Affidavit of Carolyn Parker

NOTE:  The original signed and notarized Affidavit is housed in the Office of the City Clerk, City of Raleigh. It is dated January 27, 2016.

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State of North Carolina
County of Wake
BEFORE ME, the undersigned Notary, ______________________________________________ , on this ___________ day of January, 2016, personally appeared Carolyn Parker, known to me to be a credible person and of lawful age, who being by me first duly sworn, on her oath, deposes and says:

Regarding Street Improvement Petition #1351 – Lorimer Road

Because the changes will impact the usefulness of the frontage I now enjoy, and cost me a substantial amount of money, I believe I had the right to have information about this Petition provided me in a timely manner. I believe I had a right to have a Petition document state clearly the dimensions of sidewalk, setback, and easements etc. required for the project so that an average citizen could see clearly how the project might affect themselves and their neighbors.

I further believe I had a right to transparency in the process and a right to fair play. As one example: There is a small key on the Petition map page. If I read it correctly it states that a number of property owners face no assessment for this project. Yet, in the Petition process designed by the City, their vote counts the same as mine or other property owners who face assessment (one of my neighbors will have to pay more than $10,000). All of the property owners facing no assessment voted for the Petition.

I believe I had a right to be afforded a true forum with my neighbors – where you are provided correct information about the specifics of a project and the specifics of the Petition process before hand – so that you can come together to discuss diverse ideas and to develop expansive thinking.

As it turns out I was kept in the dark for 4 ½ months and given misinformation by the Petitioner.

—Before the April 1, 2015 Neighborhood Informational Meeting:
Although the Petitioner, Donna Burford, knew all the details specified in the City’s proposal, dated November, 18, 2014, she failed to notify me until nearly four-and-a-half-months later. And in an email dated February 6, 2015 sent to the Neighborhood watch group, she wrote,

“…A petition for a sidewalk on Lorimer Rd. was started. Sidewalks are now funded by the City of Raleigh. This will address the safety of everyone walking on an already too narrow road, and hopefully the storm water and poor state of the road itself will be addressed as well! All of the details have not been ironed out but if there is anyone that would like to help in this process please contact Donna Burford [email] or Beverly H. Thomas [email].”

All the details had indeed been “ironed out” well before then (as of Nov. 18, 2014). Also, no mention is made here of the proposed street widening, and the associated assessments to property owners; only the free sidewalk is mentioned.

Below is a Facebook exchange (Nov. 2015) clarifying my conversation (of March 2015) with the Petitioner, Donna Burford and her sister, Sharon Mixon (who lives across the street from me).

SHARON MIXON—Donna and I spoke with Carolyn, the person on the tax record as the one that would be signing the petition. She was one of the first neighbors that we talked to about this project. This was before we had scheduled the April 1st meeting. I was standing in the road with my sister, Donna, talking about what the street improvement would look like. Carolyn was gardening in her front yard. We talked to her for probably 10 minutes all about it. She talked about how she and David walk everyday and don’t see any need for sidewalks. There were other reasons that we talked about that I won’t get into, but we had a clear response that the Parker property was not in favor of the sidewalk. When you get an answer like that, you know where you stand and you move on. We didn’t feel a need to try to convince anyone to change their mind. — November 23, 2015 at 10:01pm

CAROLYN PARKER—Hey all. I’m Carolyn (Parker) and I’m writing to set the record straight about my conversation with Sharon and Donna. On about March 18, I was out front gardening and Sharon and Donna came out to the road –Sharon lives across the street. Sharon and Donna were pacing off the street and I asked what they were doing. They said they had put in a petition for road improvements and a sidewalk for safety; that our road was very narrow; and that the city would let us pay for it over 5 years.
I said Mary Alice Black had raised her children in this neighborhood and that I grew up in a neighbor-hood like this and we’d all survived (my poor effort at humor); and that Dave and I walked the neighbor-hood daily and never felt it was dangerous. And then I said, ‘But I guess I wouldn’t mind getting rid of this ditch.’”

Sharon, I don’t believe we talked for 10 minutes, but that’s perception. To say that during our conversation we talked ‘all about it’ is a lie.

You never told me that there was already a proposal prepared by the city, and that the proposal called for widening the road to 27 feet. You never told me the city’s proposal called for a 6-foot sidewalk with a 6-foot setback. You never told me the sidewalk was proposed for the west side (my side) of the road. You never told me that you had had all this information since the city’s proposal was sent to Donna on November 18, 2014. And you never told me that this entire process began (according to Donetta Powell) in May 2014.

What you did say was that I would be sent an email in a few days about a meeting coming up to discuss it all.

So no, Sharon, we did not talk ‘all about it.’ Later that day I asked my next-door neighbor, Marcus, and your next-door neighbor, Karen, if they knew anything about a petition, but neither of them had heard anything. It seems that many of us were kept in the dark for 4½ months.

In your comment you also wrote, ‘We didn’t feel a need to try to convince anyone to change their mind.’ But providing information to someone does not equate to trying to persuade someone.

Because these changes will impact the usefulness of the frontage I now enjoy, and cost me a substantial amount of money, I had the right to all this information. I had a right to be given this information in a timely manner. All the neighbors had this right. If you didn’t want to talk to me directly, then you and Donna could have, and should have, sent me—and all of us—an email including this information, with a copy of the Petition attached. But you chose not to do this.— November 24, 2015 at 10:41am

I received that email mentioned above (dated March 21, 2015) a few days later; it was sent to the email List Serve group that Donna and Sharon had created in November 2014.

(In the Fall of 2014, Donna Burford and Sharon Mixon asked neighbors to come to a meeting, so we might create a Neighborhood Watch group, and order signs for our mailboxes. They collected our phone numbers, email addresses and our Facebook status. This List Serve email list was not inclusive of properties affected by this Petition.)

In the March 21, 2015 email announcing the April 1, 2015, meeting Donna did not attach a copy of the Petition, or include details of the City’s plan. She never mentioned that the City’s plan called for a 27-foot road, with a 6-foot setback and 6-foot sidewalk on the west side. She only said, “If you are not able to make it to the meeting, I would advise you to call or email Donetta Powell with the City of Raleigh… with any questions you might have regarding this project.”

On the day of the meeting, Donna sent around a reminder email to the List Serve group (which, again, did not include all of property owners who would be affected) regarding the informational meeting – again, without including any attachments or providing any specifics. Donna wrote “If you are not able to make it to the meeting and would like to sign the petition, please call Donna Burford at 919-971-6321 to make arrangements.”

I didn’t understand what she meant, because I thought this was going to be the meeting where the conversation started. How can someone sign a petition without all the information? And, aren’t we going to have a chance to discuss the details, and bounce around ideas with our neighbors?

I did write to Donetta Powell, and asked about the typical timeline and process for petitions. I was shocked when Donetta wrote back and finally provided me with the specific dimensions of the road, sidewalk and setback that the project would entail –and that these details that had already been solidified by the City.

—The April 1, 2015 Meeting:
(I wrote down this information right after the April 1, 2015 meeting, because a few of my neighbors told me they couldn’t make it to the meeting, and wanted me to let them know what I found out.)

Councilwoman Kay Crowder conducted the meeting. The City reps attending were Donetta Powell (Assessment Specialist and Project Administrator at City of Raleigh) and Jimmy Upchurch (Assessment Specialist and Supervisor at City of Raleigh). Mr. Upchurch said they were there to answer questions. Fewer than half of the neighbors affected by this Petition attended.

—Sidewalk, Setback and City Easement: The proposed sidewalk and setback dimensions are not stated on the Petition. The amount of City easement required for this project is not stated on the Petition (there is a very small cross-section diagram on the map pages, pg.14 & pg.15, that shows some measurements).

I read earlier in the day an email response to me from Donetta Powell in which she included the dimensions of the sidewalk and setback as set out in the City’s proposal.

I asked why the City proposed a 6 ft setback and 6 ft sidewalk in an established neighborhood, where some houses are set very close to the road? 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. I repeated that our neighborhood is not a new development – we are an established neighborhood where some houses are set very close to the road. The City reps. didn’t have an answer. Councilwoman Crowder responded, “I’ll bet we can argue that back down.”

I asked that the presenters consider the diverse properties in the neighborhood, such as the one at the corner of Garland and Lorimer. Fred Midness lives at the corner, and Erin and Michael Salmon and their children next door to him. Both of these families have houses set very close to the road, and they’d lose about ½ of their front yards with the proposal as planned. The City rep. Jimmy Upchurch reminded me/us that it wasn’t “our” property, “It’s the City’s property. The City has an easement of 30 feet in both directions from the center of the road – an easement of 60 feet total.”

But, Mr. Upchurch said, there might be a few places where the road was not constructed on the center of the easement, so it’s unclear how far the city might actually have to go into individual properties.

—Actual Measurements Proposed for the West Side of the Road (City Easement): I said I didn’t understand how someone was expected to vote for something if we couldn’t be told how much of the city easement might be used. Mr. Upchurch then tried to explain the measurements for the west side of the road:

Starting at the center of the road, the drawing for the west side of the road shows 11’ of road, 2.5’ gutter, 6’setback, 6’sidewalk, and 2’ grading. (not counting the road, the city would need to use 16 ½ feet of easement on the west side – using in total 27.5 feet of the 30-foot easement). He also said that that measurement assumes the existing road is already 22 feet (the actual road varies from 19 to 22 feet) and that the existing center of the road was constructed on the actual center of the easement. If the road in front of your property wasn’t already 22 feet, and if the center of the road needed to be adjusted a bit, it was possible that the city would come into a property on the west (all in the city easement)
17 ½ feet plus. And he said that the city might need to seek additional easement from some properties.

In contrast, the east side of the road would have 2 ½ curb and gutter, and 3 ½ grading (total 6 feet).

I asked if the center of the road would be shifted to make the easement used by the city more equitable on the west compared to the east. He said that the road would not be shifted.

—27-Foot Road —Speed Bumps—Speed of Traffic: We were told that speed bumps could not be added along with the new road construction (instead of adding sidewalks). The idea of just adding speed bumps to increase pedestrian safety was not discussed.

The proposal calls for a 27-foot road. I asked why the city thought our neighborhood needed a road 27 feet wide? And that urban-planning websites talk about studies that show traffic speeds increase whenever a road is widened. In response, Councilwoman Crowder said that now that we’ll be able to park on a wider street, “You should park out on the street – there’s nothing that slows drivers down more than cars parked along the street.”

—Cost of project —Property Value: The project will cost $32 a linear foot/frontage. The amount can be paid over 10 years at 6% interest.

When someone mentioned the potential for increased property values, I responded that I doubt property values would increase for everyone. How could the property values increase for Fred Midness, or Erin and Michael Salmon, if their front yards are reduced by almost half? We were told that the neighborhood would certainly loose trees during construction. And power poles would need to be repositioned.

—Misinformation Given Out at the April 1 Meeting:
At this neighborhood meeting we were given a one-page information sheet prepared by the Petitioner, Donna Burford. In the Introduction it stated that, before making a decision, we should consider how this project would affect the neighborhood in terms of safety, maintenance, community and market value. The Petitioner’s information sheet did not address other issues such as:

– the environmental impact on Bushy Creek
– the impact on Onslow neighbors whose property front Bushy Creek
– the possible impact on crime in the neighborhood
– alternatives like low impact sidewalks, scaling down the scope of the City’s proposal, or modifications that would address the inequities in the proposal, or remedies for property owners whose houses are located very close to the road.

Nor were the dimensions of the proposed road, sidewalk, setback, buffer or other specific details of the project or the process included.

The Petitioner’s information sheet did include the following (incorrect) statement, “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 increase of assessment at that time if it is not handled now.” My next-door neighbor, Marcus Williamson, questioned the truth of this statement. Kay Crowder and the City reps told us that the City would never do such a thing – that is, force such changes on it’s citizens. Changes like this must come from the citizens, which is why you file a petition. Donna, who was sitting next to Marcus, responded that that must have been her “mistake.”

As the meeting broke up, Marcus Williamson paced off 17 ½ feet using the church floor as a reference.

He and I live on the west side of the road and we were shocked.

—A Day or Two After the April 1, 2015 Meeting:
Misinformation was given out after the April 1 meeting.

Petitioner Donna Burford and her sister Sharon Mixon visited neighbors who weren’t at the meeting. Donna and Sharon continued to hand out the same information sheet (given out at the April 1 meeting) with the same misinformation without correction.

They gave it to Karen Rochford when they visited her. Karen had not been able to attend the April 1 meeting so I told her what I had learned at the meeting. I told her about Donna’s information sheet and the statement that had been discredited. Karen said she had received that same information sheet – there was no correction. I told Marcus Williamson, since he was the one who had challenged the statement April 1. He wrote Donna (April 4, 2015) asking her to stop handing out the misinformation, and to issue a correction. She issued a correction April 4, 2015. Yet she continued to distribute the information sheet without correction; she emailed it to a neighbor April 10, 2015.
__________________________________
Signature

Carolyn Parker

1218 Lorimer Road

Raleigh, NC 27606

Subscribed and sworn to before me, this _________ day of January, 2016.
__________________________________
Signature of Notary

__________________________________

NOTARY PUBLIC

My commission expires: ______________, 20____