Jane Fenn & Kay Crowder – Phone Call Notes

—– Forwarded Message —–
From: “Crowder, Kay”
To: Jane Fenn ; “Crowder, Kay”
Sent: Friday, October 2, 2015 10:29 AM
Subject: RE: Phone Call Notes
Ms. Fenn,
Nick Sadler again. Council Member Crowder asked that I follow up with you on answers to your questions. Ms. Crowder does plan to call you back to discuss these. Please see answers [in italics] below.
Nick Sadler, Policy Analyst
City of Raleigh | City Manager’s Office
.  .  .
From: Jane Fenn
Sent: Tuesday, September 29, 2015 12:41 PM
To: Crowder, Kay
Subject: Phone Call Notes
Good morning — I wanted to tell you again that I appreciated your call and also to say that I look forward to the information you said you would find and pass on to me.  According to my notes, these are the areas where you were going to pursue input from city personnel:
1.  Specific reasons why the west side of Lorimer Road was selected for the sidewalk rather than the east side.  You suggested terrain (but the west side has more properties with a significant slope), utilities (the west side does have utility poles) and drainage (with both sides having new storm sewers and gutters, I don’t understand what difference there might be). City staff (no names were provided in that email from Nick Sadler) already told me specifically that cost differential was not a factor — that there is no particular cost difference.  In light of these things, I want to understand exactly what factors were behind the selection.  The implication for me is that the sidewalk be changed to the east side in accordance with the petition originator’s own statements at the Sept. 1 meeting.
Upon reflection after our conversation, I see a different way to reach more equity among property owners.  Why not put a sidewalk on both sides of Lorimer?  At least that would impact all property owners comparably. How about that?  Putting the sidewalk on both sides would be much more expensive. A large part of my dissatisfaction with this project is the feeling of gross inequity involved, a situation that will continue as long as I own the property and therefore continue to be responsible for a sidewalk and a setback and a serious slope. If all property owners share the same impact, that would resolve the inequity.
In this case staff, using set criteria, decided that the best location for the sidewalk to be placed in the public right of way on the west side. The criteria used are vegetation, right of way width, and utility location. The right of way width is symmetrical in this case. Utlities are located on the north side but are located far enough back that they do impact either side. The existing vegetation is more dense on the south side which caused the north side to be more attractive.  
2.  Interest rate for property owners who decide to use the city’s offer to finance their share of the assessment.  The figure given is 6%.  I want to know what interest rate the city pays for its bonds or any other source when obtaining funds for such a street and sidewalk project.  If it is less than 6%, the city is making money on a decision to finance.  How and why would that be allowed?
State statute provides the basic framework for levying interest on assessments that are paid over time.  As shown in the following statute language, 8% is the maximum interest rate that can be assessed.    Basically, the assessment payment plan is an installment loan with payments due annually with interest accruing daily.
§ 160A-229. Publication of notice of confirmation of assessment roll. After the expiration of 20 days from the confirmation of the assessment roll, the city tax collector shall publish once a notice that the assessment roll has been confirmed, and that assessments may be paid without interest at any time before the expiration of 30 days from the date that the notice is published, and that if they are not paid within this time, all installments thereof shall bear interest as provided in G.S. 160A-233.
§ 160A-233. Enforcement of assessments; interests; foreclosure; limitations. (a) Any portion of an assessment that is not paid within 30 days after publication of the notice that the assessment roll has been confirmed shall bear interest until paid at a rate to be fixed in the assessment resolution butnot more than eight percent (8%) per annum.
A number of years ago, the City approved a rate of 6% for City or Raleigh assessments which, of course, is under the 8% state maximum.    
Assessments shall be payable in cash, or, if any property owner should so elect and give notice of the fact in writing to the City, in accordance with the provisions of G.S. 160A-232, such property owner shall have the option and privilege of paying the assessment in ten (10) equal installments, such installments to bear interest at the rate of six (6) per cent per annum from the date of the confirmation of the assessment roll.
The interest rate is meant to cover the “cost of borrowed funds” and costs of administration.   Over a 10-year assessment payment period, market rates will vary (of course being currently low) and 6% was set as an overall rate that was deemed reasonable.  I believe that this is a very mainstream level of interest rate on assessments but we are going to do some further checking with peer cities to verify that again.   If we find anything that supports consideration of a change in the interest rate, we’ll pursue that through management and Council as appropriate.
3.  Use of water-permeable concrete. I know there are materials available that would foster less runoff along the proposed sidewalk and street.  Will such advanced materials be used?
No, the City has not used permeable concrete for sidewalks to date to my knowledge on publicly funded projects.  It is my understanding that street maintenance is also not setup for routine maintenance of permeable concrete, which can become clogged and require additional maintenance above and beyond standard sidewalk to ensure it functions as intended.  There is also the issue that most soils in North Carolina are clay, which are not conducive to infiltration like sandy soils in the eastern part of the state.  So by simply installing a permeable sidewalk over top of clay soil would likely not provide the type of infiltration that would be expected.  At a minimum, several inches of stone are also required below the sidewalk, which heavily increases the costs associated with the sidewalk installation.
Is seeding with straw the only option the city has for mitigating the project scars?  Straw is the standard mulch used when seeding following construction.  What specifically will be done about the cut and bare slopes between the sidewalk and property owners’ yards?  This will certainly vary from property to property depending on terrain, but typically the City’s practice is to tie back the slopes to the natural terrain at a 3:1 slope or flatter (depending on the terrain and size of each owner’s impacts).  The ground is then seeded and mulched as mentioned in the previous question.  At what point will the city decide a retaining wall must be provided?  Typically a wall is considered when a slope of 2:1 is unachievable.  Do they have formulas for such things, figured by measuring slope degrees or something?  Formulas are not necessary unless you have extreme slope situations (very high or very steep), which are not anticipated along this corridor.  However, the City will continue to monitor vegetation growth and provide additional measures (erosion control matting for example) should there be a problem getting vegetation re-established.  If no wall is provided, what recourse will the property owner have for erosion of the slope?  The City’s project will not be completed until vegetation is re-established by the Contractor and each property owner has approved.  Is there a specific appeal process for a property owner to demonstrate that the city’s actions left an untenable situation?  I’m not aware of a formalized appeal process, however, the City’s standard practice is to work with each property owner closely to ensure there is not a problem.  However, once the property owner signs off on the vegetation establishment, then it is their responsibility to resume maintenance of the grass.  So overseeding, fertilization, watering, etc. will be required to keep the grass in good shape following initial establishment.
Upon reflection on the end of the project, I also am wondering exactly what the city does in regard to mailboxes and driveways. Does the city remove mailboxes and replace them?  They are typically relocated so postal service may continue and relocated back following construction.  Unless there is damage to the mailbox by the contractor they are not replaced.  And what exactly happens with regard to driveways that are cut in the paving process.  Does the city restore the disturbed areas of driveways to their condition prior to the paving job?  Any driveway removed is replaced.  Do they pave if the driveway was paved, resurface with gravel if the driveway was graveled, etc?  When curb is installed, a concrete driveway apron is installed, then the driveway is replaced in-kind with the same materials as were existing prior to construction (asphalt, concrete, gravel, dirt as applicable)
An additional factor I wonder about after your mention of some sort of right of way permissions the city will obtain is the impact of this project on trees that remain in my own portion of my yard.  Construction heavy equipment may well compact and damage tree roots resulting in death to trees that won’t be apparent for some time.  The City is typically conservative on potential right of way impacts so trees that are on the “fringe” of construction limits are compensated and removed so the owner can replant following construction.  In most cases trees that are left at the edge of construction are due to the owners specific request.  What appeal process is there for the city to be responsible for any trees that die due to project impact on them?   Any owner can file a claim against the City for damages.   These are typically handled through the Risk Management office.  Would the city be responsible for removal, for re-planting, etc.?  Depends on the outcome of the claim filed.
Thank you for following through with our conversation.  I am certain many concerned property owners will want to know more facts than they have been informed of up to now.
Regards — Jane Fenn