City Council Presentation (David Simonton, 1/5/2016)

A video of the 1/5/2016 evening session is HERE.

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Good evening, I’m David Simonton, 1218 Lorimer Road.

I’m here to ask Council to review the current citizen-initiated sidewalk petition policies. For whatever reason, the City has two very different policies now in place.

If a citizen wants a sidewalk on a UDO-conforming road, they can request one by contacting the City. Staff reviews the request and contacts all residents who will be affected. This letter includes the engineers’ recommendation for the location, width and placement of the sidewalk, along with a Petition Form, which, in this case, is a kind of ballot.

The City takes responsibility for the process, acting as a neutral, objective, information gathering and disseminating entity. Using this method, the city assures due process—all residents are notified in a timely manner, and the specifics of the project are clear.

But in the case of a non-conforming road (say, an older road, like Lorimer Road), the Petitioner controls the process, with little or no oversight by the City. The City doesn’t require timely notification of property owners. And there’s no requirement for neighborhood meetings. The Petitioner (who’s patently biased) is assumed by the City, and trusted, to handle the process responsibly; but, in our case at least, she did not.

The difference between these two policies is stark—and troubling. Why does the City cede responsibility when street upgrades are necessitated by the request for a sidewalk? Upgrades come with assessments, and these are costly to residents.

And why does the City turn a blind eye when its own lack of oversight results in acrimony and division in a once-harmonious neighborhood like ours? Door-to-door petitioning is known to have numerous problems associated with it—look at Laurel Hills Road; and now, Lorimer Road.

Given the likelihood of abuse, why is there no easy appeal process in place for the average citizen, to help assure the veracity and validity of this type of petition—some recourse short of having to sue the City?

The City of Charlotte has an appeal process built in, and it mandates that at least two informational meetings be held.

Finally, I believe Council should be required to table a proposal when an instance of abuse of the petition process is brought to its attention, instead of proceeding to a vote.

In conclusion, I hope you’ll look closely at these policies, and in particular the often-contentious door-to-door policy for sidewalks on a non-conforming road; consider changing it to a mailed ballot. And please revise the petition document itself, so it clearly states the measurements of sidewalks, setbacks and the City easement required for a project so that no one can misrepresent this information ever again.

Doing so will add credibility to the process, and help put Raleigh on track to becoming a truly progressive city.

Thank you.