December 2014 Highlights

New safety equipment for firefighters and stronger limits on electronic sweepstakes operations were among the issues acted on in December.  First, here’s an update on curbside collections for January.

Leaves and trees collections:       Leaves:  As of this writing, the final round of leaf collection for this season is in progress, and the quadrant including most of the Southwest Ward is projected to be reached beginning around January 7.  You can check the estimated date your neighborhood will be reached by using the link below.  NOTE:  Estimated collection dates may be revised based on weather and leaf volumes, so please check again and don't wait until the last minute to put out leaves at the curb.  Please remember to keep all sticks and other debris out of the leaf piles.  Be sure that your cars are not parked on or in front of leaves any day that collection may take place.  Place leaves behind the curb and do not block sidewalks or travel lanes.  Thanks!  Leaf collection info:  http://www.cityofws.org/departments/sanitation/collections/leaf-routes

Christmas trees:   Sanitation Department staff say that Christmas trees will be collected as a part of regular brush collection routes this year.  Please remember to remove all ornaments, tinsel, and other artificial materials from the tree before putting it out.  As of this writing, brush collection crews are expected to begin work in the quadrant including most of the Southwest Ward about January 5.  Here’s the link to the brush collection status map:    www.cityofws.org/departments/sanitation/collections/brush-collection

 

Firefighter equipment updated:     The city council on December 15 gave final approval for the $450,000 contract purchasing a new set of personal protective (“turnout”) gear for our firefighters.  I’d advocated for this safety investment last spring, and it was included in the 2014-15 budget authorization.  The new equipment will permit each firefighter to have an up-to-date primary and backup set of turnout gear. 

Also this month, I and other council members had the chance to welcome the North Carolina Professional Fire Fighters annual state conference to Winston-Salem.  Our city was pleased to host this meeting of firefighters and emergency medical technicians from communities all around our state.

 

Electronic sweepstakes standards:     In December, the city council’s Community Development, Housing, and General Government (CDHGG) Committee asked Planning Department and city legal staff to draft new standards to prevent clustering of electronic sweepstakes operations in our city.  The proposed standards would operate by requiring a minimum distance (separation requirement) between such businesses.  A number of other cities in North Carolina already have similar requirements.  As a land use control, separation requirements are intended to prevent adverse impacts on neighboring businesses and residential areas from having multiple electronic sweepstakes parlors cluster in one area.  Sweepstakes operations are believed to produce increased late night activity, crime risks, and a depressing effect on nearby property values.  (Sweepstakes operators deny these effects.)

Winston-Salem currently has 26 existing licensed electronic sweepstakes operations within the city limits, down from a peak of 52 in 2012-13.  Of the 26, seven (including two in the Southwest Ward) are required to close by 7/1/15 under existing zoning rules that went into effect at the end of 2013.

The city council has discussed the possibility of declining to continue to license sweepstakes operations and directing the Police Department to enforce state law to close existing ones in the city.  However, we are informed by the city attorney that the Forsyth County District Attorney believes that the enforceability of that state law is currently in doubt during ongoing court challenges by the sweepstakes industry, and that he will not prosecute such cases.  Some other district attorneys have taken the contrary view, but the city cannot direct policy decisions by the independently elected district attorney.

However, we can act on zoning standards.  We anticipate a Planning Board report on the proposed separation standards this spring.

 

Little Creek Greenway phase 1 complete:     Phase 1 of the Little Creek Greenway is now complete and open for use by walkers, runners, and cyclists.  This greenway section provides the Atwood neighborhoods with direct walking access to the Little Creek Park and Recreation Center.  It also provides those and the Salem Woods neighborhoods with both a safe, attractive walking and running path, and a safe direct pedestrian and cycling connection to the restaurants and shops of the Little Creek shopping center on Hanes Mall Boulevard.  I’m especially pleased to see this path with its unusually high connectivity value finally open.  We’ll have an official ribbon-cutting event once the weather warms up this spring, but Little Creek Greenway is already open and in use by its neighbors now.

 

State and federal municipal advocacy agenda for 2015:    The city council in December adopted a state municipal advocacy agenda for 2015, including a resolution requesting that the N.C. General Assembly (state legislature) renew the expired tax credits for historic building renovation and for film and television production operations.  The historic tax credit has been a key tool in encouraging the revitalization of our city center over the past decade, and the film tax credit has brought millions in annual spending in our region by the national film industry.

I and other city council members also participated in the December 11 advocacy goals conference of the N.C. League of Municipalities (NCLM), which represents hundreds of cities and towns around our state.  Renewal of the historic preservation and film tax credits was among the goals approved by that conference.  We also successfully advocated for the clarification of one of the NCLM’s federal environmental policy goals.  The clarification ensures that in asking for protection of cities’ ability to manage stormwater systems, the NCLM goal would not appear to oppose strengthened federal clean water protections overall.

 

Southwest Suburban Area Plan Update public meetings:     The next public input meeting for the Southwest Suburban Area Plan Update will take place this Tuesday, January 6, starting at 6 p.m., at Little Creek Recreation Center (610 Foxcroft Drive).  Small area plans are designed to provide a clear picture of the state of our community and development in that area, make recommendations for future development, and offer analysis of the public facilities and resources that will be needed to serve those neighborhoods in the future.  Additional public input meetings are scheduled for February 3 and March 3.  I strongly encourage interested residents of the suburban neighborhoods in the Southwest Ward to participate in this planning update process.

 

That’s my report for December.  A safe and happy new year to all!

 

As always, you are welcome to email me at danbesse@danbesse.org with comments or questions.  Thanks!