Clicking way through Salem to start soon

Want to find the closest parking area near a downtown Salem restaurant as you’re driving around?

Or where you can pick up a dog poop disposal bag as you walk your pet along the Greenway? Or even check out a piece of property without leaving the comfort of your own home?

All that will soon be possible with just a couple of clicks on your phone, tablet or home computer to “Sample Salem” or a similar catchy slogan.

Salem is getting an updated GIS Data Portal within about a week, courtesy of the efforts of Community Planning tech-savvy guys.

Monday night Salem City Council gave the improvements rave reviews and the go-ahead to make the apps live soon. Members hope it will put Salem on more of an even footing with other nearby jurisdictions GIS information available to the public.

In a council work session before the meeting, Charles Grant demonstrated the potential applications he and Jason Simpson worked on in their spare time. Community Development Director Chuck VanAllman Jr. explained the new Data Portal improvements didn’t cost the city a cent.

“You can look up subdivision plats, see developable real estate properties and similar things,” VanAllman said. “There’s one link just for subdivision plats you can search,” he explained. “You won’t have to call our office and ask for the data,” Grant pointed out.

VanAllman said the improvement “work on different platforms,” which makes it easier for citizens to access from various electronic devices.

Councilman James Martin asked a person is driving around and using a mobile device can he or she find parking closest to them. “Yes,” Simpson replied, explaining that will be added to the Downtown page on the city’s website.

“That could be particularly useful to out-of-town visitors,” Vice Mayor Jane Johnson commented. Simpson explained the app will show parking lots within so many feet of where the person is.

There will be about 25 links. “You can go to one page, or have individual links” of what that person most frequently uses, VanAllman added. The most popular apps would be at the top left of the page, he said.

He explained that once people get used to the new GIS system, if they can’t find something, they can still call the Community Planning office.

Historical information on what Salem used to look like will also be overlaid with just a click, for people who want to see what formerly was in parts of Salem.

“A spyglass function shows what Salem was like in 1872, from old maps,” VanAllman said. He credited City Planner Ben Tripp and Zoning Administrator Mary Ellen Wines with going to Virginia Tech to get historic pictures.

One of the aspects Councilmembers found particularly interesting was split screens of future land use and zoning, which users can change by a simple slide across the images. Interim Salem City Manager Jay Taliaferro asked Grant to go back to links of subdivision maps.

“That’s a ton of work,” he said.

VanAllman said that one aspect saves him and his offices so much effort.

“There’s so much out there, you’ve got to promote it,” Mayor Randy Foley said, and VanAllman agreed.

The mayor mentioned if city land on the map “was for sale, we could list a price on it.” He said, “If we were to have another major employer, they can know everything about you from the website.”

“We think we can use this GIS system as a platform to get out other data,” Grant said after showing pictures and locations of the city’s new black steel waste cans and the history behind them. They are part of the city’s beautification process and were paid for, in part, with grant money.

VanAllman complimented Grant and Simpson their efforts. “They have done an outstanding

“It’s awesome, guys. Thank you,” Mayor Foley said.

Communications Director Mike Stevens will prepare a press release about the start of the new GIS availability, and then the system will go live, Taliaferro said.

In the regular meeting, Council approved:

  • An ordinance establishing the Salem Historic Registry for buildings 100 years or older. That will make it easier for owners to do renovations, Taliferro said.
  • Setting an $11,429 bond and 12 months to complete for improvements, erosion and sediment control and landscaping to develop Twin Oaks Car Wash to be located at 229 Apperson Drive, where Colorado curves into Apperson.
  • Revoking a Special Exception permit issued in November 2017 to Green Gearheads LLC to allow scrap and salvage services at 844 Union Street. Green Gearheads failed to meet conditions for storing and cleaning up areas on the property. No one spoke at the public hearing Feb. 25, and no representative from Green Gearheads was present.

The open session of the Council meeting lasted ten minutes. Councilmembers then went into a 60-minute closed session to discuss three matters, noted by City Attorney Steve Yost. There was no action when members returned to open session. The three items involved sale of city land, legal advice related to probable opioid litigation and a potential investment where bargaining is involved, Yost said.

This Friday, Councilmembers will have an all-day council retreat at Greenfield Education and Training Center in Botetourt County. It begins at 8:45 a.m. and by law, is open to any members of the public who want to attend.

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