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Ch. 6: Sustainable, Clean Natural Environment

Salisbury will be a city that positively adapts to the effects of a changing climate with a built environment that enhances and protects the area’s natural resources while also seeking to reduce environmental impacts and increase community resilience to natural disasters.

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Forward 2040 Chapter 6: Sustainable, Clean Natural Environment

Many of our most critical, global environmental issues are rooted in local, day-to-day decisions. Communities that value conservation of natural resources and the protection of open spaces not only add to the quality of life of residents, but contribute to mitigating broader global trends. This chapter of the Forward 2040 plan establishes a framework of policies and action steps that support greater environmental protection through regulation, partnerships and innovation.

Goal 6.1. Protect water quality and reduce flood risk to minimize property damage

New development can significantly impact natural features, such as floodplains or wetlands. These features serve to soak up, store and filter rain water that runs off from impervious surfaces such as roof tops, roads or parking lots. Efforts to treat both the volume and quality of stormwater can benefit not only the health of aquatic systems, but reduce the risk of greater property damage from flooding. 

Policy 6.1.1.  

Protect floodplain areas from inappropriate development in order to maintain the carrying capacity of the floodplain, improve water quality, provide wildlife habitat, and reduce potential threats to property damage.

Policy 6.1.2.  

Require the creation and maintenance of vegetated buffers as a means to filter pollutants and slow storm water runoff in new development. Seek grants and form creative partnerships to retrofit existing stream bank and buffer areas.    

Policy 6.1.3. 

  Encourage the creation and maintenance of green stormwater management systems (i.e. green infrastructure).  
Green infrastructure
encompasses a variety of water management practices, such as vegetated rooftops, absorbent gardens and other measures that capture, filter, and reduce storm water runoff. It captures rain where it falls, and mimics natural hydrological processes. 

Policy 6.1.4.  

Ensure water and sewer lines do not extend to areas that would encourage development in environmentally sensitive areas and floodplains.

Policy 6.1.5.  

Locate development to minimize environmental impact. Identify environmentally sensitive areas such as steep slopes, mature forests, intact native ecosystems and wetlands. Cluster buildings to minimize road construction and preserve open spaces and wildlife habitats. 

Policy 6.1.6.  

Work with Rowan County to regulate land disturbing activities to control accelerated erosion and sedimentation in order to prevent the pollution of water and other damage to lakes, waterways, and other public and private property.  

Policy 6.1.7.

Invest in resident education programs regarding stormwater, watersheds, water conservation, and the importance of preventing habitat fragmentation.
Conservation subdivisions
are a design strategy that attempts to cluster smaller residential lots together to preserve communal open space. In a conservation subdivision, 50-70 percent of the buildable land is set aside as open space. The images below demonstrate the same number of buildable lots, arranged in a traditional subdivision versus a conservation subdivision. 

Goal 6.2. Reduce greenhouse gas emissions

In Salisbury, and across the planet, communities are facing the cascading impacts of more frequent and severe weather events caused by global climate change and the abundance of greenhouse gases emitted. Poor air quality and extreme weather can jeopardize health and put property and infrastructure at risk. Decisions made today regarding investments in infrastructure to lower the City’s carbon footprint  will have a tremendous impact on our ecological and economic resiliency in the future. 

Policy 6.2.1.  

Continually seek ways to reduce green house gas emissions in City operations. 
Environment Action 1:
Establish a baseline carbon inventory and track greenhouse gas emissions related to City operations to monitor emissions and create future emission goals.
Environment Action 2:
Lead by example by transitioning the City fleet to advanced transportation technologies in order to maintain air quality, preserve natural resources, and reduce reliance on oil. 
Environment Action 3:
Seek funding for a pilot program for transitioning fleet vehicles to alternative fuel sources that also studies the costs and benefits of a full program.
Environment Action 4:
Establish a suitable network of electric vehicle charging stations.

Policy 6.2.2.  

Identify useful, alternative uses of undevelopable land, such as the area adjacent to I-85. Investigate using these areas for solar energy collection and pollutant extraction sites.

Policy 6.2.3. 

Promote sustainable practices in existing industries, encourage businesses to use locally produced materials and market their products locally, and recruit clean industries.

Policy 6.2.4. 

Encourage Duke Energy to invest in electrical grid modernizations to allow for increased distribution that would support battery powered technologies (i.e. electric vehicles).

Policy 6.2.5.  

Encourage solar energy collection on industrial, commercial and residential buildings. Lead by example by installing panels on governmental buildings.

Goal 6.3. Protect wildlife habitats and natural corridors

Urban sprawl can lead to deforestation and habitat fragmentation. As land continues to be developed, it will be important to be intentional about protecting the wetland, forests, rivers, streams, prairies, and riparian areas that wildlife require for migration and to maintain biodiversity.

Policy 6.3.1.  

Continue to develop and connect greenways and trails to link residential areas to other neighborhoods, with commercial areas, schools, and parks.

Policy 6.3.2. 

Encourage roadway crossings that navigate wildlife migration under roads to improve migration corridors.

Policy 6.3.3. 

Protect trees, ponds, creeks, and other natural features during development. Discourage the practice of clear-cutting.

Policy 6.3.4. 

Create educational initiatives with local colleges and schools to promote environmental stewardship.

Goal 6.4. Develop and preserve a canopy of trees

Beyond aesthetics, a healthy tree canopy has several public benefits such as the sequestration of carbon which reduces the urban heat island effect, buffers riparian zones, and creates habitat for wildlife. Salisbury has been named a Tree City USA for over 30 consecutive years. As land development occurs, preserving and maintaining the health of the existing tree canopy, and the planting of new trees will be critical. 

Policy 6.4.1.  

Work with the City’s Tree Board to establish an urban forestry program that promotes the health and expansion of the existing tree canopy to provide shade and sequester carbon.

Policy 6.4.2.  

Promote the planting of diverse species of trees and other plants that are native to the area. 

Policy 6.4.3.  

Explore requirements for new development to preserve trees, replace lost trees, and plant new trees.

Policy 6.4.4.  

Incentivize new development to preserve existing trees where possible.
Environment Action 5:
Complete an urban tree gap and canopy analysis.
Environment Action 6:
Implement a street tree planting and maintenance program that also educates and encourages residents on the benefits of tree preservation and tree planting on their private property in appropriate locations. 
Environment Action 7:
Develop a Landscape Manual that guides the planting of appropriate tree species in  a variety of conditions in appropriate locations.

Goal 6.5. Strive to achieve environmental justice

The guiding principle of environmental justice is that everyone, regardless of race, color, national origin or income is entitled to equal protection from environmental harms and risks. Unfortunately, environmental crises – whether natural disasters or man-made blight - such as brownfield or superfund sites – tend to impact vulnerable communities the most. Decisions regarding land uses should be made to avoid and minimize any negative environmental impacts to existing communities.

Policy 6.5.1.  

Prioritize climate resilience investments in the City’s most vulnerable communities. 

Policy 6.5.2.  

Protect residential areas from non-compatible land uses, such as industrial uses and highways, by leaving buffer zones of compatible land uses.

Policy 6.5.3.

Prioritize public tree plantings in neighborhoods that lack tree coverage.

Policy 6.5.4.

Support affordable housing developments in areas that have access to open space, and are not susceptible to flooding or exposed to other environmental hazards.

Policy 6.5.5.  

Work with other government entities and the private sector to remediate brownfields and other environmental hazards.
Brownfields Program - Kesler Mill
With grant funding through the Environmental Protection Agency, the City of Salisbury has been able to assist in assessing over a dozen  properties for environmental contamination between 2015 and 2022. In 2019 the City acquired the former site of the Kesler Mill in the Park Avenue neighborhood to facilitate the environmental cleanup, enabling neighborhood revitalization and redevelopment.

Goal 6.6. Promote a compact development pattern supported by multiple transportation network

The phenomenon of “sprawl” is generally typified as low-density, haphazard development spiraling outward from an urban center. Sprawling development patterns have been linked to negative environmental impacts including habitat fragmentation and water and air pollution. By contrast, compact development patterns take advantage of existing public infrastructure, consumes less land, and are more easily served by a multimodal transportation system. 

Policy 6.6.1.  

Encourage development on infill, vacant, brownfield, and under-developed land and deter greenfield development and suburban sprawl.

Policy 6.6.2.  

Expand public transit options and create transit connections with downtown and essential service locations. 

Policy 6.6.3.  

Promote multimodal transportation options during all transportation projects. Prioritize connections to existing bicycle lanes and sidewalks.

Policy 6.6.4.  

Promote higher-density housing in the downtown and near transportation and service nodes.
Environment Action 8:
Adopt a Complete Streets Policy.
Complete Streets
are more broadly thought of as streets that are designed and operated to prioritize safety, comfort, and access to destinations for all people who use the street. Often, this will mean slowing down cars, and adding facilities for pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users. Adoption of a Complete Streets policy would formalize an already existing practice of evaluating and incorporating several modes of transportation when building new projects or making improvements to existing infrastructure.

Goal 6.6. Promote a compact development pattern supported by multiple transportation network

Develop incentive programs aimed at discouraging individual automobile trips.

Goal 6.7.

Encourage green building design. Buildings are the greatest users of energy in the built environment. While the existing building stock contains substantial embodied energy and should be preserved, new buildings should be built using principles and techniques of green building, such as LEED, LEED ND, and Energy Star.

Policy 6.7.1.  

Promote the reuse of buildings to preserve the embodied energy of their materials.

Policy 6.7.2.  

Create programs for weatherization and small scale solar installations in private residences to reduce home operating costs for water and energy usage. 

Policy 6.7.3.  

Encourage the construction of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and Energy Star certified buildings.
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)
is an ecology-oriented building certification program run under the auspices of the US Green Building Council (USGCB)
LEED for Neighborhood Development (LEED-ND)
is a US based rating system that integrates the principles of smart growth, urbanism and green building into a national system for neighborhood design
Energy Star
is a program which provides certification to buildings and consumer products which meet certain standards of energy efficiency. 

Policy 6.7.4.  

Through development regulations, seek to minimize the heat island effect.
Environment Action 9:
Review the landscaping requirements in parking lots with the aim of reducing heat island effects.  

Policy 6.7.5.  

Promote the use of modern building design science to improve energy efficiency of both existing and new construction. The heat island effect is caused by structures, such as roads and buildings, that absorb and re-emit the sun’s heat more than natural features, such as wooded areas and bodies of water. Where there are higher concentrations of these structures and less greenery, a heat island, where the temperature is higher than outlying areas, can form. 

Goal 6.8. Promote public education in sustainable waste management to reduce litter and waste 

As the population grows, the City’s capacity to collect and manage waste must also increase. Reducing the amount of waste using sustainable and natural practices such as composting can help. Clean, litter-free streets are not only visually pleasing, but reduce contaminants that can cause harm to the natural environment.

Policy 6.8.1.  

Foster community partnerships with local organizations for litter clean-ups. 

Policy 6.8.2.  

Create public engagement campaigns for litter solutions. 

Policy 6.8.3. 

Explore programs to incentivize the recycling and reuse of building materials. 

Policy 6.8.4. 

Promote public awareness of the effects of solid-waste generation on the environment. 
Environment Action 10: 
Investigate city-wide food waste composting programs. 

Policy 6.8.6.  

Create education programs for residents on the benefits of environmentally-friendly design such as gardens, home compositing systems, and tree maintenance. 

Policy 6.8.7. 

Continue to develop creative educational techniques to decrease recycling contamination rates.

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