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. Continue reading

“Questions About Validity of Petition” (Laurel Hills)

Excerpts from the meeting appear below –

 

CITY COUNCIL MEETING MINUTES – 

The City Council of the City of Raleigh met in regular session at 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday, October 7, 2014 in the City Council Chamber of the Raleigh Municipal Building, Avery C. Upchurch Government Complex, 222 W. Hargett Street, Raleigh, North Carolina, with the following present.:

Mayor Nancy McFarlane, Presiding (absent & excused)
Councilor Mary-Ann Baldwin
Councilor Kay C. Crowder (absent & excused)
Councilor Bonner Gaylord
Councilor Wayne K. Maiorano
Councilor John Odom
Councilor Russ Stephenson
Councilor Eugene Weeks

.  .  .

REQUEST AND PETITIONS OF CITIZENS

TRAFFIC CALMING PETITION – LAUREL HILLS ROAD – QUESTIONS ABOUT VALIDITY OF PETITION – REFERRED TO PUBLIC WORKS COMMITTEE

Steven Dean, 4003 Juniper Court, stated he was before the Council as he and other residents of the Laurel Hills community have concerns about the validity of the petition to support the installation of traffic calming along a part of Laurel Hills Road. He pointed out the City has split Laurel Hills Road into two sections and he is talking about the Rex Hospital portion. He indicated the petition states there are some 53 eligible houses and 41 representatives one of those signed the petition which resulted in a 77.4 percent. He stated however they dispute that and presented the following: Continue reading

Public Works Committee Meeting Minutes (9/22/2015)

Excerpts from the meeting appear below –

The Public Works Committee of the City of Raleigh met in regular session on Tuesday, September 22, 2015, 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       Assistant City Manager Tansy Hayward

Councilor John Odom                                   Interim Public Works Director Richard Kelly

Absent and Excused                                     City Attorney Thomas McCormick

Councilor Wayne Maiorano                       Transportation Planner Jason Myers

Civil Engineer Thomas Fiorello

Sr. Transportation Engineer Jed Niffenegger

Transportation Planning Manager Eric Lamb

 

These are summary minutes unless otherwise indicated.

Mr. Weeks called the meeting to order indicating Mr. Maiorano was absent and excused from today’s meeting, and the following items were discussed with actions taken as shown. Continue reading

“…The way the petition process was handled was referred to the Public Works Committee”

The situation on Laurel Hills Road, outlined below and here, mirrors the situation on Lorimer Road as it relates to the door-to-door petition process itself – even though the Laurel Hills project is for traffic calming and the Lorimer Road project is for street and sidewalk improvements.

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OCTOBER 24, 2014Public Works Committee Meeting (edited, complete minutes HERE; emphasis added)-

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. Continue reading

Public Works Committee Meeting (11/10/2015)

Excerpts from the Public Works Committee Meeting Minutes, November 10, 2015 (emphasis added) –

PUBLIC WORKS COMMITTEE

The Public Works Committee of the City of Raleigh met in regular session on Tuesday, November 10, 2015, 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
Councilor Eugene Weeks, Chairman
Councilor John Odom
Councilor Wayne Maiorano

Staff
Assistant City Manager Tansy Hayward
Acting Public Works Director Richard Kelly
Deputy City Attorney Ira Botvinick
Engineering Plans Review Manager Kenneth Ritchie
Senior Transportation Engineer Jed Niffenegger

These are summary minutes unless otherwise indicated.

.  .  .  .  .  .

 

Item #13-17 – Neighborhood Traffic Management Program – Policy Issues. This item was previously discussed at the Public Works Committee’s October 27, 2015 meeting and held over for further discussion.

Chairman Weeks indicated the Committee received correspondence from 2 Laurel Hills residents and stated and clarified that intent of today’s meeting was to consider changes to the Neighborhood Traffic Management Program to be implemented citywide.

Senior Transportation Engineer Jed Niffenegger summarized the following staff report included in the agenda Committee’s agenda packet:

Background:

For the past several months, we have been internally reviewing the Neighborhood Traffic Management Program (NTMP). This review consisted of three main components. First, there was an internal review based on lessons learned and problems encountered. Second, a peer review was conducted of the largest US Cities and ones specifically in North Carolina. Lastly, an online survey was done to get feedback from Raleigh residents who are the true “customers” of the program. Continue reading

Public Works Committee Meeting (11/12/2014)

Excerpts from the Public Works Committee Meeting Minutes, November 12, 2014 (emphasis added) –

 

PUBLIC WORKS COMMITTEE

The Public Works Committee of the City of Raleigh met in regular session on Wednesday, November 12, 2014, at 4:00 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
Councilor Eugene Weeks, Chairman
Councilor John Odom
Councilor Wayne Maiorano

Staff
Public Works Director Carl Dawson
City Attorney Thomas McCormick
Assistant Public Utilities Director Kenneth Waldroup
Senior Traffic Engineer Jed Niffenegger

These are summary minutes unless otherwise indicated.

.  .  .  .  .  .

Policy issues were addressed, including “a lengthy discussion…[of] the petition process” –

 

Item #13-17 – Neighborhood Traffic Management Program – Policy Issues. Chairman Weeks indicated during the November 5, 2014 City Council meeting this item was referred to the Public Works Committee for further discussion.

Senior Traffic Engineer Jed Niffenegger gave a brief review of the City’s Traffic Calming program noting the program is citizen-driven, and went on to note speed bumps were the most effective traffic calming device. He stated there is no assessment involved with the program as all improvements take place within the right-of-way. He gave an overview of the pro0posed changes to the program including adding procedures to stop projects and/or remove existing traffic calming devices. He stated staff recommends retaining the 75 percent threshold for removal as well as approving new projects.

Mr. Odom questioned whether any other residents filed petitions for removal or stopping projects with Mr. Niffenegger responding Staff addresses petitions to remove some speed bumps, but not all within a project. He went on to compare the Traffic Calming petition process with the City’s parking petition process. Lengthy discussion took place regarding the petition process as well as how petitions are worded with Public Works Director Carl Dawson pointing out there are citizens who have stated the petition they signed was not why they signed the petition in the first place. Continue reading

“Obviously…There Needs To Be More Clarity”

Raleigh Residents Want More Traffic Program Changes, By Sarah Barr, 11/13/2014, News & Observer

Residents upset about measures to deter speeding drivers in their neighborhoods told a city council committee on Wednesday that proposed changes to the traffic management program should go much further.

Eight residents from various city neighborhoods spoke before the committee about their concerns, a greatest hits of sorts from the places where the traffic calming process has been particularly contentious in recent years.

Among their concerns: the effect of speed humps on emergency vehicles, invalid petition signatures and the lack of access to the approval and design process for residents who travel a street but don’t have property directly on it.

In some cases, the process has divided the neighborhood based on who does and does not want the traffic calming measures.

It’s turned into ‘us versus them,’ which is really sad,” said Deb Johnson, who lives in the Laurel Hills neighborhood.

The city’s traffic management program is designed to deal with speeding problems. If the city identifies a street as eligible for features such as speed humps or medians, then 75 percent of residents must sign a petition to initiate the design process.

City staff has proposed adding an appeal process of sorts to the program. The changes would allow 75 percent of residents to petition to stop the design process or to remove the features that already have been installed.

The committee decided not to send the recommendations to the full council just yet but to wait until city staff can consider the residents’ input.

Councilman Wayne Maiorano said the residents have raised issues that deserve further consideration. He urged them to keep in mind, though, that staff members, who often get an earful from residents, are working diligently to implement a policy the council sets.

“This is a very emotionally charged issue for many people. It can cause frustration and aggravation,” he said. “Here’s what I would tell you: That frustration and aggravation should be directed at us. We’re the council. We set the policy.”

Turnout at the meeting was particularly high among residents of Laurel Hills, where a traffic calming proposal currently in the design phase has divided the neighborhood. Laurel Hills Drive is a long loop road with spokes of smaller streets. The residents on the side streets have to travel Laurel Hills to get out of their neighborhood.

Johnson presented the council with a list of recommendations about how to improve the process, including to require approval after a design is complete, to find ways to ensure signatures are valid and from property owners only and to include neighbors whose only access to their home is from a project street in the petition process.

Councilman John Odom said that at the very least residents do need to have a clearer understanding of how the process works and what the design could look like.

“Obviously from what we’ve just heard there needs to be more clarity of how we present that so people understand where we are and what we’re doing,” he said.

[Source: HERE]

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

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

.  .  .  .  .  .

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.

.  .  .  .  .  .

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.

INDY Article (1/27/2016) & Comments

January 27, 2016 (INDY Week)

A divisive street-improvement plan raises questions about Raleigh’s citizen-petition process

By Jane Porter

Ryan Barnum lives at 1300 Lorimer Road, a shady, narrow street in west Raleigh. When he bought his 1950s house last April for $284,000, he’d never heard of an in-the-works proposal to install a 6-foot sidewalk on a stretch of that street, along with curbs, gutters and storm drains.

Soon after he closed, a woman named Donna Burford contacted him. A few months earlier, Burford—who lives on an adjacent street—had started gathering signatures on a citizen petition for the street improvements, lobbying neighbors up and down Lorimer to gain the 50-percent-plus-one support the city requires to validate such petitions. Barnum says Burford pitched the sidewalk improvements as a way to fix flooding issues.

“I was very reluctant to sign the petition,” Barnum says. He had good reason: The 14 property owners on the northern side of Lorimer would be assessed a total of $53,600 for the improvements; city taxpayers and property owners on the southern end of Lorimer will pick up the remaining $1.7 million. Because Barnum has the most property fronting the street, he’ll be charged more than $10,000. Later, he says, he learned that he could have started his own citizen petition to have the city merely repave the road and install stop signs for a fraction of the cost. Continue reading