N&O Editorial (2/26/2017)

Raleigh wisely limits council members from meddling in staff work

BY THE EDITORIAL BOARD

Staff members of the city of Raleigh need to consider issues such as zoning or the organization of festivals or establishing bike lanes without interference from City Council members. And let’s give credit to the history of councils, most members of which respect the city staff and recognize that political interference is harmful at worst and inappropriate at best.

Council members insist new code of conduct rules prohibiting direct contact from council members with city staff and advisory boards aren’t aimed at one incident or one member, but rather are intended to minimize political influence.

Raleigh’s form of government puts much trust in staff, and on issues large and small that trust has been proven well-placed. This will ensure that staff will be able to operate with the independence that’s needed on sometimes contentious issues.

This is a good rule to install before a problem arises. And it’s not as if council members don’t wield plenty of influence whether they’re talking directly to city staff or not. Council member Bonner Gaylor made a salient point in saying that all bucks stop in one place.

“We have a seat at the table,” he said. “which is where we’re sitting right now.”

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Kay Crowder: “What you hear from me is what you get. Integrity means something to me.”

raleighpublicrecord.org

Crowder: Everyone Needs to be Heard

By James Borden | June 3, 2016

This is the latest in our ongoing interview series, On The Record. Last week, we had the opportunity to sit down with Raleigh City Councilor Kay Crowder to talk growth, neighborhood preservation and improving the City’s transit system. 

Kay Crowder

Kay Crowder doesn’t like giving interviews.

So she says. Over lunch at Player’s Retreat last week, where even a tempting, off-menu Fried Green Tomato Sandwich couldn’t deter her from her regular Hawaiian Burger, Crowder was eager to discuss everything from the city’s exponential growth to the importance of honesty and mutual respect in governance.

A Raleigh native who can trace her roots back to its founding families (she is a direct descendant of Isaac Hunter), Crowder considers herself fortunate to have a role in helping to shape the city’s future.

“It’s an exciting time to live in Raleigh, it’s an exciting time to help the government and try and steer in the right direction; sometimes you become overwhelmed with all that’s going on, and you try and compartmentalize all these different things,” Crowder said.

“Then I go home and I think, what a wonderful problem that is for us to have.”

Exacerbating this wonderful problem, Crowder said, are the countless magazine rankings which often list Raleigh as one of the best places in the country to live and do business in.

“This group of publications putting those out, it brings lots of opportunities and struggles,” she said.

“We have to decide what the balance looks like, because we want to protect and preserve the quality of life in the City of Raleigh, but we also want to encourage economic development.”

“It’s a balancing act.”

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“Understanding the UDO”

Understanding the UDO, By | March 29, 2011 | Raleigh Public Record –

[Emphasis added]

Raleigh City Planning Manager Christine Darges has quite a task.  During the past year, she has been responsible for overseeing the team that has been updating, revising and publicizing the new Unified Development Ordinance (UDO). The first draft of the UDO will be released April 6. Her team has been conducting UDO simulations throughout the city at the Citizens Advisory Committee meetings and the Record chatted with Darges to break down the confusing UDO and find out how will it affect Raleigh denizens.

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“Request for Sidewalks Divide Raleigh Neighbors”

The News & Observer | NewsObserver.com

Midtown Raleigh News, June 10, 2015

Request for sidewalks divides Raleigh neighbors, By Mechelle Hankerson

RALEIGH – For the past 10 years, Rhonda Welfare has been taking walks along Mills Street in the Hi Mount neighborhood, a cluster of small homes built after World War II near Wake Forest Road.

The area doesn’t have sidewalks, but Welfare doesn’t mind. There’s not much traffic.

But like many older neighborhoods in Raleigh, Hi Mount is changing. Small one-story homes are being torn down to make way for bigger houses.

Now, a request for the city to install sidewalks in the neighborhood has highlighted a divide between neighbors who want to maintain the area’s historic character and those who want to see changes. Continue reading

“Study Provides Map for Southwest Raleigh Development”

(Source: WRAL.com)

April 21, 2015 – Southwest Raleigh could be ripe for development, according to a study the City Council reviewed Tuesday.

The portion of the city, which includes North Carolina State University, Meredith College and the State Fairgrounds, has seen its population double in the last 40 years. A $150,000 study conducted by N.C. State found more retail stores, supermarkets and sidewalks are needed, and the area has a low crime rate and a high level of diversity.

Former Councilman Thomas Crowder, who represented the area before his death last year, pushed for the study. Councilwoman Kay Crowder, his wife who was appointed to serve the rest of his term, said the study could be used as a roadmap for future development.

“How can we better educate developers that this is a place where there is affordable housing, development opportunities, the kind of money that sits in the district that could be spent in the district?” Kay Crowder said.

One council member said he would like to see similar studies for the city’s other districts….

Merwin Road – Council Approval Despite Citizen Opposition

“Neighbors at odds over sidewalk: City approves Merwin Road plan despite opposition from residents. —By Ray Martin, Staff Writer

“The City Council at its meeting last week unanimously approved installation of a sidewalk on the west side of Merwin Road, where only four of the 14 property owners who participated in the most recent public meeting want it.

“After City Manager Russell Allen told the council that most residents voted to go without a sidewalk, Councilman Thomas Crowder, whose district includes the neighborhood, made a motion to approve its construction.”

—from News & Observer, Midtown Raleigh News (July 14, 2010)

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Contradictions?

[In Progress]

 

 

“I have a different style than Thomas [Crowder],” [Kay Crowder] said. “As opposed to just saying no, I have a style that’s a little more willing to look at all the issues and evaluate them and try to work our way to a compromise.” — N&O Article

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“I want citizens to feel part of the process instead of outside the process. Our city is only as good as the neighborhoods and the people living in them. Without citizen input, development may shape our future in ways we may or may not like. That is why, as we consider development in our district, I want to include city planning staff, developers, and citizens in a fair and balanced open communication so people understand what is happening and how it will impact them, positively and negatively.” —from Vision, Kay Crowder‘s website

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The City’s Response to INDY Article

The City’s official position regarding the Lorimer Road petition and petition process was published in The INDY on February 2, 2016 in response to this article about the project –

“As with all residential street and sidewalk petitions, these are citizen initiated requests and City of Raleigh staff takes on a neutral perspective during the routing of the petition for signatures. The petitioner is provided with the petition packet and charged as the liaison with residents and City staff as they go door to door to obtain signatures in favor of the requested improvements. Staff addresses questions from residents according to City policies and does not try to persuade anyone as to whether they should sign or not sign.

“The petition for the Lorimer Road street and sidewalk improvement project was initiated by a citizen and not the City of Raleigh. After determining the petition met all requirements, City staff agreed to move forward with it. All information about the improvements was openly shared with impacted property owners. Property owners are being assessed only for the street improvements, not the sidewalk improvements. The sidewalk improvements are being funded by bonds.”

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.

N&O Article – Traffic Calming Petition Process

News & Observer — MIDTOWN RALEIGH NEWS, JUNE 29, 2013

Raleigh looks to tweak traffic calming process, By Colin Campbell

After residents of North Raleigh’s Rainwater Road nixed a traffic-calming project many of them had petitioned for, the city’s transportation planners are trying to avoid buyers’ remorse on the costly street overhauls.

Back in February, bitter neighborhood divisions over the Rainwater Road changes prompted the city officials to review how the process works. After a petition got support from 75 percent of property owners, engineers proposed $125,000 in curb extensions, mini roundabouts and other efforts to slow traffic on the residential street.

But many who had signed the original petition didn’t like what they saw in the plans. They said the changes would limit on-street parking, create less space for emergency vehicles and possibly even cause accidents. In a compromise move, the city council downsized the project to a series of new stop signs.

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