Facebook Post (David Simonton, 6/25/2017)

COUNTERPOINT

Currie Mixon is my across-the-street neighbor, and the petitioner’s brother-in-law. He recently commented on my continuing effort to shine a light on what transpired on Lorimer Road in a post on the Nextdoor Avent West website.

Mixon began his assessment by referring to resident Jeff Essic’s post on the site. Here is Jeff’s concluding paragraph:

“[Those] are some of the reasons why there are folks along the street against the project and why you will probably continue to hear about it until there is at least some acknowledgement that yes, the petition process was flawed, and some meaningful assurance from the city on a lower-impact design.”

Currie’s comment:

“Regarding Jeff Essic’s last paragraph, I’d say it’s impossible to say how much less raving Mr. Simonton would do with any acknowledgement or change. He’s been raving mad about the prospect of a sidewalk from the beginning, and I am of the opinion (you can see for yourself if he ever posts about anything else, he has a hobby website dedicated to opposition to this project, and now FB page…) that his opposition to this project is one that defines him in his eyes.”

I wish that a fraction of the energy spent dividing and conquering this once united neighborhood had been spent for the good of all who live here.

It didn’t have to end up this way. There could have been/should have been a positive, less fraught outcome. That choice was available to the petitioner, her sister and her sister’s husband, but they decided to take another route; with, sadly, the City’s approval.

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Comment

Edward F Gehringer:  I generally like sidewalks and have no personal stake in this project, but I would like to commend Mr. Simonton for taking the time to gather evidence and bring it to the attention of the community. That is exactly what citizens should be doing … adducing more evidence so that better decisions can be made. Calling someone “raving mad” and saying that the issue is his “hobby” does nothing to advance harmony or improve decision-making. This issue, like all others, should be settled on its merits, not by trying to shout down minority views.

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Resident Comments—Lorimer Road Project, 25% Design Meeting

Email to Talal Shahbander, Senior Project Engineer from Lorimer Road resident David Simonton in response to a request for resident comments at the 25% Design Meeting for the project—

.  .  .

February 21, 2017

Dear Mr. Shahbander,

I am writing to request an adjustment to the design of the Lorimer Road Project: specifically, the reduction in the width of the setback, now set at 6 feet. I and most of my neighbors want a smaller “footprint” on our street. As the petitioner herself reported to the Public Works Department in May 2015, “Most All [Residents] Want 5′ Sidewalk and 2′ Setback.”

I believe a 6’ setback and 5’ sidewalk on our little-traveled, out-of-the-way street is excessive and out-of-place. The speed limit on Lorimer Road is 25mph, pedestrian traffic is nearly nonexistent and the vehicular traffic count is well under 1,000 cars a day. By comparison Daisy Street has heavy foot traffic, considerable vehicular traffic and a speed limit of 35mph—yet Engineering recommended a 2.5′ setback there, which the City Council unanimously approved.

A reduced setback on Lorimer will:

1)  save the City and taxpayers money, both in construction and easement acquisition costs,

2)  help preserve and protect the character of our neighborhood,

3)  SAVE TREES, which are integral to the look and feel of our long-established street,

4)  provide a majority of residents the outcome they desire.

I believe this request to be a fair one. As it stands now the project is astonishing in its inequity: residents on the east side of the street stand to lose a fraction of the frontage they now enjoy compared to those living on the west side, where the bulk of the impact will be felt.

A smaller setback will:

5)  reduce the project’s undue inequity,

6)  ease the growing tension between east-side and west-side residents.

I ask, then, that you please go before the City Council and request a reduction in the width of the setback on Lorimer Road.

Council Member Gaylord already recommended a smaller setback, an alternative Jimmy Upchurch said that Public Works was okay with (9/1/15). And Council Member Crowder assured Lorimer residents at a Neighborhood Meeting that she would advocate for us “to assure engineering involved property owners” (10/20/15).

As you wrote to colleagues back in September about the project, “We should be prepared to discuss recommendations of design alternatives with City Council.” I hope—and trust—that a reduced setback will be front and center in that discussion.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

David Simonton

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An Open Letter to Kay Crowder

September 1, 2016

Dear Council Member Crowder,

Today marks one year since the City Council’s decision to approve the petition for improvements along Lorimer Road in West Raleigh. As you know, that petition called for a 27’ back-to-back road, a 6’ sidewalk and a 6’ setback. You requested at that meeting that Council reduce the width of the sidewalk to 5′, which it did. The setback, however, remains at 6’.

And that’s why I’m writing today, to appeal to you to follow through on the numerous assurances property owners received: that the setback will be reduced as well. I believe this is a fair and reasonable request, given that residents here were repeatedly told that the setback width could be adjusted — told that by the petitioner, by City staff and by you.

Continue reading

“‘Adverse’ Neighborhood Meeting”

Lorimer Road resident Erin Salmon organized a gathering—a Neighborhood Meeting—for International Peace Day (9/21/15). She distributed this letter/inviation to neighbors –

Erin Salmon INVITE

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Petitioner Donna Burford forwarded the invitation to Donetta Powell and Jimmy Upchurch of the City’s Public Works Department, characterizing the meeting as “adverse” – Continue reading

“I for one, am a fan!”

From: Donna Burford
To: Kay Crowder, Donetta Powell
Date: 9/18/2015 4:19:52 PM
Subject: Meeting Announcement

“As to be suspected [Erin Salmon] doesn’t want the facts and just wants to sling the mud. I have received confirmation that at least the mature residents on the street will not be participating in her rant sessions. 🙂 I actually laughed out loud to her comment implying “we” would plan another meeting. Or the statement that implies that she could organize or even make a political forum between Crowder and Smith happen. The “Lorimer Road Raleigh” Facebook page will be changed from closed group to a public group this evening so evidence of angst and motivations can be recorded. They may want to watch their tongues. I already have evidence of a threatening remark from Dave [Simonton] toward my sister and I that he thinks he deleted. If they are not able to contain their hatred then restraining orders may be needed. Once again…all of the sane neighbors on Lorimer Rd. thank you for all of your support and hard work! I for one, am a fan!”

—Donna Burford

 

[NOTE: Donna Burford, the Lorimer Road petitioner, now works for Kay Crowder. Donna’s sister, Sharon Mixon, the person who wanted a sidewalk in the first place, is grateful for Crowder’s help with this process as well. Both Donna and Sharon are Friends with Kay on Facebook. ]

Email to Nick Sadler – David Simonton (4/25/2016)

Good Morning, Nick [Sadler],
You are, of course, a City employee. But you are also a resident of this city, or of some other city or town.
Wherever it is you live…suppose one day you were asked by a neighbor to sign a petition to approve Project X in your neighborhood. Because Project X sounded reasonable to you—and because all the other neighbors were signing, or so you were told—you signed the petition, too.
Now, suppose the petition passed—but it wasn’t for Project X after all, it was actually for Project Y! Meaning: you and your neighbors were duped.
Emails gathered through Public Records Requests from the Petitioner, Donna Burford, and addressed to you, Council Member Crowder, Donetta Powell and others, reveal that the scenario presented above is how things played out on Lorimer Road (it’s called a “bait and switch”).
The Petitioner, and practically everyone else involved, knows that this is the case. And yet, it’s the very residents who were deceived and who continue to seek redress who are being criticized—we’ve even been labeled HOSTILE by the City—or we’re being ignored altogether.
The fact is, residents along Lorimer Road were intentionally misled by City staff through their liaison, the Petitioner, or directly. The emails and affidavits from residents detail that [deception].
Please put yourself in our shoes for a moment, Nick. How would you feel at this point? And what would YOU do?
All we want is what’s right and fair: to start over, to go back to the drawing board.
Short of that, I believe we’re at least due the consideration of a compromise: a 5’ sidewalk and a 3 ½’ setback. It’s what residents who signed the petition signed for (or thought they did). And it’s what Bonner Gaylord proposed at the September 1, 2015 City Council meeting—a proposal Jimmy Upchurch agreed to.
Thank you, Nick. And thanks for passing this along,
David

Email to City Council Members – David Simonton (4/5/2016)

From: David Simonton
To: City Council Members
CC: Jimmy Upchurch, Blair Hinkle, Nick Sadler, Eric Haugaard
Date: Tue, Apr 5, 2016 at 9:29 AM
Subject: Tonight’s Agenda Item (Re: Lorimer Road)

Dear Council Members and Others,

In advance of my appearance this evening before the City Council, a more detailed accounting than my 3 minutes will permit. Thank you.

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Re: Street Improvement Petition #1351 – Lorimer Road

This petition, for the installation of a sidewalk with street improvements on Lorimer Road between Kaplan Road and Garland Drive, was presented to residents—specifically, those living south of Onslow Road—as a way to end their decades-old stormwater problems. The question is: will it? Continue reading

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.

“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