I’ll begin this month’s report with an invitation to the "Talk of the Town" 2005, and then review some of the city items of interest I worked on during January.
"Talk of the Town" Meeting 2005: The third annual public forum by Mayor Allen Joines in the Southwest Ward will be held on Thursday, February 24, at 6:30 p.m., in the South Fork Recreation Center (4403 Country Club Road, close to and across the street from South Fork Elementary). The Talk of the Town meetings are designed to give you (the public at large) an opportunity to raise questions and discuss concerns in a public forum with the mayor and your council representative. Please come out and bring your neighbors. If you have issues that you know now that you will want to have discussed, please let me know, and I will try to make sure that the right city staff are there to help respond.
I have worked to move these forums around our ward to encourage broader participation. Two years ago, we met at Little Creek Rec Center, and last year at Miller Park. These meetings are great chances to let city officials know what’s on your minds. Major Joines holds one in each of the eight city wards once per year.
Stormwater improvements: Several Miller Park Circle residents have been experiencing serious basement flooding problems due to increased runoff from development on upslope properties. Unfortunately, due to a quirk in the wording of a city ordinance, they had not been eligible for city participation in the cost of needed improvements to the storm drain system across their property. The Miller Park Circle Homeowners Association called the problem to my attention, and we were able to work with city staff to propose a fix to the ordinance. The City Council approved the change on January 18. Now, owner-occupants of condos have the same opportunity as detached-home owners for city participation in these projects.
Also on the topic of needed stormwater management improvements, the City Council approved a request for $1.5 million in additional federal funds for local stormwater infrastructure improvements. The request goes to Congress for consideration this year.
As property continues to develop in and around Winston-Salem, the city is trying to do a more thorough job of ensuring that new developments control stormwater runoff to reduce downstream impacts. At this point, though, we’re also still trying to catch up from decades in which that growing problem was neglected.
Transportation improvement projects: The Winston-Salem Metropolitan Area Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) speaks for local governments in our area in recommending transportation projects to the state and federal Departments of Transportation (DOTs). I’m one of Winston-Salem’s three city representatives on the TAC. At the TAC meeting January 27, we approved a funding request to the state DOT for several projects which should improve transportation system efficiency and reduce air pollution. Of particular interest to Southwest Ward residents are two projects on the list: (1) Intersection improvements at Hanes Mall Boulevard and South Stratford Road (detection equipment and signal improvements to reduce auto waiting/idling time); and (2) Sidewalk construction on Silas Creek Parkway from Forsyth Tech to Lockland. (That project would also be a boon to pedestrian safety, as many pedestrians now walk along the unprotected road shoulders there.) We should hear this spring whether either project is among those approved by DOT.
In the meantime, I am also working with city staff to try to speed construction of sidewalk along another identified safety concern area, Lockland Avenue. I hope to know more about that request status in February or March.
More economic development news: Lowe’s Companies has announced that it will locate and expand its national data center in Winston-Salem. Lowe’s initial capital investment here is expected to be at least $40 million and produce dozens of new jobs. 84 Lumber also announced in January that it will build its next wholesale lumber distribution center on Lowery Street in Winston-Salem Business Park, investing approximately $4 million in construction and employing about 30 people.
Keep Winston-Salem Beautiful awards: Keep Winston-Salem Beautiful held its annual volunteer and sponsor celebration program in January. Among the many active contributors from across the city were the following groups from the Southwest Ward: Adopt-a-Stream groups—Ardmore Baptist Church; Flower Bed Program participants—Brantley/Hawthorne Triangle, Oxford Place Homeowners Association, Salem Woods Flower Club, and Trinity Presbyterian Church. Thanks go to all the participants who help to clean up and beautify our city!
Trees at Silas Creek/Hanes Mall: A constituent expressed concern last week about the loss of flowering pear trees at this intersection. Review by city staff revealed that those trees had been experiencing persistent maintenance problems, and that they are being replaced by a variety of hardier species, including red maples, oaks, and crepe myrtles. The shopping center property owner there is required by its site plan to maintain trees in a street yard along the adjacent streets.
New greenways group: Those who share an interest in expanding greenway trails in and around our city will be interested in this item. I’ve been working with volunteers from several neighborhood, recreation, health, and conservation groups to set up a citizen committee to promote new greenways development. At our January meeting, we adopted a name (Forsyth Greenways Connection) and mission statement for our effort. If you’re interested in taking part, please let me know, and I will add you to our contact list.
Waughtown Street Bridge preserved: While not located in the Southwest Ward, this item will be of interest to historic preservation supporters across our city. The City Council in January approved the preservation of the Waughtown Street Bridge as a part of the Southeast Gateway project. This bridge, built in 1921 at the site of the original Old Plank Road crossing of Salem Creek, represents a unique historic resource with significance spanning several eras. It will become a scenic pedestrian crossing and history-education tool connecting parkland on both sides of the stream.