July 2014 Highlights

In July, the city council finished preparing a proposed package of city capital needs projects, and will decide August 4 on whether to send these to a vote by the public in November.


City Council to vote on proposed bond referendum:   The City Council will vote this Monday (August 4) on a proposed package of city capital needs projects in transportation, public safety, parks and recreation, housing, and economic development. If approved by the council, the proposed bond package will be subject to a public referendum by Winston-Salem city voters this November. The final proposed public referendum bond package is just over $139 million, including about $42 million for streets and sidewalks, $31 million for public safety (police and fire facilities), $31 million for parks and recreation, $10 million for housing and neighborhood work, and $25 million for economic development. (These are all capital investments like buildings, streets, and other construction or renovation, not for staff salaries or other operating expenses.)

Example projects/project areas include these:
--$15 million for street resurfacing
--$10 million for sidewalk construction
--$10 million public safety center (police headquarters) renovations
--$8 million for new district police offices (including one for the west/southwest, in the Jonestown Road area)
--$3 million for greenways and other major bike/pedestrian projects
--$2 million for Miller Park renovations
--$2 million for pedestrian safety projects near schools.

A breakout of the proposed street resurfacing and sidewalk construction projects by ward is being prepared and will be available for public comment and adjustment during the run-up period prior to the public vote on the bonds. It will include projects in every part of the Southwest Ward. The final public comment opportunity before the city council votes on sending the proposed package to voter approval will take place at the council meeting this Monday, August 4, beginning at 7 p.m. at City Hall.


Business 40 construction project makes proposed regional projects funding list: The $70 million project of safety improvements to Business 40 through Winston-Salem, including the bridges and the on/off ramps, made the proposed funded list of highway construction projects in N.C. Dept. of Transportation (NC DOT) Division 9. That boosts our chance to see this critical project funded for construction on its planned schedule, beginning in 2016.

NC DOT in July also held two major public hearings to take final public comments on the project, including recommendations for either one of two remaining choices on the major exit configurations. (Those are the alternatives of treating Cherry/Marshall or Liberty/Main as the primary exchange for downtown traffic.) Extensive background material on these and other details of the project can be reviewed at www.business40nc.com.


Silas Creek sidewalk extension funding closer to approval:   The draft list of proposed funded project priorities for DOT District 9 also includes one pedestrian safety project located within the Southwest Ward, the proposed sidewalk extension along Silas Creek Parkway from Ebert Street to Lockland Avenue. This project would serve Forsyth Tech's main campus as well as the many neighborhoods, apartment complexes, and businesses along this area. There is substantial pedestrian traffic along this section already, at significant safety risk, on the shoulder of this very busy road. NC DOT is taking public comments on all its regional transportation project funding priorities through August 9. I encourage supporters of improved pedestrian safety and bike/pedestrian facilities to write in support of the Silas Creek Parkway sidewalk project. If you write on this project,
--Send your comment via email to strategicplanning@ncdot.gov by August 9.
--Use an email subject line like "Division 9, Silas Creek Parkway sidewalk", and include the project number: B142160.
--Indicate in your own words that you support the project as a pedestrian safety improvement.
--Please also copy me at danbesse@danbesse.org so that I can make sure your comment is received by the right NC DOT staff.

Other bike/ped projects of direct service to the Southwest Ward, including the Salem Creek Greenway westward extension, the Little Creek Greenway phase 1b, and a proposed Jonestown Road sidewalk extension, did not make the cut for this round of state funding consideration. However, all remain eligible for future funding opportunities. The Salem Creek Greenway extension in particular is a strong candidate for funding from the proposed city bond referendum.


Cell tower issues:   The city council on July 7 considered and approved four permit requests for cell tower construction. In each case, the permit was for a "monopole" or "monopine" tower of 150 feet in height. All the permits were subject to the set of screening, setback, and appearance restrictions contained in the new cell tower rules approved in February. Those included minimum lot size (four acres), minimum setbacks from the tower to the property line (its height plus), tree retention and other screening, and tower type limitations (no lattice towers, no guy wires, etc.).

In each permit request case, all owners of neighboring property within 500 feet of the zoning lot on which the tower is to be located received written notice of the proposal and related public comment opportunities, and in each case a neighborhood meeting was held. There was no opposition in two cases. In a third case, one person spoke in opposition, and his concerns were addressed by the permit. In the fourth case, the 500 foot notice zone included part of a townhouse subdivision, which further circulated the notice information to approximately 300 households in its homeowners association. That homeowners association (Hampton Commons), another adjacent residential community (Homestead Hills), and 12 individual property owners were represented at the community meeting reviewing that permit request. Only three of those households chose to attend the public hearing and object to the permit. After hearing the arguments and reviewing all evidence submitted, the city council found no substantial indication of adverse impacts and approved the permit.


NLC policy forum and transportation program reauthorization:   During July, I represented Winston-Salem and North Carolina at the National League of Cities (NLC) policy forum in Minnesota. (I'm a member of the NLC Transportation Infrastructure & Services Steering Committee.) One of the main issues we worked on during the three-day meeting was the pending reauthorization of the federal transportation planning and funding program, now being fought over in Congress. I helped to shape NLC policies and plan our advocacy strategies on this issue. This legislation, and its reauthorization by Congress this year, is critical to Winston-Salem and other cities around our state and nation. Without it, necessary major transportation projects like Business 40 renovation will come to a screeching halt, and other transit programs like our city bus system will be financially staggered. We expect stopgap action by Congress this week, and look for longer-term decisions to be made there in December or January.


Other upcoming events and opportunities:   Other city events and opportunities in August include these:

--National Night Out:  Neighborhoods around the city will host gatherings next Tuesday evening, August 5, in celebration of this day recognizing the cooperation between police and neighborhood residents in keeping our communities safe. Among the neighborhood events in the Southwest Ward this year are gatherings in Sandersted, Healy Towers, Seasons Chase, Bridgeport Drive, and Sunset Drive. I'll be running around trying to get to as many as I can.

--Citizen Fire Academy:  The Winston-Salem Fire Department will hold a Citizens' Fire Academy from August 25 to October 20, in which interested citizens will learn about fire department operations and receive hands-on experience including ride-alongs. There is no charge and class size is limited. For more info or to apply, call 773-7965, email sabrinas@cityofwsfire.org, or go to www.CityofWSFire.org. Application deadline is August 15.

--High-speed online service community sites:  As a part of installing its new high-speed internet service in Winston-Salem, AT&T is offering to install free high-speed internet connections at approximately 20 community centers in the city. Do you have suggestions regarding where those should be located? If so, send your suggestion in an email to Dennis Newman, the city's chief information officer, at dennis.newman@cityofws.org no later than August 1.


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