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.

–    –     –

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

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

David Simonton – Facebook Posts

David Simonton’s posts have been removed from the “Lorimer Rd Raleigh” Facebook page (Simonton removed the posts himself).  The posts that follow have been recovered from screen-grabs:

– David Simonton (9/10?/15, Facebook) – It is now clear, as it has been from the beginning, that this entire sad episode in our neighborhood’s history has been about two sisters, relatively new arrivals here, doing whatever they needed to do, and saying whatever they needed to say, to get what they want for themselves and their families.

And they prevailed. Because they didn’t play fair. And that can’t stand.

The petitioner, for whom “communication and community [are] what it’s all about,” is no longer communicating. And her sister is using what is purportedly a forum for the exchange of ideas, on a subject important to all of us, as her soapbox. I have to wonder if she’s heard anyone else’s voice, or taken anyone else’s concerns and feelings into consideration, through all of this.

Civility is important to maintain, there’s no doubt. But the pretense of civility in the face of an onslaught of insults is another thing all together. There’s a decent and considerate way to go about doing things, after all.

This was once a peaceful and harmonious neighborhood. What a difference six months makes.

.  .  .  .  .  .

– David Simonton (10/5/15, 11:06 am, Facebook) – Here’s what I keep coming back to….Allowing them the benefit of the doubt, suppose Donna Burford & Sharon Mixon (the Petitioner and her sister) really believed it when they told folks that the petition they were being asked to sign was merely the first step in a process, the details of which could and would be worked out later, and that signing it was just a show of interest in some kind of neighborhood improvements, the scope and shape of which we’d all have a say in down the road….

-Who/Where did they get that idea from?

-How is it that they were so convinced of that scenario that they were willing in good conscience to pass that assurance on to their neighbors?

-Given the actual outcome—that what we’ve ended up with is what was spelled out in the Petition, minus one foot—how is it that, rather than showing even a hint of remorse at having unintentionally misled their neighbors—or the least bit of anger at having been misled themselves!—they’re digging in their heels instead?

I don’t get it….

Comments:

– Currie Mixon (10/25/2015, 11:24am) – Because you’ve shown yourself to be a dickhead, David.

– Currie Mixon (10/5/15, 11:26 am) – (I’m not speaking for my wife or sister-in-law. I’m speaking for me – I’ve found you to be an incredibly whiny and self-centered person, and over the course of your writings, I’ve lost all respect that I once had for you.)

[The previous two comments were subsequently deleted by their author, and an apology made.]

– Currie Mixon (10/5/15, 6:07 pm) – What I should have said earlier, is if you are looking for an actual answer, I suggest you change your accusatory tone. Your postings are not conducive to actual conversation or explanation.

– David Simonton – Explain this, Currie: Why is it, do you think, that people (more than a few) are upset about the way the petition process was conducted? Have you no qualms at all? given what you learned at last night’s [Neighborhood] Meeting? Is no one—or nothing—to blame for all the ill-will that’s been generated? If not a flawed process, then what do you suppose has caused such tension between neighbors…where before, there was none?

– Currie Mixon – You’re answer is in your question: the fact that you need a target to blame lets me know just about all I need to know about your focus on this. You have had an emotional response, which I understand. However, your emotional response has been about the only response you seem to have had. There’s been no evolution. Only the same, emotional, seeking blame mentality that has resulted in my dismissal of your emotions at this point.

.  .  .  .  .  .

“…One of the first neighbors that we talked to about the project”

– Sharon Moll Mixon (11/23/15, 10:01 pm, Facebook) – Donna [Burford] and I spoke with Carolyn [Parker], 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 [Simonton] 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.

– Carolyn Parker (11/24/15, 10:41 am, Facebook) – …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 neighborhood like this and we’d all survived (my poor effort at humor); and that Dave and I walked the neighborhood 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 [Williamson], and your next-door neighbor, Karen [Rochford], 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.

Email to City Council Members from David Simonton & Carolyn Parker (8/26/2015)

August 26, 2015

Dear City Council Members,

Re: Opposition to Street Improvement Petition #1351 – Lorimer Road

We are Carolyn Parker and David Simonton. We are 22-year residents of 1218 Lorimer Road, located in West Raleigh in the long-established Kentwood neighborhood.  Our contact information is at the bottom of this letter and we invite you to call one or both of us directly with any questions, or if you need any additional information in your consideration of the above referenced Street Improvement Petition.

In advance of City Council’s consideration of this petition, we are writing to ask that our block of Lorimer Road, from Onslow Road to Garland Drive, be removed from the petition altogether. We and the majority of our neighbors on this block oppose Street Improvement Petition #1351 in its current form. We neither want nor need the proposed road and sidewalk changes—and we certainly don’t want to be made to pay for them, either as property owners or as taxpayers.

Below, we outline four main reasons we oppose that portion of Petition #1351 which proposes road and sidewalk improvements along the northern end of Lorimer Road between Onslow Road and Garland Drive.

Continue reading