March 2008 Highlights

The Public Works Committee in March sent forward a comprehensive update of stormwater rules for full City Council discussion in April.
Stormwater rules:     The long-studied and debated stormwater management rules update is scheduled for discussion and a vote by the City Council in April.  The meeting is Monday, April 21, starting at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall.  While an ordinance amendment of this type does not require a public hearing, April 21 is the second regular meeting of the month, which includes our open public comment period.  On previous occasions when there has been sufficient public interest, the Council has moved the open comment period earlier on the agenda to allow the public to comment in advance of an item of broad interest.
     This rules update addresses both water quality and flooding concerns associated with new development.  Neighborhood advocates are urging the Council to adopt the changes intended to address both.  Some development community representatives are asking that controls on stormwater runoff quantity and flooding not be strengthened.
Clean air progress:     The Piedmont Triad Early Action Compact (our cooperative regional effort for clean air) held a news conference on March 17 to announce that we have reached an important milestone for cleaner air.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officially notified us in February that the Triad's air met the federal health protection standards for ground-level ozone as of the end of 2007.  This is a goal for which Winston-Salem and over 40 other Triad governments have worked together since 2003.  I have had the privilege of chairing the regional Stakeholders Committee which prepared and worked to implement our regional clean air strategy.  (Ozone is the primary pollutant in urban smog, which aggravates heart and breathing problems.)
     While celebrating our achievement, we recognized at the news conference that there is still more to be done.  The EPA has announced that it is tightening the standards on ozone, based on new evidence that human health is more sensitive to this pollutant than previously believed.  That means that we have more work to do, to lower pollutant levels further.  The new standards are already in effect for air quality monitoring purposes, so Winston-Salem residents are likely to see more air quality alerts this year than last year.  This does not necessarily mean that our air has gotten worse.  It is more likely to be an indication of the tougher standards being used to measure air quality.
     The good news is that local governments and private parties in the Triad region now have the experience of working together for cleaner air, and a plan in place to pursue for this goal.  We'll be working on it.
National League of Cities conference:     The NLC national meetings are always outstanding opportunities to gather information, exchange notes, and plan strategy with representatives of other cities around our nation.  The NLC conference in Washington March 9-11 was a good example of this.  I represented Winston-Salem and North Carolina on two NLC committees which met then:  the Energy, Environment, and Natural Resources Policy & Advocacy Committee, and the Central Cities Council (which represents cities larger than 200,000 population).  We discussed strategies for dealing with shared concerns like our transportation system, water resources planning, and energy efficiency measures.  In addition, I brought back important information on a new federal grant program for which Winston-Salem can apply, the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant.  Projects funded by this program can help us reduce energy usage and save tax dollars.  (Side note:  Since this meeting was in Washington, I was able to travel by Amtrak and save money compared to air fare.)
Traffic calming project approved: 
    On March 24, the City Council approved another "traffic calming" project for an area heavily impacted by excess speeds and problem driver behavior.  This project, for Millhaven Road between Peace Haven and Robinhood roads, will feature a series of eight "center islands".  These are a variety of raised center median islands which have been shown to be effective in reducing problem driver behavior in some situations.  The project was designed by Winston-Salem traffic engineers and approved by a two-thirds vote of the affected property owners in the Millhaven Road Neighborhood Association.  It is the second major traffic calming project to be approved.  A similar project (using "curb bulb-outs" instead of center islands) is ready for final neighborhood consideration and vote along Lockland Avenue between Academy Street and Silas Creek Parkway.