Email to Press (David Simonton)

Trying to preserve the character of Raleigh’s older neighborhoods despite City leaders who desire conformity:

I live in an older neighborhood in West Raleigh; several of the houses on this block of Lorimer Road were built in the 1950’s, and we have never had curbs, gutters or sidewalks. Neither do the surrounding streets of Chaney, Onslow and Garland. Nor do we necessarily need them: it’s a quite, little-traveled relatively self-contained neighborhood I live in.

So it was a shock to me—a rude awakening—when, despite the majority of property owners (64%) living on this block of Lorimer Road opposing street-widening and sidewalk installation, the City Council, at their September 1 meeting, forced it on the residents. Council Member Kay Crowder (who represents our district) whispered to other Council members, mentioned talking to a developer who might want a sidewalk on the connecting road (which currently has no sidewalk either), thus shutting down even those reasonable requests made to table the discussion, or to examine alternatives like low impact, or to examine the inequities in the design, etc. And not a single Council member suggested examining the questionable tactics employed by the Petitioner*—tactics that had been pointed out in advance in a letter sent to every single City Council member, and also mentioned during the Public Hearing, and thus on record, at the Council meeting Sept.1 (a copy of that letter is attached).

*[The Petitioner continued to distribute information that, when challenged, she admitted was her “mistake.” And she misrepresented the process to her neighbors. As one neighbor said, “I was told not to worry and to sign the document as it was and that we would all be able to sit down once it passed and determine how we would like it to look.”]

This raises many troubling questions, not the least of which is: How and why is it that “majority rules” was respected when residents on Kay Crowder’s road, Ashburton, rejected a sidewalk petition, and not in our case? Does the City’s “Unified Development Ordinance” effectively put the nail in the coffin when it comes to property owner’s rights?

Our neighborhood has repeatedly rejected sidewalk petitions, a fact that was thrown in our faces by Council member Crowder. (And neighbors are trying to jump ship from this petition now that they know the facts.)

I hope our case is not emblematic, a sign of things to come, when uniformity rules the day in this “progressive” city.

“The City of Raleigh’s number one criteria, ahead of all others, in its “Ordinance to Codify the Street and Sidewalk Improvement Policy” once read: “THE CITY COUNCIL IS COMMITTED TO THE PRESERVATION OF EXISTING NEIGHBORHOODS BY MAINTAINING THEIR CHARACTER AND AESTHETIC QUALITIES.”

That was then. This is now.