Donna Burford: City Council Presentation (9/1/2015)

This presentation was transcibed from a recording of the City Council meeting of September 1, 2015, evening session:

“…I am Donna Burford and I am here as the petitioner on the Lorimer street project.

“This all started as a simple free sidewalk for the safety my family, my sister’s family and another person that wanted to call for this sake. I don’t live on Lorimer Road but my sister [Sharon Mixon] and Beverly [Thomas] do. This road is very important to us because this is the only access road that allows us to get to our homes on Fairway Ridge. So all things Lorimer really is important.

“The [City Public Works Department], in the process of hearing my sidewalk petition, upgraded it to a street petition because of the non-conformity of the street.

Continue reading

City Council Presentation (12/1/2015, Steve Grothmann)

A video of the 12/1/2015 evening session is HERE.

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COUNCIL MINUTES

The City Council of the City of Raleigh met in a regular reconvened session at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, December 1, 2015 in the City Council Chamber, Room 201 of the Raleigh Municipal Building, Avery C. Upchurch Government Complex, 222 W. Hargett Street, Raleigh, North Carolina, with all Council members present:

Mayor Nancy McFarlane, Presiding
Councilor Mary-Ann Baldwin
Councilor Corey D. Branch
Councilor David Cox
Councilor Kay C. Crowder
Councilor Bonner Gaylord
Councilor Russ Stephenson
Councilor Dickie Thompson

Mayor McFarlane reconvened the meeting and the following items were discussed with action taken as shown.

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STREET IMPROVEMENTS – LORIMER ROAD – REQUEST FOR RECONSIDERATION – NO ACTION TAKEN

Steve Grothmann, 1501 Lorimer Road, stated the impetus of these improvements was sidewalk installation. He stated there is very light traffic on Lorimer Road and he feels it would be good if the Council would authorize a study before moving ahead. He stated he would be surprised that there were even 200 cars per day and talked about the City’s policies which talks about improvements only where there are at least 1,000 vehicles per day. He stated the width of the street keeps the traffic slow, talked about the water which goes down to the creek, the fear that paving would create more run off, the fact that they have vegetation on both sides of the street now. He talked about the unique character of the street, property value information, rural character, uniqueness of the area, etc. He stated he is not against sidewalks per say but he does not feel they are needed in this location. He feels the street improvements will create more traffic and requested that their block be removed from the authorized improvements.

Mayor McFarlane stated unless she hears a motion to reconsider, the Council would move on to the next item. There were no motions or requests to reconsider.

 

 

City Council Presentation (12/1/2015, Erin and Mike Salmon)

A video of the 12/1/2015 evening session is HERE.

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COUNCIL MINUTES

The City Council of the City of Raleigh met in a regular reconvened session at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, December 1, 2015 in the City Council Chamber, Room 201 of the Raleigh Municipal Building, Avery C. Upchurch Government Complex, 222 W. Hargett Street, Raleigh, North Carolina, with all Council members present:

Mayor Nancy McFarlane, Presiding
Councilor Mary-Ann Baldwin
Councilor Corey D. Branch
Councilor David Cox
Councilor Kay C. Crowder
Councilor Bonner Gaylord
Councilor Russ Stephenson
Councilor Dickie Thompson

Mayor McFarlane reconvened the meeting and the following items were discussed with action taken as shown.

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STREET IMPROVEMENTS – LORIMER ROAD – REQUEST FOR RECONSIDERATION – NO ACTION TAKEN

Erin Salmon, 1210 Lorimer Road, presented a petition which she stated was signed by 71.4% of the property owners representing 69.5% of the lineal frontage of the 1200 block of Lorimer Road who are petitioning the Council to remove their block from the improvement authorized by Resolution 2015-141. As their block was included in a property owner initiative petition begun in May of 2014 for road construction without their knowledge and without their consent by someone who is not a property owners. She stated they are in favor of pedestrian safety, stormwater improvements and connectivity. She stated they are requesting the opportunity to educate themselves and learn more about the improvement options included in the City of Raleigh street and sidewalk improvement policy as well as the 2030 comprehensive plan so that they may submit their own petition which more accurately reflects the true will of the property owners in the 1200 block. She asked the Council to please accept their request to withdraw from the petition and the authorized improvements. She talked about the character of the area, the attributes they want to protect and the fear of damage to their area.

Mayor McFarlane stated unless she hears a motion to reconsider, the Council would move on to the next item. There were no motions or requests to reconsider.

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—Lorimer Road resident Jane Fenn, who was present at the meeting, wrote a Letter to the Editor of the News & Observer, responding to what she witnessed.

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Letter to the Editor, N&O (12/10/2015, Jane Fenn)

This is a Letter to the Editor of the Raleigh News&Observer, submitted by Lorimer Road resident Jane Fenn on December 10, 2015. The letter was never published.

“[On December 1] I attended a City Council meeting as a resident interested in a neighborhood request for changes in a Council action, only to see the elected representative of this neighborhood ignore the presenter [Erin Salmon].  Ms. Crowder and Mayor McFarlane whispered intermittently for the entire three minute presentation.

“If the council maintains a process for citizen redress and then demonstrates by their actions that they don’t take that seriously, democracy is undermined. Are they showing they do not represent all the citizens in their constituencies, only those whose opinions mirror their own?  I do not expect elected representatives to agree with me all the time, but I DO expect that the representatives owe differing opinions respect and consideration.

“Ms. Crowder and Ms. McFarlane claim they respect and will maintain the distinctive character of Raleigh’s diverse neighborhoods while implementing a long-range plan that serves new residential areas well.  However, they did not pay even three minutes’ worth of attention to residents who see their unique neighborhood character being homogenized, retrofitted and shoehorned into the Council’s long-range plan, effected by a street/sidewalk petitioner who doesn’t even live on the street. Residents asked for belated fact-based neighborhood input but were not accorded a true hearing.”

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“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: Continue reading

Letter to City Council Members (1/28/2016, David Simonton)

January 28, 2016

Raleigh City Council
City of Raleigh
P.O. Box 590
Raleigh, NC 27602

Dear City Council Member,

I will be appearing before the City Council on February 2, 2016 to address concerns I and others have about the validity of the Street Improvement Petition #1351 – Lorimer Road, as well as concerns about the petition document itself.

In advance of that appearance, I am here submitting—to you and for the record—information and materials pertaining to the petition and petition process that relate to and support these concerns. They include, but are not limited to, documents, emails, posts on social media and three (3) affidavits prepared and submitted by Lorimer Road residents (copies are included here; the originals reside with the City Clerk).

The decision by Council on September 1, 2015 to adopt Resolution 2015-141 remains controversial five months after the decision was reached. Two recent emails——from Helen Adams (December 27, 2015) and Sharon Mixon (January 19, 2016)——help illustrate the level of bitterness and acrimony that exists in this once-serene neighborhood, anger that is not likely to subside unless some action is taken to mend the division this process has caused. Continue reading

City Council Presentation (David Simonton, 3/1/2016)

A video of the 3/1/2016 evening session is HERE.

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LORIMER ROAD IMPROVEMENTS – CONCERNS – COMMENTS RECEIVED

David Simonton, 1218 Lorimer Road presented the following prepared statement.

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Good evening.

I’ve been a resident on Lorimer Road for 23 years; it’s in a quiet, West Raleigh neighborhood. The house I live in with my wife Carolyn was built in 1950; the street out front is 19-feet wide.

As you know, a petition was circulated last year calling for the retrofitting of Lorimer—for imposing current-day standards for new development on this old, established neighborhood.

Our Representative Kay Crowder announced the plan in April. When residents questioned the appropriateness and need for a 27’ road, a 6’ sidewalk and 6’ setback, Mrs. Crowder assured us, “I’ll bet we can argue that back”—implying there’d be flexibility in our case.

The City staff person responsible for answering questions about the project assured a resident that, once the petition passed, “We can talk it down to something with a much smaller footprint.”

Donetta Powell and Jimmy Upchurch, with the City’s Public Works Department, told the Petitioner herself that “a 5’ sidewalk with a 4’ setback would be a feasible alternative, because of the unique situation we have here.” So that’s how the Petitioner characterized the project as she urged residents to sign: the dimensions are flexible, she said, and the impact will be minimal. She emailed Mrs. Crowder afterwards, “I believe we received…approval based on this assumption.”

It’s now clear property owners were misled into signing Petition 1351. According to the Petitioner Donna Burford’s own words, the residents she approached “all agreed a narrower setback and sidewalk would be less invasive and more cost effective.” In other words, those who signed believed what they were told—repeatedly: that what they were signing FOR was a project whose footprint would be kept to a minimum. City staff member Powell assured a resident that a 25’ road with a 4’ sidewalk and 2’ setback would be possible. So that resident, too, signed the petition, based on this assumption.

What we ended up with, however, was a mere one-foot reduction. So, yes, there was an outcry; and residents remain upset—because citizens object to being misled and manipulated.

I’m here tonight to ask that you reconsider Council Member Gaylord’s September 1st proposal for a 3 1/2’ setback on Lorimer Road—a proposal Jimmy Upchurch has already agreed to.

That two-and-a-half feet will go a long way towards easing tensions in our neighborhood. And, as importantly, it will be a show of goodwill on your part.

Thank you.

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The comments were received with no action taken.

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City Council Presentation (David Simonton, 2/2/2016)

A video of the 2/2/2016 evening session is HERE.

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Good evening. I’m David Simonton, 1218 Lorimer Road.

I want you to know…I do understand that the City Council has a Big Picture in mind – a plan for the future. I’m concerned, however, that by focusing so intensely on a future plan, you risk losing sight of the affect of present policies on Raleigh’s citizens, and neighborhood cohesion.

Tonight, I’m here to enter into the record evidence documenting what went wrong with the present door-to-door petition process as carried out on Lorimer Road.

The packet I submitted includes documents, emails, Facebook posts, and three sworn affidavits from residents, representing the type and degree of misinformation that was spread. This evidence is further confirmation that the door-to-door petition process is vulnerable to misconduct and misrepresentation— by Petitioners and City staff.

There are essentially no rules governing the door-to-door process, and virtually no constraints on the Petitioner. Because of this, what happened in Laurel Hills, happened again on Lorimer Road. Last month I suggested you end the door-to-door process, and replace it with a mailed ballot-type petition.

Tonight I ask —given all you now know— that you suspend the Lorimer Road Project, and send it to committee for review – as you did with the Laurel Hills Traffic Calming Project when improprieties with their process were brought to your attention.

Comparing the two, you’ll find striking similarities:

1) In both cases many residents were left out of the process…given no information ahead of time. A recommendation stemming from the Laurel Hills case was that that should never happen again. But it did happen again, on Lorimer Road.

2) The approach used by the Petitioners in both cases was similar:

—One Laurel Hills resident reported, “(The) people circulating the Petition (were) not giving the full story or correct information.”
—The Affidavits of Lorimer Road residents report the same thing.

—Laurel Hills: “They told me that what I was approving was merely a study”
—Some residents on Lorimer thought what they were signing was merely a “preliminary petition.”

Our Affidavits report that, in numerous other ways, the Petitioner—and, in our case, a staff member in the City’s Public Works Department—misrepresented the Petition as being a flexible document, subject to significant changes. “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.”

Residents on Lorimer Road have been asking valid questions and raising legitimate concerns about this Petitioner, and about the process as it was conducted here.

When residents spoke up in Laurel Hills, you listened, and investigated their claims in committee.

Tonight, I ask that you show us that same consideration.

Thank you.

City Council Presentation (David Simonton, 1/5/2016)

A video of the 1/5/2016 evening session is HERE.

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Good evening, I’m David Simonton, 1218 Lorimer Road.

I’m here to ask Council to review the current citizen-initiated sidewalk petition policies. For whatever reason, the City has two very different policies now in place.

If a citizen wants a sidewalk on a UDO-conforming road, they can request one by contacting the City. Staff reviews the request and contacts all residents who will be affected. This letter includes the engineers’ recommendation for the location, width and placement of the sidewalk, along with a Petition Form, which, in this case, is a kind of ballot.

The City takes responsibility for the process, acting as a neutral, objective, information gathering and disseminating entity. Using this method, the city assures due process—all residents are notified in a timely manner, and the specifics of the project are clear.

But in the case of a non-conforming road (say, an older road, like Lorimer Road), the Petitioner controls the process, with little or no oversight by the City. The City doesn’t require timely notification of property owners. And there’s no requirement for neighborhood meetings. The Petitioner (who’s patently biased) is assumed by the City, and trusted, to handle the process responsibly; but, in our case at least, she did not.

The difference between these two policies is stark—and troubling. Why does the City cede responsibility when street upgrades are necessitated by the request for a sidewalk? Upgrades come with assessments, and these are costly to residents.

And why does the City turn a blind eye when its own lack of oversight results in acrimony and division in a once-harmonious neighborhood like ours? Door-to-door petitioning is known to have numerous problems associated with it—look at Laurel Hills Road; and now, Lorimer Road.

Given the likelihood of abuse, why is there no easy appeal process in place for the average citizen, to help assure the veracity and validity of this type of petition—some recourse short of having to sue the City?

The City of Charlotte has an appeal process built in, and it mandates that at least two informational meetings be held.

Finally, I believe Council should be required to table a proposal when an instance of abuse of the petition process is brought to its attention, instead of proceeding to a vote.

In conclusion, I hope you’ll look closely at these policies, and in particular the often-contentious door-to-door policy for sidewalks on a non-conforming road; consider changing it to a mailed ballot. And please revise the petition document itself, so it clearly states the measurements of sidewalks, setbacks and the City easement required for a project so that no one can misrepresent this information ever again.

Doing so will add credibility to the process, and help put Raleigh on track to becoming a truly progressive city.

Thank you.