Editorial: Don’t confuse official talk with action

Editorial: Don’t confuse official talk  with action
April 09
00:00 2015

Employees with the City-County Planning Board of Forsyth County and Winston-Salem have been conducting planning meeting sessions to update the City-County Planning Board’s Legacy 2030 Comprehensive plan, which involves expansion and improvements on all of Winston-Salem, including the East-Northeast planning area.

That area has parts of the East Ward and Northeast Ward. It is 80 percent African-American. About 14,360 people live in the area, according to the 2010 census report.

Planners met with residents of the East-Northeast Winston-Salem Planning Area at the Rupert Bell Neighborhood Center last month. More meetings are planned for April, May and June.

City material says area plans convey a community vision and general goals to the Planning Board, elected officials and other community leaders.  Area plans are simply recommendations developed using a public process to help guide future planning decisions.

This information might be unclear to residents. The people who attended the meeting at the Rupert Bell Neighborhood Center last month spent an hour talking about their communities in the planning area. They pulled out their wish lists and what they want to see improved.

Most of the residents’ main concerns were the crime rates, the neglectful landlords and housing, and how they want businesses they use often to be closer instead of having to drive miles across town. They want more sit-in restaurants in their area instead of fast food places, presumably so they can sit down with friends and family at nice places and slow down the pace a bit. They want their areas to look nice and not “run-down.” They want sidewalks and side streets paved for the safety of elders and children. And they want jobs.

Legacy 2030 will not bring jobs into the planning area. All the work the residents did last month at the meeting will not make their communities any better just because they want them to be. Did anyone explain the steps needed to make things happen?

After the Winston-Salem City Council receives what the residents want in the planning areas, they look at the list then update zoning laws and maybe other laws that will affect the planning area. Then they wait for developers or others to come to them with development plans. The city might go out and try to attract developers. But this is a large city. We see that most development is happening in places other than the East-Northeast Winston-Salem Planning Area. How are those areas getting that development?

City Council Member Derwin Montgomery, who represents the East Ward, told The Chronicle that when council members look at area plans, those plans are “not a statement of what a city is going to do.” And, he said, “Development is driven from the private sector.” The goal is to make areas “attractive” for investors.

So, when are the jobs coming? Montgomery said the city is trying to attract small businesses with a special program that includes loan forgiveness. He is looking to retail to help with the jobs issue.

What about other areas of the city?   Why are retail stores and restaurants opening up in the southwest and northern parts of Winston Salem? Did they have to wait on development to come to them?

The original East-Northeast Winston-Salem Area Plan was adopted in 2008, seven years ago. Since then, the city can only point to a CVS Pharmacy that was built on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and the rehabilitation of the building for Transitional Housing for Homeless Veterans on Glenn Avenue as development in the area, along with some housing. Not sure how many jobs came with those developments, but they are not enough.

Residents should attend all the meetings seeking input about what they want to see in their neighborhoods and tell the planners what they want. Then, residents should ask council members what are they doing to make things happen. Seven years is a long time to wait.

Maybe residents should take up the mantel from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and tell officials why they can’t wait any longer.

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