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Editorial: Issues will remain, solutions must be new for 2040

They sound like apt descriptions of present-day Salisbury: near total dependence on the automobile with few options for biking, walking or riding the bus; traffic congestion increasing on major streets faster than population growth; downtown, while successful, having ongoing needs for revitalization; and neighborhoods hampered by poor housing, crime and other social problems

But those issues are part of a soon-to-expire planning document — the Salisbury Vision 2020 Comprehensive Plan, which was adopted nearly two decades ago.

While Salisbury has worked on those issues since the plan’s adoption, they shouldn’t disappear from the minds of people chosen to craft what comes next — the Forward 2040 Comprehensive Plan. Other items will arise, but the same issues will require new and different solutions for Salisbury to continue to progress.

As the 2020 plan said, “Cities seldom stand still; they are continually growing, changing and evolving as places of human exchange. Salisbury is no exception.” Part of the 2040 committee’s job will be to think about how Salisbury could and how it should grow and change in the next 20 years in the face of lingering challenges and ones not considered yet.

Consider the 2010 creation of BlockWork, a program that brings volunteers together to improve one neighborhood block at a time, as a good example of progress toward addressing some neighborhood issues. Another example of progress: FBI crime data show decreases in the frequency of crimes from 2001, when the plan was adopted, to present day in most categories. Meanwhile, downtown is firmly on a path to revitalization, with projects like Bell Tower Green Park and the Empire Hotel’s redevelopment. Crews working on downtown storefronts and apartments are a more common sight, too.

But neighborhood associations, police officers, merchants and people across Salisbury would all say there’s still work to do on the issues the 2020 plan called “pressing.” Proof of that comes via numerous, ongoing community programs.

Just a few of many initiatives: the NAACP and Salisbury Police Department this year created the Summer Cease-Fire program, which aims to “interrupt” violence and de-escalate situations; locals have successfully advocated for the city to create a cycling and pedestrian committee to focus on making Salisbury more friendly to those modes of transportation; and the city council made a decision earlier this year to exceed its budgeted allotment to provide incentive grants for local business owners to fix up downtown buildings.

So, as the city embarks on what will be a lengthy planning process for the Forward 2040 plan, it must start by evaluating progress on issues recognized and recommendations made by the 2020 committee.

We think the 2040 committee will find many of the same broad concerns on the minds of Salisbury residents, but they’ll need to think about new solutions.

Economic growth, for example, is likely to bring with it more traffic congestion, but a number of those cars may drive themselves. The automation of jobs in our society today may affect the quality of life in our neighborhoods. And there will be technological advancement of which we cannot dream today.

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