February may be short, but it was a full city work month, with interesting developments in several areas. But first, I’ll begin with a news item that is always of interest:
Bulky item pickup: The perennial favorite is back! This is that once-a-year chance for most residents to put those old junk items that are too big for weekly trash out at the curb, to have them hauled away by city crews for no extra charge. As usual, items which can be left out include things like furniture, carpet, appliances, mattresses, and toys. They DON’T include regular trash or yard waste, building materials or loose wood, tires or hazardous wastes. If you have questions, please call 727-2638.
Items for bulky item collection should be left out at the curb the weekend before the Monday that collection is scheduled to start for your street. You can get the definite schedule for your location by checking www.cityofws.org/curbservice.
Pickup routes within the Southwest Ward area begin as early as March 28. That’s Route 5, which will include (for example) neighborhoods like Ashford, Atwood Acres, Hannaford, Salem Woods, the South Peacehaven & McGregor areas, and Westbrook. Ardmore is split between a route starting April 11 and one starting May 2. South Fork starts April 18. Knollwood Acres and the neighborhoods between Country Club and Business 40 east of Silas Creek Parkway are with the May 2 route. Again, please check the city website noted above to identify your pickup date with certainty.
Winston-Salem Urban Area 2030 Transportation Plan: How about looking ahead a bit? Would you like to have your say on future planning for streets, sidewalks, bicycle facilities, public transit, and other transportation questions affecting your neighborhood (and the city/county as a whole)? Now’s your chance to review and comment on our area’s comprehensive transportation plan, which gets a major study and update about once every five years. The draft plan is available now online at www.cityofws.org/dot/projects. Or, you can read it in hard copy at any branch of the Forsyth County Public Library. Five public information sessions are scheduled—the first is March 2 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the lobby of City Hall South. Others will follow in March, including the next closest on March 8 at the Southside library branch. Comments are needed in writing (including email) to the city DOT staff by March 28. For questions, call 727-2707 or 747-6878.
Talk of the Town 2005: We had a useful and interesting discussion of issues affecting our neighborhoods at the Southwest Ward 2005 Talk of the Town meeting last Thursday at South Fork Rec Center with Mayor Allen Joines and city staff. Among the hot topics discussed were traffic concerns, stormwater and flooding issues, erosion and sedimentation control, panhandling problems, and skateboards. Thanks again to everyone who took the time to come out on a cold and rainy night.
Sedimentation and erosion control: This was one of the concerns discussed at the Talk of the Town meeting. As construction projects increase in Forsyth, our inspections staff have been challenged to keep up with the load. To respond, and help keep the mud out of our streams and downstream properties, the City Council on February 21 approved hiring an extra sedimentation control inspector. We will also be reviewing some relevant needed updates to our city ordinances over the next couple of months, including a requirement for faster replacement of ground cover after construction. These changes are necessary in order to retain local authority (from the state of North Carolina) to run our own sedimentation and erosion control program in Winston-Salem and Forsyth County.
Panhandling arrests: The Winston-Salem Police Department is acting to respond to complaints of increased aggressive panhandling around the city. Identified problem spots in our area include several on Hanes Mall Boulevard, Silas Creek Parkway, Stratford Road, and elsewhere. Nineteen individuals were arrested for violations during a week-long focused effort in February. If you are threatened or harassed by an aggressive panhandler at any time, please call the police to report the problem right away.
I am also available to help pass on to the WSPD Patrol Districts your reports of any particular trouble locations which are being overlooked. Please keep in mind that the police must distinguish between a person who is legally just standing or sitting with a sign, and one who is illegally menacing, verbally abusing, or touching you or your vehicle. (I have pressed for passage of a "curb to curb" ban on all soliciting, for public safety in general, but without success thus far.)
I also keep in mind that we need to make every effort to get the genuinely destitute to programs that will provide both needed emergency assistance and real long-term help. Homelessness is a real problem that affects hundreds of men, women, and even children in our community. The "hard-core" homeless who are among the regular panhandlers are just the tip of a much deeper iceberg.
Economic development projects: It was great to see the formal "groundbreaking" for the Dell Computer manufacturing facility take place with much ceremony on February 23. Of course, the even better news was that grading and site preparation were already well underway, and the first hundreds of new jobs from that facility will start up later this year.
More mixed news comes from the USAirways economic incentives package approved by the County Commissioners and City Council in February. Like most of us, I’m very pleased that USAirways chose to consolidate their domestic reservations calling centers here in Winston-Salem instead of in Pittsburgh. However, I voted against the public economic incentives package for that consolidation. In short, I opposed the incentives deal because (in my analysis) it was unnecessary, results in a net loss of local tax revenues, sets a bad precedent for possible similar deals in the future, and still fails to provide long-term security for local USAirways employees. I respect my council colleagues who arrived at a different analysis, but I could not go along with it. I hope that future incentives proposals brought to the council for consideration will be less shaky.
Skateboard park: This is a proposal which has been floated several times in recent years, only to founder on questions of cost and liability. Thanks to new legislation approved by the N.C. General Assembly addressing liability questions, plus the generosity of an anonymous donor offering $100,000 in construction costs, the proposal for a local skateboard park is being actively revisited. At the direction of the City Council, city staff are discussing possible options with the United Way and the Central YMCA.
Zoning case: A zoning case of possible interest in February involved a site plan amendment for the "Maxwell property" at the intersection of South Stratford Road and Somerset Drive. As many residents of nearby neighborhoods will recall, that property was rezoned for commercial development almost 20 years ago, but was never developed. A new developer for the site came forward in late 2004 with a proposed revised site plan, which went through the Planning review process and was finally approved (as amended) by the City Council on February 7. Among the revised site plan’s significant features are the following: Land for the future relocation of Somerset Drive’s intersection with Stratford Road was donated to the city; the total building square footage was reduced and redesigned to take away the "strip" look; sidewalks were added around the perimeter and internally; and a street tree buffer was included. The project is expected to develop this year.
Constituent service reminder: Here’s one more note from constituent service questions that came up in February. If you see a problem of persistent trash left on the sidewalk in front of a home, business, or vacant lot, the responsible enforcement agency is the city Housing and Neighborhood Services Code Enforcement office. Their number is 727-8486. They’ll take your report and get after the problem as quickly as possible.