Public Works Committee Meeting Minutes (10/28/2014)

Excerpts from the meeting appear below –

The Public Works Committee of the City of Raleigh met in regular session on Tuesday, October 28, 2014, at 5:00 p.m. in the City Council Chamber, Room 201 of the Raleigh Municipal Building, Avery C. Upchurch Government Complex, 222 West Hargett Street, Raleigh, North Carolina with the following present:

Committee Staff

Councilor Eugene Weeks, Chairman Public Works Director Carl Dawson

Councilor John Odom Deputy City Attorney Ira Botvinick

Raleigh Fire Chief John McGrath

Absent and Excused Senior Real Estate Specialist Greg Pittman

Assistant Public Utilities Director Kenneth

Councilor Wayne MaioranoWaldroup

Assistant Public Utilities Director T. J.

Lynch

Senior Traffic Engineer Jed Niffenegger

 

These are summary minutes unless otherwise indicated.

Mr. Weeks called the meeting to order and indicated Mr. Maiorano was absent and excused from today’s meeting.

The following item were discussed with actions taken as shown.

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Item #13-16 – Traffic Calming – Laurel Hills Road. Mr. Weeks indicated during the October 7, 2014 City Council meeting this item was referred to the Public Works Committee for further discussion.

Senior Traffic Engineer Jed Niffenegger summarized the following report included in the agenda packet:

Background:

At the October 7, 2014 City Council evening session, Council instructed staff to temporarily halt work on the traffic calming process for Laurel Hills Road. This reprieve would allow Council to hear more details about concerns from a citizen regarding the petition process. The concerns and the way the petition process was handled was referred to the Public Works Committee.

Project History:

Laurel Hills Road is loop road classified as a Neighborhood Street that begins and ends at Edwards Mill Road. A request for a traffic calming evaluation for Laurel Hills Road was received on December 6, 2012. Following the Council adopted Neighborhood Traffic Management Program; staff had to divide Laurel Hills Road into two sections since its length is well over a mile. Woodbine Road was selected as the dividing street allowing the two sections of Laurel Hills Road qualify for treatment. The evaluations for both sections were completed in February 2013. The westernmost section of Laurel Hills Road ended atop the Traffic Calming project list, while the eastern section of the street was ranked fourth. Residents on both sections of the street asked for petitions to circulate during the introductory meet held for the highest ranked streets. Each section returned their petitions within the time period with sufficient signatures to move the process forward.

Even though the street is technically two separate projects, staff combined both into one design meeting in order for citizens to see the broader view along the entire street. The Laurel Hills neighborhood has approximately 15 side streets that feed into Laurel Hills Road. Laurel Hills Road is the only point of access into and out of all the side streets. The citizens residing on these side streets were invited to the design meeting as part of the “influence area”. The first design workshop was held on May 19, 2014 at Laurel Hills Community Center. Attendance at the meeting was extremely high, to the point the room filled to capacity. The Raleigh Fire Marshal who attended the meeting capped the number of attendees allowed in and a few citizens had to be turned away. A very contentious meeting ensued with citizens from the connecting neighborhoods arguing with those that lived on Laurel Hills Road about the necessity of a project. The residents living along Laurel Hills Road are looking for means of reducing the speed of vehicles traveling on their street. Predominantly, the residents in attendance that lived in the influence area did not want any type of traffic calming treatments on Laurel Hills Road. The meeting ended without a design discussion, which was the original purpose for the meeting. Staff determined that a second preliminary design meeting was needed in a venue large enough to accommodate all citizens wishing to attend.

In the ensuing months residents against the project have inundated staff with questions about the program, evaluation, petition and policy. It appears to staff that the advocates against the project are trying to find a flaw to stop the project. Staff has fielded questions on the evaluation, the scoring system, the speed study results and the overall NTMP design process. Some residents have reached out to the Fire Department about the street classification hoping the street classification would render the project ineligible for traffic calming. One resident submitted their own study showing reasons for not having projects on the street.

Some opponents of the Laurel Hills project have stated that some of the signatories were confused about the types of treatments proposed. Because of this confusion they wish to remove their name from the petition. This same situation occurred with the Rainwater project. To prevent the Rainwater occurrence again, staff took extra steps with this year’s projects to ensure that no confusion would exist regarding the petition process and treatment options. The first step was the initial letter to residents of potential project streets inviting them to an introductory meeting. The letter included a brochure which gave residents details regarding the policy and the process. It also showed residents what treatments they could expect to receive if they went forward with a project; speed humps, speed tables or raised crosswalks. The introductory meeting further explained that due to the narrowness of the street, the treatment types would be relegated to either speed humps or speed tables. Raised crosswalks were not a viable option due to lack of sidewalks along the street. The third item that was changed since Rainwater, was clarifying the petition to prevent any confusion. The petition has one paragraph that explains to residents what they are signing. In that paragraph there is a sentence that states, “Traffic Calming project streets are limited to vertical treatments; i.e. speed humps or speed tables.” Staff has made every reasonable effort to ensure that residents knew what they were getting prior to the preliminary design meeting. The purpose of the preliminary design meeting is to determine which type of vertical treatment, speed humps or speed tables, the residents would prefer. That choice has yet to be determined.

It is important to note that the issue that brings Laurel Hills before the Public Works Committee deals with only one of the two projects proposed on Laurel Hills Road. The project that commences at Woodbine Road and heads eastward to Edwards Mill Road is not a part of this complaint.

Neighborhood Traffic Management Program:

The Neighborhood Traffic Management Program (NTMP) was designed as a tool for residents living on a street with a documented speed compliance issue could use to seek relief. The program was set up to be a citizen driven program. This is why a petition to move the project forward is only for residents living on the street with poor compliance. The theory is these residents experience a lesser quality of life associated with the traffic that speeds through their neighborhood. Once a petition is submitted the design process begins and the surrounding neighborhoods are invited (influence areas) to the design meetings.

Recommendations:

Unfortunately the NTMP always has the potential to be contentious. The last intent of the program was to divide a neighborhood or create animosity. If the basis of the program is to remain the same and offer relief for the residents that live on a street with speed compliance issues, residents of surrounding neighborhoods that use the street as a cut-through may oppose the project. Staff contents that this is the case on Laurel Hills. It appears that some residents living on the numerous side streets that have to use Laurel Hills as their main point of access do not want to contend with speed humps. Staff believes that this is why the petition was challenged and signatures were questioned. The NTMP program is citizen driven and staff has to rely on the good will of the petitioner and the signing residents. While all petitions get a basic review, staff does not evaluate signature nor conduct any evaluation of eligible signees. For contentious projects like Laurel Hills, other aspects may be challenged too. Residents have already questioned the evaluation and try to stop the project.

Staff recommends allowing the project to move forward with the design process. The process ends with a public hearing before the whole City Council where both sides can express their opinions. Invalidating the petition at this point would be a huge disservice to the residents living on Laurel Hills who followed the adopted policy seeking relief.

Mr. Odom question the percentage of property owners required for a valid traffic calming project petition with Mr. Niffenegger responding 75%.

Steven Dean, 4007 Juniper Court, submitted a packet of information containing the following documents:

  1. Map of Laurel Hills Road
  2. 3509 Edwards Mill Road Affidavit
  3. 3608 Henrys Garden Lane Affidavit
  4. 4141 Laurel Hills Road Affidavit
  5. 3630 Laurel Hills Road Affidavit
  6. Impact Area Map
  7. Traffic Calming Petition North Section
  8. Other Property Concerns
  9. Copy of PowerPoint presentation
  10. City of Raleigh Neighborhood Traffic Management Program

Mr. Dean proceeded to read the following prepared statement:

This evening I am here to request that the City Council stop one of the traffic calming projects proposed for Laurel Hills Road.

The primary basis of my request is that multiple invalid signatures were included in the petition supporting the Project. Without these invalid signatures, this project would not have met the 75% approval threshold which was necessary under City rules for the project to advance further.

Furthermore, a property which abuts Laurel Hills Road was incorrectly omitted from the petition, and that property owner has indicated that he does not support traffic calming on Laurel Hills Road.

The collective effect is that the necessary and required support for this project to move forward has not been satisfied.

Lengthy discussion took place regarding the actual percentage of property owners along Laurel Hills Road signing the petition with Mr. Dean stating after the design meeting with staff, he went back to property owners along Laurel Hills Road and now several property owners originally on the petition do not want the project.

Discussion took place regarding which section of Laurel Hills Road was at issue with Public Works Director Carl Dawson pointing out there will be an item in the upcoming City Council agenda regarding a proposed “opting out petition” process. He suggested holding the item in Committee until the City Council addresses that item.

A debate took place regarding whether Staff should have validated the signatures on the petition.

Mr. Weeks indicated he favored holding the item in Committee.

Jeff Winstead, 3900 Hemsburry Way, indicated he has been in law enforcement for 30 years and talked about safety and speed issues. He indicated he requested crash data for Laurel Hills Road from NCDOT and also talked about reading a 12 page report by a traffic engineer revealed that speed and other traffic issues were not in evidence on Laurel Hills Drive. He stated Raleigh Police conducted a separate speed study on Laurel Hills Road and reported no speeding tickets issued. He pointed out that it was a non-resident who wrote NCDOT and the City regarding the speeding issue that set this project in motion; and this just did not sit well with him.

Michael Summerlin 2816 Glen Eden Drive, talked about how the project has divided the neighborhood while at the same time solidified residential opinion on the project. He gave a brief history of development in the area and expressed his opinion the proposed project would produce the desired affect; rather it would divert traffic through the Laurel Woods subdivision. He talked about successful petition to reduce speed limits in Laurel Woods and expressed support for greater speed limit enforcement. He urged the Committee hold the item to allow residents to confer and offer additional suggestions.

Following further discussion, Mr. Weeks indicated the item will be held in Committee for further discussion.

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