September 2014 Highlights

In September, the city council approved a recommended option for Business 40 exits redesign through downtown Winston-Salem. In October, public voting will begin on the proposed city capital projects bond referendum.

Business 40 design recommendation: The city council on September 15 approved a recommendation on reconfiguration of the Business 40 interchanges through downtown Winston-Salem. The design recommended is the use of the Cherry/Marshall exits as the primary downtown interchange. The NC Department of Transportation (NC DOT) will make the final decision.

During an extended public comment process, including two full public hearings in Winston-Salem by NC DOT on this issue, most public input favored the Cherry/Marshall alternative. We anticipate a final DOT determination within the next few months.

If current regional transportation project priority recommendations are adopted by the NC Board of Transportation, we would expect construction on this project to begin in late 2016 or early 2017.

Extensive background material on details of the Business 40 renovation project can be reviewed at www.business40nc.com.

Other transportation updates: There are several other transportation updates of interest to Southwest Ward residents.

--The McGregor Road bridge project construction continues. It is scheduled to be completed late this month (October), although the contractor is slightly behind schedule as of the end of September.

--Little Creek Greenway (phase 1) is still expected to be completed some time this month as well. When I have a firm completion date, I will set up a ribbon-cutting celebration for the neighbors on both sides of Little Creek who have been waiting for this facility for a long time.

--Winston-Salem's Bicycle & Pedestrian Program is running an advertising program to educate drivers and cyclists on watching out for each other on the road. There are about 25-35 bike/auto accidents a year in Winston-Salem, some of which involve serious injuries. We're working on improving that safety record. For biking safety information, see this page on our city website: http://www.cityofws.org/departments/transportation/biking/bike-tips

--Repaving of streets damaged by utility line replacement in the Ardmore area utility renovation project has started and will likely continue through October. I plan to send out an update weekly to Ardmore residents, advising of the latest information I have regarding which streets are expected to be worked on the following week.

Voting on proposed bonds starts Oct. 23: Early voting on the city capital needs bonds referendum will begin October 23. The bonds will appear on the ballot in five separate categories, each of which must be voted on independently: 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 staff salaries or other operating expenses.) The proposed bonds total a little more than $139 million. More details on the proposed bonds can be found here: http://www.cityofws.org/departments/budget/2014-bonds

Some of the bond investment categories represent lump sums subject to final division by the city council. For example, the Streets and Sidewalks bond category includes $15 million for street repaving and $10 million for sidewalk construction. In order to be as transparent as possible to public scrutiny of what the bonds would be used for, the city council gave preliminary approval to specific project lists in each of those areas.

Southwest Ward streets on the proposed bond-funded repaving list include Arlington and Old Vineyard in the Burke Park neighborhood; Atwood, Birchway, Bridgeport, Springhaven and others in the Atwood area; Lockwood, Huntington Woods, and Somerset in the Jonestown Road area; Hannaford Drive; Griffith Road; Creekway; Birchwood, Blackwood, Ashwood, and Elderwood in Knollwood Manor; and several others.

Southwest Ward streets on the proposed bond-funded sidewalk construction list include Griffith Road; Southwin Drive; Atwood Road; Old Vineyard Road; Flintfield Drive; Arlington Drive and Emory Drive in Burke Park; a section of Silas Creek Parkway; and parts of Cherokee, Ebert, Fenimore and others in Ardmore. I continue to seek constituent feedback on the sidewalk priority selections. While some projects are clear pedestrian safety priority needs, some were close to the funding cutoff line and could give way to others that fell just short, depending on neighborhood response.

On-street parking restrictions policy amended: The city council on September 15 approved changes to our on-street parking policy that require broader neighbor approval before on-street parking can be restricted on a residential block. Previously, any property owner could unilaterally request that on-street parking in front of their property be barred. Now, at least 70% of the owners and residents of property on an entire affected block must approve a restriction. This is intended to reduce situations in which one or two owners eliminate on-street parking just in front of their properties, which simply moves the parking over in front of their neighbors.

The city Transportation Department can still approve an on-street parking restriction without a neighborhood petition when it finds that there is a public safety need to do so. (The Police and Fire departments are consulted in those cases.)

Cell tower policy amended: The city council on September 2 approved several modifications to the recently adopted policies on location of new cell towers. The most significant of these changes from a public perspective was to formalize the prohibition on tree removal from the area within the immediate buffer zone around a tower. That change is intended to guarantee that when trees are considered as part of the visual screening around a tower, then those trees will remain in place after the tower's construction.

City employee family benefits eligibility change: Following discussion by the city council's Community Development, Housing, and General Government Committee, the city manager has implemented a significant change in the family benefits eligibility coverage for Winston-Salem city employees. The city will now recognize out-of-state marriage licenses for same-sex couples as conferring the same eligibility for spouse and dependent coverage under city personnel benefits, as has always been available for families of employees married to opposite-sex partners. I advocated for this change as a matter of fair and equal treatment of all city employees. The 4th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals (which has jurisdiction over several mid-Atlantic states including North Carolina) recently struck down as unconstitutional a Virginia state law which barred the recognition of same-sex marriages. Following that decision, legal experts including the N.C. Attorney General have concluded that the very similar North Carolina constitutional provision barring recognition of same-sex marriages is now invalid and unenforceable.

Upcoming October events: Other city news items and upcoming events and opportunities include these:

--Fire Talks: The Winston-Salem Fire Department will hold its final scheduled "Fire Talk" on fire safety and related questions this Saturday, October 4, at its Fire Station 2 at 405 Somerset Drive in the Southwest Ward. Presentation and discussion begins at 11 a.m.

--Domestic Violence Awareness Month: October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. There are at least two local events to raise awareness and funding for prevention and assistance efforts. One is the "Walk a Mile in Her Shoes" event on October 11: www.walkamiletriad.org. The other is the "Home Free" annual benefit event on October 16: www.homefreenc.com. Family Services is a local sponsor of both, and the Children's Law Center is also a sponsor of Home Free.
--Ardmore RAH (Run Against Hunger): This annual running event will be held October 25 in the Ardmore neighborhood, include 5k and 10k options, and send its proceeds to benefit the Second Harvest Food Bank. For details, see www.ardmorerah.com.

--Big Sweep and Community Roots Day: Two annual events sponsored by Keep Winston-Salem Beautiful take place in October. The Big Sweep community cleanup event takes place this Saturday, October 4. The Community Roots Day tree-planting event will be held Saturday, October 25. For info and to sign up, see http://www.cityofws.org/departments/keep-winston-salem-beautiful/events.

--Boxwood yard waste: Winston-Salem has announced measures to help limit the spread of a boxwood blight that has reached our area. These include tips and options for safe disposal of blighted boxwood cuttings. For details, see http://www.cityofws.org/news/id/14856/landfill-accepting-boxwood-yard-waste-to-fight-spread-of-boxwood-blight .

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

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