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.

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“‘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

The 25% Design Meeting

UPDATE (Late-September 2016) — “I am targeting the week after Thanksgiving to hold the meeting.” —Talal Shahbander

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UPDATE (Spring 2016)Talal Shahbander reported that the first/25% design meeting will be held possibly in December but more likely in early January, and that he will make a decision on that in September.

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[The highlighting is the City’s]

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[“CM Crowder’s staffer” = Council Member Crowder’s staff member, Nick Sadler]

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[Source: HERE]

Email to Lorimer Road Resident from Nick Sadler (9/8/2015)

“As you know Council approved the sidewalk and street improvements that were included in the petition on September 1, 2015. I cannot speak for the Council but the idea of these projects are to bring our community in line with Council’s goals of having neighborhoods that are pedestrian friendly. I believe that we have to think about the greater good in these situations….

“Staff will move forward with this project as directed by Council. The time for public input is over. Staff will continue to work with those on this section of road to inform them of construction activities.”

Nick Sadler, Policy Analyst, City of Raleigh | City Manager’s Office

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 Kay Crowder (10/12/2015, Donna Burford)

From: Kay Crowder
Subject: FW: October 5 meeting minutes
Date: October 12, 2015, 10:56 am
To: Kay Crowder [personal email address]
Attached: 10/5/15 Neighborhood Meeting Minutes

Notes from the Lorimer Road Meeting.

Ns

Nick Sadler, Policy Analyst
City of Raleigh, City Manager’s Office

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From: Donna Burford
Subject: October 5 meeting minutes
Date: October 12, 2015, 9:21 am
To: Kay Crowder

Here is the latest email. It really is annoying how much [Erin Salmon] misrepresent the group of neighbors that want any of this. I sent my husband to observe, since my sister was determined to go to this meeting. Still as far as I know only one person that signed the petition doesn’t want to be on it anymore and this Ryan Barnum. She makes it sound like she has a following.

Donna Burford

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From: Erin Salmon
Sent: Sunday, October 11, 2015 9:37 PM
To: [All Residents, Neighbors]
Subject: Re: October 5 meeting minutes

Here are the minutes a second time and in a PDF.   I don’t think my first attachment was easy to open.

On Sun, Oct 11, 2015 at 1:45 AM, Erin Salmon wrote:

Hello Everyone,

Here are the minutes from the last neighborhood meeting as compiled and combined by Barbara Scott and myself.   If you were at the meeting and have anything to add, please do.   Please post any questions as well.

Be on the look out for a mailer from the city regarding our next meeting in your mailbox.   It will mention the upcoming vote for naming our neighborhood association, and a reminder about the citizens’ petition request.

Please forward this email to neighbors who are not on this email list and who live within the boundaries of the neighborhood.

Sincerely,
Erin

Jane Fenn & Kay Crowder – Phone Call Notes

—– Forwarded Message —–
From: “Crowder, Kay”
To: Jane Fenn ; “Crowder, Kay”
Sent: Friday, October 2, 2015 10:29 AM
Subject: RE: Phone Call Notes
Ms. Fenn,
Nick Sadler again. Council Member Crowder asked that I follow up with you on answers to your questions. Ms. Crowder does plan to call you back to discuss these. Please see answers [in italics] below.
______________________________
 
Nick Sadler, Policy Analyst
City of Raleigh | City Manager’s Office
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From: Jane Fenn
Sent: Tuesday, September 29, 2015 12:41 PM
To: Crowder, Kay
Subject: Phone Call Notes
Good morning — I wanted to tell you again that I appreciated your call and also to say that I look forward to the information you said you would find and pass on to me.  According to my notes, these are the areas where you were going to pursue input from city personnel:
1.  Specific reasons why the west side of Lorimer Road was selected for the sidewalk rather than the east side.  You suggested terrain (but the west side has more properties with a significant slope), utilities (the west side does have utility poles) and drainage (with both sides having new storm sewers and gutters, I don’t understand what difference there might be). City staff (no names were provided in that email from Nick Sadler) already told me specifically that cost differential was not a factor — that there is no particular cost difference.  In light of these things, I want to understand exactly what factors were behind the selection.  The implication for me is that the sidewalk be changed to the east side in accordance with the petition originator’s own statements at the Sept. 1 meeting.
Upon reflection after our conversation, I see a different way to reach more equity among property owners.  Why not put a sidewalk on both sides of Lorimer?  At least that would impact all property owners comparably. How about that?  Putting the sidewalk on both sides would be much more expensive. A large part of my dissatisfaction with this project is the feeling of gross inequity involved, a situation that will continue as long as I own the property and therefore continue to be responsible for a sidewalk and a setback and a serious slope. If all property owners share the same impact, that would resolve the inequity.
In this case staff, using set criteria, decided that the best location for the sidewalk to be placed in the public right of way on the west side. The criteria used are vegetation, right of way width, and utility location. The right of way width is symmetrical in this case. Utlities are located on the north side but are located far enough back that they do impact either side. The existing vegetation is more dense on the south side which caused the north side to be more attractive.  
2.  Interest rate for property owners who decide to use the city’s offer to finance their share of the assessment.  The figure given is 6%.  I want to know what interest rate the city pays for its bonds or any other source when obtaining funds for such a street and sidewalk project.  If it is less than 6%, the city is making money on a decision to finance.  How and why would that be allowed?
State statute provides the basic framework for levying interest on assessments that are paid over time.  As shown in the following statute language, 8% is the maximum interest rate that can be assessed.    Basically, the assessment payment plan is an installment loan with payments due annually with interest accruing daily.
 
§ 160A-229. Publication of notice of confirmation of assessment roll. After the expiration of 20 days from the confirmation of the assessment roll, the city tax collector shall publish once a notice that the assessment roll has been confirmed, and that assessments may be paid without interest at any time before the expiration of 30 days from the date that the notice is published, and that if they are not paid within this time, all installments thereof shall bear interest as provided in G.S. 160A-233.
 
§ 160A-233. Enforcement of assessments; interests; foreclosure; limitations. (a) Any portion of an assessment that is not paid within 30 days after publication of the notice that the assessment roll has been confirmed shall bear interest until paid at a rate to be fixed in the assessment resolution butnot more than eight percent (8%) per annum.
 
A number of years ago, the City approved a rate of 6% for City or Raleigh assessments which, of course, is under the 8% state maximum.    
 
Sec. 6-2025. – PAYMENT OF ASSESSMENTS.
Assessments shall be payable in cash, or, if any property owner should so elect and give notice of the fact in writing to the City, in accordance with the provisions of G.S. 160A-232, such property owner shall have the option and privilege of paying the assessment in ten (10) equal installments, such installments to bear interest at the rate of six (6) per cent per annum from the date of the confirmation of the assessment roll.
 
The interest rate is meant to cover the “cost of borrowed funds” and costs of administration.   Over a 10-year assessment payment period, market rates will vary (of course being currently low) and 6% was set as an overall rate that was deemed reasonable.  I believe that this is a very mainstream level of interest rate on assessments but we are going to do some further checking with peer cities to verify that again.   If we find anything that supports consideration of a change in the interest rate, we’ll pursue that through management and Council as appropriate.
3.  Use of water-permeable concrete. I know there are materials available that would foster less runoff along the proposed sidewalk and street.  Will such advanced materials be used?
No, the City has not used permeable concrete for sidewalks to date to my knowledge on publicly funded projects.  It is my understanding that street maintenance is also not setup for routine maintenance of permeable concrete, which can become clogged and require additional maintenance above and beyond standard sidewalk to ensure it functions as intended.  There is also the issue that most soils in North Carolina are clay, which are not conducive to infiltration like sandy soils in the eastern part of the state.  So by simply installing a permeable sidewalk over top of clay soil would likely not provide the type of infiltration that would be expected.  At a minimum, several inches of stone are also required below the sidewalk, which heavily increases the costs associated with the sidewalk installation.
Is seeding with straw the only option the city has for mitigating the project scars?  Straw is the standard mulch used when seeding following construction.  What specifically will be done about the cut and bare slopes between the sidewalk and property owners’ yards?  This will certainly vary from property to property depending on terrain, but typically the City’s practice is to tie back the slopes to the natural terrain at a 3:1 slope or flatter (depending on the terrain and size of each owner’s impacts).  The ground is then seeded and mulched as mentioned in the previous question.  At what point will the city decide a retaining wall must be provided?  Typically a wall is considered when a slope of 2:1 is unachievable.  Do they have formulas for such things, figured by measuring slope degrees or something?  Formulas are not necessary unless you have extreme slope situations (very high or very steep), which are not anticipated along this corridor.  However, the City will continue to monitor vegetation growth and provide additional measures (erosion control matting for example) should there be a problem getting vegetation re-established.  If no wall is provided, what recourse will the property owner have for erosion of the slope?  The City’s project will not be completed until vegetation is re-established by the Contractor and each property owner has approved.  Is there a specific appeal process for a property owner to demonstrate that the city’s actions left an untenable situation?  I’m not aware of a formalized appeal process, however, the City’s standard practice is to work with each property owner closely to ensure there is not a problem.  However, once the property owner signs off on the vegetation establishment, then it is their responsibility to resume maintenance of the grass.  So overseeding, fertilization, watering, etc. will be required to keep the grass in good shape following initial establishment.
Upon reflection on the end of the project, I also am wondering exactly what the city does in regard to mailboxes and driveways. Does the city remove mailboxes and replace them?  They are typically relocated so postal service may continue and relocated back following construction.  Unless there is damage to the mailbox by the contractor they are not replaced.  And what exactly happens with regard to driveways that are cut in the paving process.  Does the city restore the disturbed areas of driveways to their condition prior to the paving job?  Any driveway removed is replaced.  Do they pave if the driveway was paved, resurface with gravel if the driveway was graveled, etc?  When curb is installed, a concrete driveway apron is installed, then the driveway is replaced in-kind with the same materials as were existing prior to construction (asphalt, concrete, gravel, dirt as applicable)
An additional factor I wonder about after your mention of some sort of right of way permissions the city will obtain is the impact of this project on trees that remain in my own portion of my yard.  Construction heavy equipment may well compact and damage tree roots resulting in death to trees that won’t be apparent for some time.  The City is typically conservative on potential right of way impacts so trees that are on the “fringe” of construction limits are compensated and removed so the owner can replant following construction.  In most cases trees that are left at the edge of construction are due to the owners specific request.  What appeal process is there for the city to be responsible for any trees that die due to project impact on them?   Any owner can file a claim against the City for damages.   These are typically handled through the Risk Management office.  Would the city be responsible for removal, for re-planting, etc.?  Depends on the outcome of the claim filed.
Thank you for following through with our conversation.  I am certain many concerned property owners will want to know more facts than they have been informed of up to now.
Regards — Jane Fenn

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Erin Salmon and the City – Part One

On Mon, Sep 28, 2015 at 4:40 PM, Nick Sadler  wrote:

Ms. [Erin] Salmon

My name is Nick Sadler and I work as a Policy Analyst in the City Council Office.

We understand that you have been contacting various departments throughout the City in an effort to gather information about the Lorimer Drive Street and Sidewalk Improvements that was approved by council in September. To better serve this effort I have been asked to  be the point of contact for you moving forward. Any request for information should be sent to me. Once I receive the request I will ensure that it gets to the correct staff  and ensure that you get the information you request.

I appreciate your understanding of this. If you have any questions please let me know.

Nick

Nick Sadler, Policy Analyst

City of Raleigh | City Manager’s Office

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On Sep 29, 2015, at 12:09 AM, Erin Salmon wrote:

Hello Nick,

Thank you for your email.  I am curious who asked you to be the point person for directing my questions.  Prior to your email, I spoke at length with Chris Johnson, and he asked that I direct my questions to himself and to Jimmy Upchurch.  To oblige you all, I will copy the three of you on future emails.

In any case, I believe your assistance will be invaluable for my neighborhood’s future.  This project has created a huge divide within our quiet streets, and I have been working hard since September 1 to bridge this divide, to find common ground where neighbors can work together to address concerns and issues.  The petition process itself has generated much of the contention that residents feel.  I believe that this could have been avoided had the city been more involved during that time before the petition was submitted and before the resolution went before the Council.  I know that many residents did email and call the appropriate city staff to ask questions and voice concerns, myself included. However, not all calls and emails were answered, and the information that was given to various residents was contradictory to some of the information I have gathered from the city’s website as well as from direct conversations with the departments and divisions pertinent to this project.  There continue to be unanswered questions from residents, and as a neighborhood, we have been meeting frequently over the past four weeks to sort through the information that has been gathered since September 1.

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Letter to City Council Members (8/6/2015, Jane Fenn)

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From: Jane Fenn
To: Gail Smith, Nick Sadler
CC: Kay Crowder
Date: Thu, August 6, 2015, 9:58 am
Subject: Comments on Lorimer Rd. Petition for Public Hearing 9.1.15

I have attached my comments, per information from Nick Sadler by phone 8.5.15. Thank you, Nick, for your help in this. Gail, as I am unable to attend the public meeting on Sept. 1, I am sending you a letter which expresses my concerns. Nick said that if the remarks fit the allowed time frame for comments, you might read them aloud at the meeting. Barring that, you would supply each City Council member with a copy of my comments. Thank you for undertaking this service allowing me to express my concerns and suggestions.

On the understanding that this makes unnecessary my sending individual letters to all the Council, I have not copied them on this. I have, however, copied my own Council representative so as to keep her completely up-to-date with the thoughts of someone she represents.

Thank you for helping me to make my thoughts on this matter public in this forum.

Regards — Jane Fenn

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Aug. 6. 2015

TO ALL RALEIGH CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS

As an owner on Lorimer Road whose property will be impacted by the proposed road and sidewalk construction petition, I want to air some objections to the plan as it now stands. Unfortunately, I will be out of town beginning Aug. 19 and will miss the meeting set for Sept. 1. Nick Sadler, policy analyst in the city council offices, has been very helpful as I started there to find out what to do. I want to applaud his courtesy, efficiency, and effectiveness in assisting me. He is an asset to your office! He advised sending this letter to the city clerk and all council members in order to make sure my voice is heard. Here are my comments regarding the petition as it now stands:

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