Comprehensive Plan steering committee says changes are needed in Salisbury

Published 12:10 am Sunday, July 24, 2016

By Amanda Raymond

SALISBURY — The steering committee for the Comprehensive Plan update does not know how to address the issues yet, but they agree that Salisbury needs a change in direction.

The committee was put together to help update Salisbury’s Vision 2020 Comprehensive Plan that was originally approved by City Council in 2001. The group met Thursday at 1 Water St. for a meeting with the neighborhood planning firm czb.

Charles Buki, founder of czb, asked the group what direction the comprehensive plan should go in — should the city keep going in the same direction, make a turn by some degree or make a complete U-turn?

“Do we want something that, by and large, holds true to that previous vision and finds a practical way to get there in today’s economy or do we want to make any major or minor or no changes at all?” Buki asked.

He said the committee started to talk about that question with the small kitchen table discussions they were tasked with starting in the community.

Committee member Bill Burgin started by saying that though the city might not be comfortable with a complete 180-turn, some changes needed to be made.

“I do think we can recognize a failure and set the course right, at least to the point where we could sell a plan,” he said.

Committee member Jane Creech agreed.

“I think we can’t keep going the way we’re going,” she said. She listed the downtown area as an example.

“I think the downtown is a piece that we need to keep but we need to look at more creative ways to make it more vibrant and strengthen it even more,” she said.

Committee member Barbara Perry said the people she talked to during her kitchen table discussion wanted the downtown to thrive.

“The people I’ve talked to said they’re not willing to pay a lot, but they are willing to pay for change. All of them said that, young and old,” she said.

Another thing people heard during their kitchen table discussions was the need for increased public safety.

Committee member Sarah Walker mentioned the problem with drugs and gangs in the city.

Preston Mitchell, Development Services manager, said the city has had its problems with unsolved murders and other serious crimes, but petty crimes were also bad for the city’s sense of safety.

Mitchell noted that sometimes the petty crimes are committed by young people, and committee member Tamara Sheffield said it may be because there isn’t much to do in the city for children of a certain age.

Buki said there may be small things the group can do in the comprehensive plan to address those issues, but larger issues, like high rates of poverty and unemployment, are at play. He said it will require partnership with and funds for the police department and the willingness of the committee to give a voice to every part of the community.

Contact reporter Amanda Raymond at 704-797-4222.