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Ch. 4: Context-Based Urban Design

Salisbury will be a city of quality and distinctive buildings and site designs characterized by a walkable scale, integrated open spaces, and a harmonious built environment.

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Forward 2040 Chapter 4: Context-Based Urban Design

Goal 4.1. Establish a Future Land Use Map to guide development in a growing and evolving City while preserving community character

The Future Land Use Map is a vision of the urban form, function, and characteristics of different areas around Salisbury. Future Land Use Maps guide decisions on rezoning, development regulations, streetscape projects, park projects, and economic development programs. This map does not specify what a property owner can legally do with their property, as a zoning map does.  The Future Land Use Map breaks Salisbury into a variety of different Place Types designed to identify the different characteristics and land uses Salisbury has envisioned for the future. The map is advisory in nature and should be used in conjunction with the policies listed throughout the Forward 2040 Comprehensive Plan. The Future Land Use Map does not alter the current zoning map or zoning regulations, it is one of the tools that should be used to help determine whether a rezoning request is consistent with the comprehensive plan. Each Place Type utilized in the Future Land Use Map is not limited to describing one zoning district alone, rather multiple different zoning districts, even some that may not exist in Salisbury today, may be found to be a suitable in each Place Type. When proposed developments are permitted within their existing zoning district, the development can proceed through administrative procedures, such as site plan and subdivision review. When a proposed development is not permitted by current zoning, the property owner must request an amendment to the adopted zoning map in order to proceed with development. When a rezoning has been requested; City Staff, Planning Board, and City Council should review the Future Land Use Map along with the policies of the Forward 2040 Comprehensive Plan to determine whether or not the rezoning request is found to be consistent with the plan.  A current zoning map as of this plan is located in Appendix A. The zoning map located on the City’s website is continually updated and is the best resource for reviewing current zoning districts.  Descriptions of each Place Type can be found in Appendix F. 

Goal 4.2. Demonstrate the power of investment of place through community-driven placemaking

Placemaking belongs to everyone. It enables the community to capitalize upon existing assets and create new nodes of activity where vitality is lacking. Several of the subsequent priorities in this plan seek to strengthen one’s experience of downtown Salisbury, the gateway corridors, the commercial nodes, and the city’s neighborhoods. These initiatives must be recognized as fundamental to the city’s economic future – and not as bells and whistles that might be nice to have someday. If Salisbury’s cityscape is of a consistently high quality and offers residents an exceptional quality of life, the city will attract and retain entrepreneurs and skilled workers who can broaden the city’s economic range and strengthen its financial capacity. The aesthetics of our streetscape matter to passersby and users alike.  The addition of alternative modes of transportation to the streets - whether in the form of improved walkways and trails or added bike lanes - allows residents from all economic levels an opportunity to move about the community equally.  This interconnectedness creates a cohesive community.   Ongoing efforts to improve placemaking and to create meeting/community nodes provide residents the opportunity to gather and socialize in ways that result in a stronger community bond. Interactions at this level can form lasting relationships.

Goal 4.3. Recognize, support, and enhance the character of existing neighborhoods, while supporting their ongoing investment and improved adaptation

Existing Neighborhoods encompass Traditional Neighborhoods, Suburban Neighborhoods, Multi-family Communities, and Emerging Neighborhoods in the Future Land Use Map. Existing Neighborhoods are predominantly built-out and have been for at least a few decades. Relative to other neighborhoods, they are stable and do not anticipate high levels of land use changes. However, most Established Neighborhoods within the city should expect some degree of infill and redevelopment. Many Existing Neighborhoods have nodes of commercial uses at major intersections or along major thoroughfares, for example along North Main Street between 12th and Midway Street. These commercial nodes should be examined for potential neighborhood placemaking opportunities to create a sense of neighborhood identity. 

Policy 4.3.1.

Continually reinvest in the infrastructure of older urban neighborhoods, including but not limited to: park improvements, sidewalks, street maintenance, street trees, street lights, water and sewer lines, and drainage.

Policy 4.3.2.

Allow single-family, multiplex housing, as well as small footprint homes, and accessory dwelling units (ADUs), in neighborhood Place Types and corresponding zoning districts where single-family housing is allowed. 

Policy 4.3.3.

Coordinate with the neighborhood during the planning and review of neighborhood infill development projects to ensure that these developments provide benefits to the neighborhood.

Policy 4.3.4.

Undertake and expand inclusive neighborhood planning processes to incorporate plans for improved connectivity.

Urban Design Action 1:

Identify and address gaps in transit services in neighborhood areas.

Policy 4.3.5.

Prioritize public investments such as bicycle facilities, sidewalks, transit stops, and parks.

Policy 4.3.6.

Identify appropriate locations for grocery stores and markets, shopping, and community facilities.

Policy 4.3.7.

Encourage rehabilitation or adaptive reuse of existing buildings rather than demolition in areas characterized by vacant, abandoned, and underutilized older buildings.

Policy 4.3.8.

Encourage infill development on vacant land within the city, particularly in areas where there are vacant lots that create “gaps” in the urban fabric and detract from the character of a residential street. Such development should complement the established character of the area and should not create sharp changes in the physical development pattern.

Policy 4.3.9.

Work with neighborhoods to identify ways to improve the visual appearance of neighborhood gateways – locations where residents and visitors enter into a neighborhood. Provide assistance to neighborhood organizations to secure funding from a variety of sources to make gateway improvements.

Policy 4.3.10.

Encourage pedestrian-level streetlights and appropriately designed private property lights in neighborhoods.

Policy 4.3.11.

Encourage appropriately located, designed, and scaled stores and services providing basic necessities to residents of the city’s older neighborhoods. 

Urban Design Action 2:

Create a Local Historic District street sign program.

Goal 4.4. Support the development of new, complete neighborhoods that use exceptional neighborhood design

Future Neighborhoods are a Place Type designated within the Future Land Use Map. The policies within this goal provide guidance for those new neighborhoods. A complete neighborhood is one with a variety of housing types available at a range of price points that is pedestrian-friendly, near transit systems, and has nearby commercial to serve its residents. Complete neighborhoods are well connected to the rest of the City and include high-quality amenities such as parks, open space, and meeting facilities.

Policy 4.4.1.

Interconnect streets in new development with adjoining streets. Cul-de-sacs or dead end streets are discouraged except where topographic conditions or lot line configurations offer no practical alternatives for connection or through traffic. Provide street stubs in new development adjacent to open land to provide for future connections. 

Policy 4.4.2.

New development should be composed of blocks of public streets, including sidewalks. Block faces should have a length similar to existing neighborhoods.

Policy 4.4.3. 

Encourage the development of compact neighborhoods.

Policy 4.4.4. 

Design new neighborhood streets to give equal priority to the pedestrian and the automobile. New neighborhood streets should not be wider than necessary to serve their intended purpose.

Policy 4.4.5.

Include one or more neighborhood centers in new neighborhoods.

Policy 4.4.6.

Ensure the provision of a mixture of housing types, sizes, and prices in new neighborhoods. 

Policy 4.4.7.

Connect new neighborhoods to other residential, shopping, and work areas and ensure transit connections in new residential areas.

Urban Design Action 3:

Update the Traditional Neighborhood Design Zoning District

Policy 4.4.8.

Use multiplexes, townhomes, and low-impact office uses as transitional uses between lower-density neighborhoods and more intensive commercial, residential, or mixed use areas. 

Policy 4.4.9.

Encourage walkable neighborhood-oriented mixed-use development and neighborhood commercial establishments adjacent to and at intersections of major thoroughfares within neighborhoods.

Policy 4.4.10.

Include a variety of housing options in master plan subdivisions, including single-family detached homes, multiplexes, patio homes, small-scale apartment buildings, and accessory dwelling units. Neighborhoods should include a variety of lot and household sizes. Housing types can be integrated proximate to each other through the use of compatible designs.

Urban Design Action 4:

Create a Planned Residential Development zoning district that allows commercial integration as a pedestrian-oriented town center.  

Traditional Neighborhood Design

is a planning concept that calls for new neighborhoods to be designed as neighborhoods were in the early 20th century. Traditional Neighborhood Design uses compact, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods with a mix of neighborhood-supporting commercial uses, variable housing types, and public spaces where neighbors have the opportunity to interact. Features of a Traditional Neighborhood Design are below:
  • Pedestrian-friendly Street Patterns: gridded street patterns generally allow for better pedestrian circulation than cul-de-sac, curvilinear streets because they have more intersections, shorter blocks lengths, and more connected streets. Consistent, well-maintained sidewalks lined with shade trees provide a comfortable pedestrian environment. 
  • Rear Alleyways: incorporating rear alleyways into the design of new neighborhoods moves garages and parking areas to the back of the house. This removes the need for front driveways and allows for narrower front setbacks, which promotes a pedestrian-friendly environment. 
  • Front Porches: the front porch is an important element to many historic North Carolina homes. The front porch can act as a place to interact with neighbors, a connection to the outdoors, and enhance neighborhood safety by providing “eyes on the street”. 

Goal 4.5. Create distinctive and memorable gateways to the City, and points of entry to individual neighborhoods

Gateways should provide a sense of transition and arrival, and should be designed to make a strong and positive visual impact, while promoting safety of pedestrian traffic. Improving the streetscape and built fabric that defines a gateway requires a cooperative effort between the City and private property owners that line the gateway. 

Policy 4.5.1.

Design planting strips between sidewalks and roads that allow for a large variety trees and a more attractive streetscape.

Policy 4.5.2.

Require the planting or preservation of street trees of appropriate size as part of the upfront costs of new development.

Policy 4.5.3.

Design streets with street trees planted in a manner appropriate to their function. No single tree species should comprise more than 10% to 15% of the total street tree population of the city.

Policy 4.5.4.

Plant regularly spaced street trees in central medians, frontage street medians, and plaza strips.

Policy 4.5.5.

Partner with Duke Energy to prepare a plan to bury utilities underground. Major City entrances and gateways should receive first priority for the under grounding of overhead utilities.

Policy 4.5.6.

Support the expansion of a unified and comprehensive system of pedestrian wayfinding signs, kiosks, and other graphics to provide directions to pedestrians, bicyclists, and vehicular travelers. Wayfinding systems should link physical and digital elements.

Policy 4.5.7.

Special consideration should be given to decreasing overall building setbacks, lessening curb cuts, moving parking to the back of buildings, as well as decreasing signage to create a district that is comfortable to drive through and to walk within. 

Goal 4.6. Support the development of new and the revitalization of existing mixed-use centers to promote a compact development pattern, walkability, and economic vitality

Mixed-use areas are identified in the Future Land Use Map as Activity Corridors, Neighborhood Activity Centers, Community Activity Centers, and the Downtown Center. The Downtown Center is primarily focused in Chapter 11. These mixed-use areas bring together high-density residential with nonresidential in a walkable, bicycle-friendly, and transit oriented format to reduce dependency on personal cars. Front setbacks should be low in new construction and parking located to the side or rear to promote a pedestrian-friendly environment. Mixed-use areas should have a variety of uses and activities to become vibrant destinations, with bottom floor uses such as retail, dining, service, and entertainment with upper story residential. Attention should be given to reducing curb cuts, creating planting strips with shade trees, benches, bicycle racks, trash cans, and other pedestrian amenities. 

Policy 4.6.1.

Integrate a diverse mix of uses with a design that avoids a segregation of uses. Non-residential uses are not simply adjacent, but designed to be an accessible part of a development or neighborhood.

Policy 4.6.2.

Focus on building orientation, siting of parking, mix of uses, provision of public spaces, circulation patterns, and the design of the public realm in mixed use areas to engender high quality urban design and architecture.

Policy 4.6.3.

Promote a comfortable and convenient pedestrian environment by requiring that buildings face the sidewalk and street area, avoid excessive setbacks, and provide an entrance oriented toward the street.  

Policy 4.6.4.

The height and massing of new buildings and building additions should provide a sense of enclosure on the street, without making the space feel cavernous. 

Urban Design Action 5:

Consider establishing a ratio of Right-of-Way width to maximum building podium height and step backs to achieve maximum heights.

Policy 4.6.5.

Design buildings to be permeable, use windows and doors in the façade design and open up those that have been bricked in, and avoid large blank walls.

Policy 4.6.6.

Divide the fronts of buildings into a series of vertical bays along their length and articulate façades into a distinct base, middle and top. 

Policy 4.6.7.

Activate the ground floors of buildings with retail, restaurants, and other dynamic uses.

Policy 4.6.8.

Discourage strip commercial development and auto-oriented building and site designs in Activity Corridors as shown on the Future Land Use Map. Efficient site design, shared parking between complementary uses, and strategic use of landscaped areas to collect stormwater should be encouraged.

Policy 4.6.9.

Encourage private owners to extend their interior spaces to the street by incorporating dining areas and small merchandise displays, while still allowing for safe and accessible sidewalk clearance. 

Policy 4.6.10.

Encourage creative solutions including landscaping and other aesthetic treatments to design parking structures to minimize their visual prominence. Where feasible, the street side of parking structures should be lined with active and visually attractive uses to lessen their impact.

Policy 4.6.11.

Locate new parking lots at the rear or side of buildings. Landscape parking lots to create a pedestrian friendly environment and to reduce the amount of impervious surface.

Policy 4.6.12.

Taper the intensity of mixed use areas directly adjacent to residential developments and use building form, architectural details, land uses, or natural buffer transitions between developments to ensure compatibility. 

Urban Design Action 6:

Revise mixed use zoning districts (DMX, NMX, CMX, RMX) to incorporate elements of form-based codes.

Urban Design Action 7:

Conduct a small area plan for the South Main Street Activity Corridor from Downtown to the Neighborhood Activity Center at Fulton Street and Main Street. 

Goal 4.7. Support the revitalization of commercial areas to allow for new businesses, local services, and increased tax base

Commercial areas are identified in the Future Land Use Map as Regional Commercial Centers and Highway Commercial Corridors. New auto-oriented, strip style development should be discouraged. Existing commercial areas should be given special attention when it comes to parking lot flow for pedestrians and vehicles, transit options, landscaping, and public art. Commercial areas are identified in the Future Land Use Map as Regional Commercial Centers and Highway Commercial Corridors. New auto-oriented, strip style development should be discouraged. Existing commercial areas should be given special attention when it comes to parking lot flow for pedestrians and vehicles, transit options, landscaping, and public art.

Policy 4.7.1.

Discourage new single-family lots with direct access to Commercial Corridors and arterial streets to minimize curb cuts and traffic impacts, and to preserve the viability of retail and other commercial uses.

Policy 4.7.2.

Avoid uses that create excessive activity and noise that might negatively impact residential areas in proximity of neighborhoods.

Policy 4.7.3.

Avoid unreasonable and unexpected traffic, parking, litter, shadow, view obstruction, odor, noise, or vibration resulting from commercial development. Impacts on surrounding neighborhoods should be considered during the Conditional District and development review process.  

Policy 4.7.4.

Promote a comfortable and convenient pedestrian environment with shallow building setbacks and entrances that are oriented to the street and sidewalk.

Policy 4.7.5.

Place buildings at the corners, if located at a street intersection. Parking, loading and dumpsters or utilities should not be located at an intersection. 

Policy 4.7.6.

Create visual interest with well-designed building facades, storefront windows, and attractive signage and lighting. Avoid large expanses of blank walls, especially adjoining public spaces.  

Policy 4.7.7. 

Encourage efficient site design, shared parking between complementary uses, and reduced amounts of impervious surface in parking lot design. 

Policy 4.7.8. 

Enhance and expand the required planting and tree coverage for parking lots by incorporating design standards that promote the long term tree growth and health. Planting standards should improve permeability and reduce the heat island effect. 

Policy 4.7.9. 

Avoid major retail development in suitable industrial areas to avoid an oversupply of retail, which could result in abandonment of retail spaces elsewhere.

Goal 4.8. Plan for the development and expansion of employment areas to promote access to economic opportunity, reduced auto dependency, and a balance of jobs and housing

Employment areas are identified in the Future Land Use Map as Employment Centers, Institutional Centers, and Public, Office, and Institutional Place Types. Employment Centers are planned for areas around major intersections, such as the intersection of Jake Alexander Boulevard South and Old Concord Road. These centers are predominately research and development uses. Salisbury is home to four colleges and universities and partnerships between these institutions and surrounding uses and neighborhoods should be encouraged as future growth occurs. 

Policy 4.8.1. 

Coordinate land use and capital investments for the development of quality employment and industry along the Interstate I-85 corridor and the roadways feeding into it. 

Urban Design Action 8:

Work with Rowan County and municipalities along the I-85 corridor to develop a unified zoning district to promote economic development. 

Policy 4.8.2. 

Maintain a buffer of trees along I-85 and other major highways and roads as development occurs for sound barriers, tree canopy, and aesthetics.

Policy 4.8.3. 

Enhance partnerships among the city’s large institutions to coordinate their growth and development in a manner compatible with surrounding development character and neighborhoods. Institutions are encouraged to be proactive in addressing issues such as traffic, parking, hours of operation and expansion.

Policy 4.8.4. 

Allow flexibility in the interior development of large employment and institutional campuses to be designed for a mix of related uses linked by pedestrian, bicycle, and other modes of transportation to reduce car trips and achieve visual continuity in the siting and scale of buildings. The edges of campuses ought to be stepped down in intensity to blend with the surrounding area. 

Goal 4.9. Ensure the provision of industrial areas to promote a diversity of employment opportunities and local manufacturing.

Industrial areas are identified in the Future Land Use Map as Production and Processing Place Types. Industrial areas are typically located along rail corridors and off I-85. As Salisbury grows and new residential areas are developed, there should be buffers from areas reserved for industrial uses. Industrial areas are identified in the Future Land Use Map as Production and Processing Place Types. Industrial areas are typically located along rail corridors and off I-85. As Salisbury grows and new residential areas are developed, there should be buffers from areas reserved for industrial uses.

Policy 4.9.1. 

Accommodate industrial uses in areas that are well buffered from residential uses and other sensitive uses such as schools, and that are easily accessed from major roads or railroads. 

Policy 4.9.2. 

Provide and maintain adequate screening and buffering between industrial uses and adjoining existing residential uses. New residential development moving into an area adjoining an existing industrial use should have the burden of providing for its own screening and buffering.

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