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Complete Streets project approved by Salisbury City Council

Salisbury City Council approved a plan Tuesday meant to improve the safety and appearance of two of the city’s main corridors.

Council approved the Complete Streets plan for East Innes and Long streets with a 4-0 vote. Councilman Brian Miller was not at the meeting.

A large crowd attended the council meeting, which included a public hearing on the plan.

The project involves the installation of new, and enhancement of current, crosswalks in a 24-block area. It runs from Innes Street at Church Street to Interstate 85, and from Long Street at MLK Avenue to Bringle Ferry Road.

The plan would change the appearance of the area by installing medians in the road, narrowing roads, and adding lighting and landscaping.

People who spoke in favor of the plan used words such as “walkability,” “community” and “safety” when giving reasons for their support.

Sue McHugh, who’s on the city’s Community Appearance Commission, said the plan will improve the sense of community in the area and will lead to an increase in property values.

Eric Phillips, owner of Skinny Wheels Bike Shop near the Square and an avid biker, said the changes will lead to more foot and bike traffic in the area, which will help businesses.

But not everyone was in full support of the plan.

Clyde (Overcash) said spending money to develop the plan was unnecessary. He said he wasn’t entirely against the plan, but that the city could have addressed the issues without such an intensive and lengthy process.

The plan was created by a private consulting firm with input from the community and cost around $120,000, of which the city paid $12,000 and the state paid the rest, according to Councilwoman Karen Alexander.

The total cost of full implementation of the project is estimated at $4 million.

Dee Dee Wright said the city is avoiding other issues, such as putting sidewalks along Old Concord Road. She described the Complete Streets plan as a form of  gentrification and said city council needs to keep the best interests of the black community in mind.

She asked how council members could quickly approve funding for the school system’s new central office but can’t find the money to install sidewalks.

Some who spoke in opposition said they never see anybody walking or riding a bike on Long Street. Councilwoman Maggie Blackwell responded by saying there’s a reason for that, referring to how the street isn’t a safe environment for pedestrians and bike riders.

The audience applauded Blackwell after her statement.

Mayor Paul Woodson asked people at the meeting to raise their hand if they support the plan and then asked the same for those who oppose it. The vast majority of people raised their hand to show their approval.

Before voting, council members said the plan is first and foremost about community safety. Another round of applause followed the vote.

Also during the meeting, council approved an amendment to the city’s land development district map rezoning an area off of Bringle Ferry Road from Residential to Mixed Residential to allow for a Montessori School at the former Camp Kiwanis.

A Montessori school is like daycare in an educational environment.

Myra Tannehill, of Woodleaf, wants to start the school and will be the director. She has a master’s degree in English Education from Appalachian State University, where she used to teach.

Plans call for the school to start in August.

Council also:

• Heard Mayor Paul Woodson proclaim Jan. 19 “Martin Luther King Jr. Day.” Several events will be happening around the city to commemorate the holiday, including the MLK Day Parade Jan. 17 at 11 a.m, which starts at North Main and Kerr Street and will end at Livingstone College. The MLK Breakfast will be Jan. 19 at 7 a.m. at the J.F. Hurley YMCA. Tickets for the breakfast are $10 .

• Adopted a budget ordinance amendment to the 2014-2015 budget in the amount of $13,000 to appropriate revenue for the Public Art Committee.
• Extended the right-of-way use permit for temporary closure of the outside lane of westbound traffic in the 200 block of West Innes Street from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. on weekdays through Jan. 30.

• Went into closed session to discuss a personnel matter, but did not take any action after the session.

• Recessed the meeting until 2 p.m. Monday when council will continue going through applications for the city manager position.

Contact reporter David Purtell at 704-797-4264.

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