Nestic says Salem Council planning process still in works

SALEM – City Councilman Dave Nestic said a planning process started last year to formulate a five-year guide for council spending and action remains in the works.

“It’s something we still want to do,” he said when contacted Thursday.

He explained that with the fall election and everything else, there was a lot going on and it was determined it would be better to hold off until the new council was seated and had a chance to settle in.

The process remains in the research phase and will be brought up again. He also said the planning process may become part of the scope of work for the Sustainable Opportunity Development Center, which has been tapped to partner with the city on economic development this year, utilizing $40,000 budgeted by city council specifically for economic development.

The issue of planning was raised Tuesday during the city council meeting by city resident Lisa Cahill, who urged council to “reignite efforts of the five-year planning process.”

Cahill and her husband, Scott, spearheaded an effort presented to city council last February known as the Downtown Salem Technical Advisory Committee Plan, which was formulated by a group of business owners, residents and members of organizations.

The plan asked city council to take several actions related to buildings, parking, traffic, funding, Internet access and business development for downtown.

An executive summary outlined the following significant items the city was being asked to do:

– form a Salem Buildings Department with a building code, building inspector and associated fee schedule

– raze buildings that pose a threat to the public per current law

– assume debt or a one-time tax of $50 per resident in the city of Salem for two years to provide funding for the redevelopment

– purchase structures and land to provide parking adjacent to downtown

– revise traffic patterns and add a truck route that circumvents the downtown business district while still allowing truck traffic serving downtown businesses

– consider universal Internet, car charging stations and a trolley

– draft a simple checklist to allow for the occupancy of buildings

– work with a non-profit developer to support a business incubator, apply for grants, find matching funds, coordinate other non-profit efforts and address aesthetic concerns of the downtown.

Cahill said the building owners and tenants have been working on their properties – the private side of the equation is doing its part. She asked that the city start doing its part, such as developing a checklist for occupancy of buildings, which could be put on the city website, along with a list of upcoming events in the city. She also asked them to put together a parking plan.

The idea of a planning process was first raised by Nestic in May during a Committee of the Whole meeting of city council, with council members assigned to chair four subcommittees

dealing with infrastructure, community development, housing and zoning and services.

He stressed that council will consult all of the previous plans done by organizations and groups, including the Downtown Salem Technical Advisory Committee Plan, the Comprehensive Sustainable Plan and the Salem 2020 Plan, but that the city needed to do its own plan.

Nestic said that some action has already occurred as a result of some of the research being done for the planning process. He said Councilman Brian Whitehill was looking into housing and arranged for an upcoming presentation on the Better Landlord program. A speaker will address the Committee of the Whole at 6 p.m. March 4 in council chambers regarding the program.

The meeting is open to the public and will precede the regular city council meeting at 7 p.m. in council chambers.