinion) for pedestrian safety improvements there. FYI, here's the list of sidewalk construction evaluation requests from the Southwest Ward that the city Transportation Department is currently sorting through: Griffith Road, Southwin Drive, Melinda Drive, S. Westview Drive, and Patricia Lane. All of those originated with resident requests. Others can be added. We're dealing with many requests competing for a limited funding pool, so please have patience. The Southwest Ward has over the past two years benefited from new sidewalk construction on Healy Drive, Old Vineyard Road, Foxcroft Drive, Gales Avenue, Ebert Street, and Magnolia Street, among other spots.

"Bike Friendly Community":    Finally on the transportation front, there's indication that our efforts to improve safety and opportunities for cyclists are showing results. Winston-Salem received our first "Bicycle Friendly Community" award this month from the League of American Cyclists. We were recognized for installing 12 miles of bicycle lanes and five miles of shared lane markings; creating a Bike Smarts Safety Town course for children to practice their biking skills off the street; installing 125 new bike racks throughout the city; coordinating the Safe Routes to School and Bike Smarts education programs; and other public safety education efforts. For more info, contact city bicycle and pedestrian coordinator Matthew Burczyk at mattbk@cityofws.org.

Cell tower zoning changes proposed:    I've been asked recently about the status of a request under review by the city/county Planning Board to change the way requests for new cell tower placement are reviewed and approved. That proposal did not originate with or pass through the City Council or any of our committees yet, so I have not yet studied it in detail. I have committed to a careful review of the proposal, and discussion with interested parties including neighborhood groups, prior to any action by the City Council. For those interested, the proposal is currently scheduled for a public hearing and discussion by the Planning Board at its November 14 meeting. If the Planning Board approves a proposed change, it must then go to another public hearing and discussion by the City Council. It is also the normal practice of the City Council to refer significant proposed zoning ordinance changes to its own Community Development, Housing, and General Government Committee (of which I am currently the chair) for detailed review prior to Council action. Interested people can review the current proposal online here: http://www.cityofws.org/Portals/0/pdf/Planning/Zoning/ZoningCases/October2013/UDO244.pdf

Magnolia Street problem property:    The house at 700 Magnolia Street, site of a recent tragic homicide, has long been regarded by neighbors as a problem property (in its unattractive appearance and marginal upkeep by its absentee owner). City efforts to push for long-term improvements there have in the past been frustrated. As I have told concerned neighbors this month, I have asked the City Attorney's office for a review of alternative courses of action the city can pursue to more aggressively press for cleanup action in such long-term problem cases. I anticipate feedback from our legal staff on this question in November.

Online request form for police representatives at events now available:    A presentation or updates from a Police Department representative can be a real asset to a neighborhood meeting focused on discussion of public safety concerns. Now there's an easy way to coordinate requests for that WSPD participation. Use the new online request form, found on the Police Department's Community Resource Unit page at www.WSPD.org. If your group has any problems using the form, you can call the Community Resource Unit office at 773-7835.

NCLM report:    Earlier this month I participated as Winston-Salem's representative in the annual conference of the N.C. League of Municipalities (NCLM) in Hickory. The NCLM meetings are important opportunities to exchange technical information and strategies with other local elected officials from around our state. I found the most useful sessions this year to be the practical discussions on how to best protect our cities' interests in dealing with the new state legislative and executive branch leadership. Surprisingly few of the new state legislators and administrators have previous experience in local government. This means that on a wide range of topics critical to providing good local public services at an affordable cost--from tax reform to public safety to transportation--we're having to start with basic education for them on what cities do, how we pay for it, and how state government in Raleigh can help or hinder that process.

Other upcoming November activities/notes:

--Applications for appointments to openings on the Community Appearance Commission (CAC) are now being accepted through Friday, Nov. 8. The CAC works to enhance the visual quality and character of our city and county. Interested candidates should contact the City Secretary's office at 727-2224 or reneep@cityofws.org. Appointments are made by the Mayor Pro Tem.

--An open house for parents and children to learn more about free arts classes and activities, called "Art in the Afternoon", will be held Saturday, Nov. 9, 1 to 4 p.m., sponsored by the Sawtooth School for Visual Art, 251 N. Spruce Street. More info: www.sawtooth.org.

--The Peters Creek Community Initiative (PCCI) was created to help neighborhoods and businesses on both sides of the northern section of Peters Creek Parkway work together to promote neighborhood-friendly redevelopment and improvement efforts along that corridor and nearby. PCCI is currently working with the city Transportation department to help ensure that roadway improvements under consideration there address pedestrian and bicycle safety. Two public comment meetings are scheduled on those proposals: Nov. 18 at 6 p.m., Green Street United Methodist Church; and Nov. 19 at 6 p.m., Ardmore Baptist Church. For more information, contact PCCI via david@bearstrategies.com.

That's my report for October. As always, you are welcome to email me at danbesse@danbesse.org with comments or questions. Thanks!