Opinions sought for preservation plan

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 26, 2011

By Emily Ford
SALISBURY ó Have an idea about historic preservation?
If so, people devising a comprehensive plan for historic preservation in Salisbury want to hear from you.
Public input is key, organizers say, as consultants and the City Councilís advisory committee enter the second phase of the Historic Preservation Master Plan process.
With a draft plan and the strategic assessment of existing preservation activities now posted at www.salisburyplan.ning.com, organizers are encouraging residents to log in and comment.
ěThe master plan process is designed to incorporate a high level of community participation,î said Janet Gapen, senior city planner.
Public input is not only encouraged but critical to the development of a community-wide planning effort, Gapen said.
Consultant Aaron Arnett said visitors to the website can contribute to forums with suggestions about the assessment, vision and outcomes, or any other preservation issue.
Arnett also asks users to post photos of historic places in Salisbury and participate in moderated discussions. Maps and other documents are posted online as Arnettís firm develops them.
ěChatter on the site is starting to pick up,î said Arnett, a former Salisbury city planner now with Arnett Muldrow & Associates of Greenville, S.C.
The 39-page strategic assessment provides an overview of historic preservation practices and programming for the city and preservation partners.
By outlining the cityís current historic resources, preservation tools and partner activities, the strategic assessment builds a foundation for the master plan and its recommendations, Gapen said.
Arnett will ask for input from the Salisbury Planning Board and Historic Preservation Commission before presenting the final plan to City Council this summer.
The master plan, paid for with a $15,000 federal grant and $8,000 in local matching funds, will serve as a policy road map for a variety of organizations that deal with historic preservation, Arnett said.
More than 100 people participated during the initial research and field review phase, which began in November.
Organizers will hold another public workshop during the second phase of the process.
This phase will put ěmeat on the bones,î Gapen said, by identifying specific recommendations and actions steps ó things the community should do ó to guide and sustain historic preservation efforts over the next five to 10 years.
Common themes surfaced during the public interview process, she said. People can comment on the themes online, including:
Codes, guidelines and enforcement
A look at how current regulations and codes affect Salisburyís historic resources, such as historic district design guidelines, the cityís Land Development Ordinance and enforcement procedures.
This theme also addresses inherent conflicts between the protection of historic resources and the minimum housing code, which requires the improvement, and sometimes demolition, of properties.
Leaders want public comment on how Salisbury can enhance existing design guidelines, development codes and enforcement.
Community character
This focuses on overall livability issues in historic neighborhoods, such as the condition of housing, the equity of city planning and codes and the importance of protecting the neighborhood fabric.
ěCharacterî includes infrastructure needs, the protection of tree canopies and open space, connectivity and walkability.
Historic areas are defined not just by architecture but also by other elements that makes Salisbury unique, Arnett said. Important elements include public art, the railroad, African-American history, the military and institutions.
Outreach and education
Participants say the city needs ongoing education and public outreach, including awareness of historic districts and their requirements, training for the Historic Preservation Commission and educational workshops for property owners.
The city could better market the economic benefits of rehabilitation and preservation, as well as promoting Salisbury as a destination for heritage tourism, participants suggested.
Organizers want to know how Salisbury and preservation partners can more effectively reach out to property owners, residents and potential investors.
Historic resources
Salisbury has many historic resources and designated historic districts, both local and national. The city needs to determine what resources could and should be preserved, and come up with a plan to save them, participants said.
People have detailed specific structures that are threatened and key architectural types that need consideration.
Leaders what to know what resources, architectural styles and historic themes are important, and how they should be identified and protected.
This relates to the cityís preservation planning activities and overall organization, including the Historic Preservation Commission.
Organizers want suggestions on how the city can enhance preservation processes, including the preservation commission and design review.
This theme is intended to ensure the master planning effort is not just a city plan but will encompass the activities of preservation partners such as Historic Salisbury Foundation and neighborhood associations.
Stakeholders have expressed a need for a consolidated vision for all partners to rally around, with clearly defined roles for each agency.
Leaders want to know who are the preservation partners in Salisbury, what do they need, and what responsibilities should they have in the planning process.
Arnett said so far, nothing during the planning process has surprised him.
ěBut one of the things that really impressed me was the fact that folks appreciate that Salisburyís history and preservation is not just about architecture and the built environment,î he said.
The master plan will strengthen neighborhoods and create more liveable environments, he said, as well as preserving historic assets.
Arnett said the preservation plan will attempt to dovetail with another major study underway on how to improve housing conditions in Salisbury.
For more information or questions, contact Gapen at 704-638-5230 or at jgape@salisburync.org or Arnett at 864-233-0950 or at aaron@arnettmuldrow.com.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.