Greenway Committee to expand to bicycling, pedestrian advocates

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 22, 2019

SALISBURY — To combine two efforts, the City Council will modify its Greenway Committee to allow for a broader approach on the needs of bicyclists and pedestrians.

The council gave the go-ahead to update the ordinance that deals with the Greenway Committee after several bicyclists spoke during the public-comment period at Tuesday night’s meeting. Some council members added their own stories about safety concerns for drivers and cyclists.

Jackie Miller told council members that adding protected bike lanes has been beneficial for other cities. She showed them data showing economic growth and home values increasing. She also showed photos of how other cities have installed bike lanes, specifically those that use parked cars as a buffer.

“A biking community is a healthy community,”  Miller said.

Sharon Earnhardt, a founding member of The Pedal Factory, spoke about riding her bike as a kid. She would no longer take the same route, saying that when she was a kid she was either brave or dumb.

“For kids, that’s their only means of self-propelled transportation, since they can’t drive,” Earnhardt said. “I remember as a kid, that’s how I got around.”

Her goal is to get more people to use bikes or, as she called it, “more butts on bikes.”

Mary Rosser, also with The Pedal Factory, said she wants people who use a bike as their only means of transportation to be included in the committee. She said she has seen people riding bikes on Jake Alexander Boulevard and Innes Street, roads she avoids because they are unsafe.

“It would be nice if there was a direct fast route along those ways, because I see people on them that don’t have a choice to ride a bike and they’re not safe,” Rosser said.

Stuart Nottingham said he can get around on a bike but as soon as he gets to his destination, he has nowhere to safely leave his bike.

“One pet peeve I’ve got. This is the people’s house, I believe you called it, Madam Mayor? I had to lock my bike up to the people’s bench out front.”

Mayor Pro Tem David Post said he was required to put bike racks in front of his building on East Innes Street. Councilwoman Karen Alexander said that is required for new buildings but not older ones. Post said city property should comply if the city is requiring others to do so.

Mary James said when she and her son bike downtown, she often has a difficult time finding a place to lock her bike up and ends up locking it to a tree or lamp post. She said she and her husband have been injured driving beside cars in the city.

Mayor Al Heggins, who brought the idea of a committee to the council, said she wanted to establish one because of the number of cyclists in the community.

“Creating a cycling committee is healthy for our community,” Heggins said.

Parks and Recreation Director Nick Aceves said he had spoken to Rosser about expanding the Greenway Committee to address the concerns of cyclists and pedestrians.

“They are relative in nature and have some things in common,” Aceves said. “Both groups could support and get resources for each for like-minded committee members and for projects for both groups.”

Councilwoman Tamara Sheffield said the collaboration makes sense.

Rosser said the partnership would allow the committee to apply for grants whether through a government entity or a nonprofit group, which The Pedal Factory is.

Other business:

• The City Council deferred the new terms for the Empire Hotel redevelopment project until its Sept. 3 meeting after not completing a discussion in closed session ahead of the open meeting.

Britt Weaver, the project’s developer with Black Point Investments, said the best thing the council can do is to say yes to his asks, which will help him underwrite the project and meet the city’s goal to complete the project.

The resolution up for consideration includes extending the option contract to June 26, 2020. It also offers two options for a sales price. If the developer purchases the property on or before April 30, 2020, the price would be $560,000. If the developer purchases the property after April 30, the price would be $700,000. Other incentives include a water line, water tap, utility charges and sidewalk construction.

The Rowan County commissioners approved an addition 25% tax incentive for the project starting in 2021 at their meeting Monday.

• Council members approved a request to rename the dog park at the Civic Center Pitner Dog Park after Theresa Pitner, who was a main fundraiser for the park. The council will take feedback from the public over the next 30 days about the name change.

“She has been such an advocate and has done so much, almost single-handedly in terms of making this dog park happen,” Alexander said.

• The council heard a report from Planning Director Hannah Jacobson and City Planner Kyle Harris about the new comprehensive plan, Forward 2040. The plan will establish high-level policy framework to guide planning priorities and decisions over the next 20 years.

• The council authorized the city manager to execute a supplemental agreement with the N.C. Department of Transportation of $378,000 for construction to Newsome Road. The city’s match will be $94,500.