“Overriding Concerns” Documents

This document was part of a package of documents presented to City Council Members, the City Clerk, City Attorney and Chief of Staff on 2/2/2016 by David Simonton:

OVERRIDING CONCERNS

1)   Street and Sidewalk Improvement Petition #1351—Lorimer Road was presented to residents along Lorimer Road as being a flexible document.  As [residents] soon found out, however, it was not. It specifically called for the “construction of a 27’ back-to-back street section with a 6’ wide sidewalk on a 6’ setback on the west side, and a 3.5’shoulder on the east side, including curbs, gutters, drains, and paving…”

Although the letter from the City to property owners dated July 28, 2015 was clear on the matter, the Petition document itself never clearly stated either the size of the sidewalk or the setback, or the dimensions of the City easements required for the project, so…property owners could easily understand the parameters of the project for themselves.  They had no way of understanding the effects of the project on themselves and their neighbors, having to rely instead on what the Petitioner and others told them about it.  (see Notice to Lorimer Road Property Owners and the Petition Document included in your packet – the green and blue tabs on the Petition indicate the pages and locations of sidewalk and setback descriptions)

In part because of the lack of clarity in the Petition document itself, the Petitioner, the Petitioner’s sister, a City staff member, and District D Representative Kay Crowder were able to portray the Petition document in assorted ways, all implying flexibility. For example:

a)  Donna Burford, the Petitioner, told residents “not to worry and to sign the document as it was…that we would all be able to sit down once it passed and determine how we would like [the result] to look…that [she] also would advocate for a smaller footprint…and that this was standard petition format for this type of request.” (see Affidavit of Karen Rochford)

b)  When Council Member Kay Crower introduced the petition to a number of residents at the one and only neighborhood meeting on April 1, 2015—nearly 4 ½ months after it had been first issued to the Petitioner—some in attendance were hearing the project dimensions for the first time (or had just found out about them right before the meeting).

A resident asked why the City proposed a 6 ft setback and 6 ft sidewalk in an established neighborhood. Mrs. Crowder responded, saying something like, “I’m sure it’s not that.” So Mr. Upchurch checked the petition and said that in fact these were the correct measurements, and that a 6 ft sidewalk with 6 ft setback is the current UDO standard for new developments. When the resident said that her neighbor-hood was not a new development – we are an established neighborhood where some houses are set very close to the road. Councilwoman Crowder responded, “I’ll bet we can argue that back down.” (see Affidavit of Carolyn Parker)

c)  Similarly, Donetta Powell, an Assessment Specialist with the Department of Public Works, told a resident, after he expressed concern about what he considered to be an unnecessarily large footprint given our neighborhood’s characteristics, “I’ll bet we’ll be able to get that back to a 24’ road, with a 2’ setback and a 5’ sidewalk.” (see Emails from Donetta Powell to City Staff and Affidavit of Ryan Barnum)

2)  Residents were kept in the dark about Petition/project details for more that 4 ½ months of what should have been a 6 month process.  Sharon Mixon confirmed this fact, stating, in effect, that hardly anyone (save for herself and her sister, Donna Burford) knew anything about the details of the Petition until mid-March. The Petitioner thus chose to keep property owners in the dark during that time—from late- November until mid-March—about changes that could affect ALL OF US, according to Mixon. (see Affidavit of Carolyn Parker)

3)  Misinformation Was Knowingly Distributed by the Petitioner: During the petition process the Petitioner circulated a one-page Information Sheet she had prepared for distribution. (see Information Sheet Written by Donna Burford). It included misinformation by representing that, “Eventually the City of Raleigh will require the road to be brought up to standard as a conforming road and the property owners will pay the increased fees at that time if it is not handled now.”

When the untruth of that statement was brought to the Petitioner’s attention at the April 1, 2015 meeting, she admitted her “mistake” (her word), and yet continued to distribute that same Information Sheet—with the misinformation still included—in the following days. She was contacted and asked to stop and issue a retraction, which she did on April 4. Yet she continued to distribute the Information Sheet uncorrected; she included it in an email to resident Ryan Barnum on April 10. (see Affidavits of Karen Rochford and Carolyn Parker).

In addition, at least two property owners we have heard from report that the Petition was presented to them as being only a “preliminary petition,” and that their signature was to gage interest in starting a petition; and that the April 1, 2015 meeting (which neither was able to attend) was being held to discuss possible interest in creating a petition. (see Email from Erin Salmon to City Staff)

4)  Misdirection: Stormwater. Despite the Petition being for Street and Sidewalk Improvements, the Petitioner stressed stormwater as presenting a big problem for some residents. On her Information Sheet she stated that this project would assure that stormwater runoff would be “a thing of the past.”

Although stormwater issues were used to solicit signatures (see Affidavit of Ryan Barnum) —

-Residents never had the opportunity to talk with Stormwater personnel.
-No one from Stormwater was present at the April 1 meeting.
-Residents were never told that a Stormwater Report/Study had prepared which showed that sidewalk construction, which would result in more impermeable surface and less permeable surface, would actually increase stormwater runoff, thus adding an additional burden on Bushy Branch Creek.
-No one from Stormwater spoke at the September 1, 2015 City Council Meeting, although the topic of stormwater was mentioned by residents from the section of Lorimer between Onslow and Kaplan at that Meeting.
-It is not clear whether this project will actually solve stormwater issues as much as it will shift the burden down to Bushy Creek and onto Onslow Road.

We have now seen the Stormwater Report, and it confirms that the section of Lorimer Road north of Onslow Road, between Garland and Onslow, does not have stormwater issues (i.e. that our ditches are functioning, and our culverts are clear).

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