Steering Committee members working to finalize draft of Forward 2040 plan

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 27, 2021

By Natalie Anderson

SALISBURY — The city’s plan for the next 19 years is going through a deeper dive by members of a steering committee before it’s finalized.

A number of informal virtual meetings have occurred in May, with goals and sections within the plan discussed for possible tweaks. The plan has been discussed so far in the Thriving, Livable Neighborhoods Subcommittee and the Clean, Natural Environment Subcommittee, but Planning Director Hannah Jacobson said follow-up meetings are needed for both.

A meeting of the Healthy, Active Community Subcommittee is scheduled for June 1.

City staff and locals who make up the steering committee have been working for more than a year to formulate the “Forward 2040: Salisbury’s Framework for Growth” plan, which includes direction for land use, transportation, housing, infrastructure, environmental protection, public utilities and economic development in the city.

City staff in November presented the city council with a list of 10 vision statements and themes derived from responses and comments from more than 250 participants. Those statements provide the foundation and theme of the plan. They include:

• A resilient, diverse economy with opportunities for growth as well as attracting, cultivating and retaining a strong, diverse workforce. To do this, the city should leverage its local assets and partnerships to promote business vitality and diversity.

• Thriving, livable neighborhoods with affordable housing choices for all.

• A unique, dynamic downtown where “history, innovation and arts animate” the heart of the city and where there will eventually be diverse options for both “work and play.”

• A high-quality built environment where “quality and distinctive buildings and site designs characterized by walkable scale, integrated open spaces and a harmonious built environment.”

• Local and regional partnerships

• An equitable, inclusive community that works to eliminate disparities in wealth, housing, safety, health and opportunities so that all may thrive.

• A sustainable, clean natural environment, which calls on the city to “positively adapt to the effects of a changing climate” while protecting natural resources and reducing environmental impacts. This vision also increases community resilience to natural disasters.

• Responsibly managed growth that builds on the city’s historic legacy and strong development standards to grow accessible transportation and adequate infrastructure.

• A healthy and active community, which includes access to locally grown food.

• A vibrant community atmosphere that is welcoming to all cultures and provides opportunities for everyone actively working to attract new residents.

Committee members for the Forward 2040 plan include Sue McHugh, Historic Salisbury Foundation Executive Director Sada Stewart, Salisbury Planning Board member John Schaffer, banker Mark Lewis and local artist and Pier and Curtain Home Restoration owner Taylor Ellerbee.

Members of the Unique, Dynamic Downtown Subcommittee met Wednesday for an exercise to discuss the city’s current strengths, weaknesses, future opportunities and future challenges — what’s known as a SWOC analysis. Additionally, city staff are referring to comprehensive plans adopted in Raleigh, Wilmington and Winston-Salem in planning Salisbury’s Forward 2040 plan.

Strengths discussed by aforementioned committee members include the city’s preservation and celebration of history, a thriving arts scene, the new Bell Tower Green Park, historic building stock, adequate lighting and parking, second-floor residential development, grant programs for revitalization and historic tax credits.

Some of those assets also pose future challenges. For example, though the city has adequate parking at this time, an increase in residential units call for more off-street parking capabilities, members say. Additionally, Lewis said maintaining affordability for housing units is a challenge for the downtown area.

And while the city has a great supply of historic buildings, Schaffer noted some of those buildings don’t lend themselves to modern technology and standards and are more costly and complicated to repurpose. He added that some property owners seem to prefer “holding onto” some of those buildings, which prevents the opportunity for investment.

Additionally, members agreed that, while the city has a strong water system, much of the infrastructure under Main Street is decades old, and it’s unclear what work is needed for future developments.

Committee members also discussed future opportunities, which includes the county’s attraction of industrial developments, a multimodal transportation hub, the implementation of biking and pedestrian accommodations with the future Main Street Plan and federal American Rescue Plan dollars for improvements to the city’s Amtrak station.

McHugh added that an increase in downtown residents calls for more services that cater to them such as grocers and butchers.

Jacobson also presented policy statements adopted in other cities. Schaffer said it’d be ideal to use terms that are clearer than “encourage, promote and support.” Members liked Raleigh’s idea of updating the plan periodically to reflect which goals have been met.

Surveys for each of the 10 themes included in the plan can be completed by visiting

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

About Natalie Anderson

Natalie Anderson covers the city of Salisbury, politics and more for the Salisbury Post. She joined the staff in January 2020 after graduating from Louisiana State University, where she was editor of The Reveille newspaper. Email her at or call her at 704-797-4246.

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