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