Email to City Council Members (Jeff Essic)

From: Jeff Essic
To: City Council Members
Date: Mon, Aug 31, 2015 at 9:54 AM
Subject: Please Vote No to “Street Improvement Petition #1351” at Your Next City Council Meeting

Dear Raleigh City Council Members,

I am Jefferson (Jeff) Essic, and my wife Karen and two children, age 8 and 5, live [on Lorimer Road]…. I am forwarding the contents of a letter regarding the petition for the city to make street improvements along Lorimer Road. My wife and I are in complete agreement with all statements made in this letter and stand in opposition to the plans laid forth in Street Improvement Petition #1351 for our section of Lorimer Road.

In addition to the reasons for opposition given in the letter below, I have some additional reasons that I would like to share. First of all, and perhaps most importantly, what the maps do not adequately show is that from the intersections of Lorimer Road and Garland Road, and from Lorimer Road and Kaplan Drive, there are continuous downhill grades to Bushy Creek which runs under Lorimer Road at the Onslow Road intersection. This grade, which is quite steep in a few places including in front of our house, naturally causes the tendency for drivers to speed as they coast down the hills. Presently, the only thing in my opinion that is causing drivers to apply their brakes and go down the hills more cautiously is the narrowness of the street, the irregular surface condition of the pavement, and the visible shoulder drop-offs for the side ditches. The street width is such that two cars meeting each other generally slow down as they pass, and even more so when meeting a truck or bus. The street also has a number of dips and humps so that travelling above the speed limit of 25mph will make the ride very uncomfortable and increase the risk of losing control. It is my opinion that by widening and smoothing the street, even with the addition of sidewalks, there will be no net gain in safety because traffic will travel much faster, and possibly there will be an increase in traffic volume. Should the street improvements be constructed, it is very likely that the next cause for which you will hear from our neighborhood will be a call for the installation of traffic-calming devices.

Continue reading

Email to City Council Members (Barbara Scott)

September 1, 2015
As a 26-year resident of Chaney Road within a block of part of the proposed street improvements under Petition 1351, I wish to voice my opposition to the proposed changes to our neighborhood.
I bought my house on Chaney Road in 1989 because of the neighborhood’s appeal. Despite it’s location within a half mile of what was then called “the Beltline,” now I-440, the Lorimer and Chaney Road blocks just off Western Boulevard had a rural appeal with narrow tree-lined streets unobstructed by sidewalks or curbs. I’ve enjoyed safely walking, biking, and jogging in the area for the past 26 years.
As the quality of life in Raleigh has changed with major population growth, our neighborhood has somehow managed to keep its appeal. Everyone who visits my home remarks on the arch of trees over our narrow streets and the sense that they have stepped into a quiet safe haven from the litter, speeding cars, and crowded streets that have begun to mark our city.
All of that will change for those who live on Lorimer Road, roughly half of what I call my neighborhood, if Petition 1351 is approved. The area covered by the petition leaves out an entire block of Lorimer–the first block that dead-ends on Western Boulevard. What’s the reasoning behind starting improvements at Garland Drive? This starting point seems to be arbitrary when the petitioner lives in a neighborhood two blocks farther down off Lorimer Road and southwest of the Onslow Road intersection.
That first block off Garland is the Lorimer Road beginning of what I call the “safe haven” feeling of our neighborhood. I hope you will consider the impact of a wider road, fewer trees, and narrower setbacks for homes when you consider this petition. Raleigh doesn’t feel like it used to feel. The expanded streetscapes might be necessary for safe passage through some busy areas. Some wide streets, however, feel littered, noisy, hot, and unsafe because of speeding cars, removed tree cover, and an urbanized feel, including the parking of so many cars on the street that navigating one’s vehicle is difficult.
Thank you for considering my opinion.
Barbara Scott
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Lorimer Road, from Kaplan Drive to Garland Drive (Google Street View)

“THE ROAD IS FALLING APART UNDER US!!!!!!!”Donna Burford, Petitioner (9/3/2015)

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Lorimer Road, heading north. Slides generated by the City of Raleigh from Google Street Views (side street names added) –

1 Screen shot 2016-05-26 at 6.26.25 PM.jpg

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12 Screen shot 2016-05-26 at 6.27.48 PM.jpg

13 Screen shot 2016-05-26 at 6.27.56 PMb.jpg

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— “…I deserve a road to get to my property that is not falling apart…” —Donna Burford, Fairway Ridge Drive resident (Facebook post)

— “I have heard people say ‘the person that started the petition does not even live on the street’ not sure why that matters. Anyone can start a petition for anything it is the majority of signatures as to whether or not it passes. Donna put hours and hours of blood sweat and tears into this for me and my family on my request… Not to mention she is forced to travel Lorimer road to get to her house.” —Donna’s sister, Sharon Mixon, Lorimer Road (Facebook post)

—“I’m very familiar with the street… There are lots of issues about the street…it has very deep swales and there’s no room to walk along either of them, because they’re so deep.”Kay Crowder, District D Representative (9/1/2015)

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The 1200 Block of Lorimer Rd (North)

 

n-lorimer-II.jpg

On December 1, 2015, a second citizen’s petition was submitted to the Raleigh City Council requesting that the 1200 block of Lorimer Road (above) be removed from the original petition/project.

This petition read:

We, the undersigned property owners of the 1200 block of Lorimer Road, petition the City of Raleigh to remove our block from Resolution (2015) 141, as our block was included in a Property Owner Initiative Petition begun in May 2014 for road construction without our knowledge and without our consent by someone who is not a property owner. We request the opportunity to educate ourselves and learn more about improvement options included in the City of Raleigh Street and Sidewalk Improvement Policy [PDF] as well as the 2030 Comprehensive Plan, so that we may submit our own petition which more accurately reflects the true will of the property owners.

The petition was signed by 10 of the 14 property owners who live on this block. And yet, despite a request by 71% of residents, City Council members rejected the request although the petition document itself states that parts of streets (as opposed to whole streets, as the original petition called for) can be improved:

 

Screen Shot 2016-04-17 at 1.31.10 PM.png

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from Facebook:

Shannon BellezzaBut the vocal minority is the majority on your block. Why wasn’t the petition redrawn to exempt the 1200 block?

Like · 1 · September 9, 2015 at 3:30pm · Edited

 

Sharon Moll MixonWhy wasn’t the petition withdrawn to exempt the 1200 block of Lorimer Road? Because no one asked us to do that*. I never received one phone call, text message, or knock on my door. The only correspondence that Donna got was from Jan that CC’d her on a letter. I was taking her concerns to heart by asking the City Council to consider putting the sidewalk on the east side instead of the west side.

Like · September 10, 2015 at 2:44am

 

Sharon Moll MixonWe had the petition in hand until the deadline that it needed to be submitted**. Even after we submitted it there may have been a chance of talking to Kay Crowder with whatever compromise the 1200 block would come up with***. Standing in front of the City Council as a United neighborhood would have gone a lot further in my opinion.

Like · September 10, 2015 at 2:52am

When 1200-block residents did ask, formally, by submitting their own petition to the City Council, the request was rejected.
** In fact, the petition was turned in to the Public Works Department on May 4, 2015, two weeks before it was due.
*** When Kay Crowder was asked directly by a resident at an October 2015 Neighborhood Meeting, “Why didn’t the Council consider splitting out the north end of Lorimer from the petition?” Mrs. Crowder’s (non-)answer was: “The City wants to do whole streets, whole sections at once. Microgaps, where sidewalks stop in the middle of the block, are only trouble to fix later. The City is trying to fix existing ones, and not create any more.” —A microgap is “a missing section of sidewalk anywhere from 25 feet to 300 feet long and often involves a single property owner not wanting a sidewalk crossing in front of his or her property.”

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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

Where Previous Petitions Have Failed

MAP II.png

 

From the September 1, 2015 City Council Meeting minutes:

“Assessment Supervisor Jimmy Upchurch presented an area map [above] showing the existing sidewalks in the area, locations which have been the subject of previous petitions [highlighted in blue], the fact that Onslow petitioned 3 times unsuccessfully…”.

 

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

INDY Article (9/30/2015) & Comments

September 30, 2015 (INDY Week)

A Raleigh neighborhood doesn’t want the city’s street “improvements”

By Jane Porter

On Sept. 1, the Raleigh City Council voted unanimously to make street improvements to a section of Lorimer Road, a completely routine thing that usually engenders gratitude (or at least ambivalence) from affected residents. (Who doesn’t like “improvements”?) But that’s not the case here.

Some residents say the improvements, which include adding a six-foot sidewalk with curbs, gutters and drains, should only go toward the southern end of Lorimer Road, where there is more traffic. More than that, they’re unhappy with how their Council member, Kay Crowder, handled the matter.

The request for improvements was brought to Council via citizen petition. But the petitioner, Donna Burford, does not live on Lorimer Road, but rather on Fairway Ridge Drive, to which Lorimer connects. (Her sister lives on Lorimer.) Burford told Council that the street needed sidewalks to make it safer for kids. She pointed out that there’s no shoulder on the sides of the road, just ditches. And, she said, some neighbors have experienced flooding; gutters and drains can help with that.

But neighbors on the northern end of Lorimer say Burford’s petition contained inaccuracies, including a statement that residents would have to pay more in assessment fees if the improvements weren’t done right away. Several residents signed the petition without knowing that it was an official document, they contend. Some have requested that their names be removed.

Nevertheless, after a few neighborhood meetings, the petition went before Council, and Council voted to make the improvements.

The neighborhood’s 14 property owners will end up being assessed a total of $53,600 for the repairs, which works out to between $2,000 and $10,000 each, depending on lot size, for houses worth around $200,000. The city will pick up the rest of the tab, around $1.5 million.

More than the money, though, they say the improvements will encroach into their front yards, and they don’t believe the traffic on Lorimer warrants that much work. They’re also worried about the erosion of the gravel Onslow Road, and the impact to the creek that runs parallel to Onslow and intersects Lorimer.

Neighbors say they tried to bring their concerns to Crowder, but she was unresponsive. “My correspondence with [Crowder] has been respectful and has offered positive suggestions but it does not agree with what she is clearly pushing,” property owner Jane Fenn wrote on Sept. 10 in a neighborhood Facebook group. “I personally have not had any reason to think at this point that she is fulfilling her responsibility of being representative of those she represents.”

Crowder says she reached out to Fenn and is “very willing” to answer residents’ questions. “Unfortunately, we can’t make everyone happy,” Crowder says. “In governance, it’s just not possible. It is the goal of the city to move forward with what the majority of people on the street want, and that’s what we did on Lorimer.”

Homeowner Erin Salmon, who opposes the street improvements, says she and other neighbors will continue to press their case to Council.

“We were given no other options by the city, and people believed this proposal was the only way to get a sidewalk,” Salmon says. “Our neighborhood is working hard to overcome this divide and repair relations.”

Crowder is up for election Tuesday, in what is expected to be a close race with newcomer Ashton Mae Smith. It’s unlikely, however, that Lorimer Road residents’ disappointment will factor into that contest.

There simply aren’t enough of them.

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COMMENTS:

I was really looking for some considered thought from Kay Crowder about this. She responded to my email with a non-answer and lost my vote.
This is our street. We do not support the unnecessary, expensive, and invasive sidewalk plan (which also includes pipes and gutters putting all street runoff directly into Bushy Creek rather than through the permeable, vegetated side ditches already there). Although 68% of residents signed the petition, many feel they misunderstood key information, and some even feel that they were misled by the two persistent neighbors behind the effort. And the petition was submitted before it had to be. A reasonable compromise is possible.
-Steve Grothmann

—Posted by Steve Grothmann on 09/30/2015 at 9:29 AM

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Kay Crowder is very willing to answer questions? That’s news to me. It only seems be the case when she is asked questions by those in favor of the sidewalk. Though to be fair, when she was asked by a concerned citizen what to do about the increased traffic and traffic speeds that widening the road from 20 feet to 27 feet would likely lead to, she did tell residents to just park their cars in the street, so there’s that.

—Posted by DrB on 09/30/2015 at 9:47 AM

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 This is not the first time!!! From 2010 – News and Observer
Neighbors at odds over sidewalk
City approves Merwin Road plan despite opposition from residents.
BY RAY MARTIN – Staff Writer
“The City Council at its meeting last week unanimously approved installation of a sidewalk on the west side of Merwin Road, where only four of the 14 property owners who participated in the most recent public meeting want it.
After City Manager Russell Allen told the council that most residents voted to go without a sidewalk, Councilman Thomas Crowder, whose district includes the neighborhood, made a motion to approve its construction.”
http://www.midtownraleighnews.com/2010/07/14/2980/neighbors-at-odds-over-sidewalk.htmlprove
There is another project in the neighborhood that will cause much controversy too! Just drive down Swift Drive and you will see Ashton smith signs on one side of the road and Crowder on the other. This is not what government should be about! City councilors should be a voice for ALL of their constituents, not just their friends and political contributors. It is time for the Ole Boys Club to move on. Vote for Ashton!

—Posted by GV on 09/30/2015 at 10:02 AM

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“…After a few neighborhood meetings, the petition went before Council….” For the record, there was only one meeting, on April 1, 2015. Yet the Petition was issued to Donna Burford on November 18, 2014. One question I have is, Why were some residents kept in the dark for so long (4 months) about a proposal that would impact all of us? One more question: Is the City of Raleigh aware of how the petition process was mismanaged in this case? And if so, is it the least bit concerned about it?
—Posted by David Simonton on 09/30/2015 at 1:10 PM

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Jane Porter-
The City Council does not even consider these petitions without the signatures by more than 50% of the affected property owners. In this case, more than 70% signed. The City Council approved it with an 8 to 0 vote and you neglected to mention either of those pertinent facts. Two of those who don’t want the improvements say many of the petitioners were duped. Instead of interviewing even a single petitioner to determine if they feel mislead or that Crowder was unresponsive, you published these unfounded accusations. And you closed the article with a plug for Smith for City Council. Are we to believe that Smith and the Indy Week are anti-sidewalk?
-Donna Burford

—Posted by DonnaB on 09/30/2015 at 7:03 PM

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Thank you Donna, I am aware that 51% is the threshold needed for the City Council to consider a citizens’ petition. I began the story by pointing out that the council voted unanimously to make the sidewalk improvements. Perhaps you would like to explain why you continued to distribute a petition to your neighbors that you knew contained factual inaccuracies and were asked to correct but apparently did not. Please do not try to confuse this issue with whether or not we support sidewalks. We enjoy walking on sidewalks and we enjoy drinking on them and last week we endorsed Kay Crowder for the District D seat over a capable challenger, Ashton Mae Smith.

—Posted by Jane Porter on 09/30/2015 at 7:24 PM

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I am completely unaware of any inaccuracies in the City of Raleigh Petition, you may need to investigate that with the City. I didn’t write the petition nor do I have the authority to revise it.

—Posted by DonnaB on 09/30/2015 at 7:53 PM

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Responding to Donna Burford (Petitioner), Perhaps what Jane Porter is refering to in her article, rather than the Petition itself, is “the letter of talking points that I drew up for all the neighbors to read” (your words), that was distributed as you solicited signatures for the Petition, that contained the following assertion: “Eventually the City of Raleigh will require [Lorimer Road] to be brought up to standard as a conforming road and the property owners will pay the increased fees of assesment at that time if it is not handled now.” As you know, that contention was discredited at the meeting on April 1 by the City officials in attendance (with Kay Crowder presiding)—and yet you and your sister continued to distribute that same misinformation to neighbors the very next day.

—Posted by David Simonton on 09/30/2015 at 9:12 PM
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Jane Porter: Check your numbers? There are 41 homes on Lorimer included in the petition. Is your 14 a typo?
Donna: 28/41 rounds to 68%.

—Posted by Steve Grothmann on 10/01/2015 at 8:04 AM

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Steve, there are 14 property owners on the northern end of Lorimer (north of Onslow Road I believe) who will be assessed a total of $53,000 for these street improvements; 41 properties on Lorimer Road total, per the petition. 9 of the 14 property owners on the northern end of Lorimer did not sign the petition. The total amount assessed on property owners on Lorimer will be more than $175,000. So it looks like the neighbors on the northern end of the street are paying for the lion’s share of the improvements. (I got these numbers from attorney Ben Kuhn’s presentation at the City Council meeting)

—Posted by Jane Porter on 10/01/2015 at 9:21 AM
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There are 14 property owners with homes on or fronting Lorimer Road whose properties are located between Onslow Road & Garland Drive. 9 of those 14 property owners did not sign the Petition—a 64% majority. A representative for our block went before the City Council seeking to have our block removed from the Petition, arguing that “majority rules” should be applied both ways: If the majority of residents* between Kalplan Drive and Onslow Road were in favor of the changes as spelled out in the Petition, and the majority of residents between Onslow and Garland were opposed, then why not stop the sidewalk at Onslow? a natural stopping point as it’s a gravel road and the location of Bushy Creek. Why wasn’t this reasonable (and equitable, and money-saving, and environmentally sound) request even discussed by the City Council? Why was this process rushed? Why the hurry to approve a $1.7 million project—for a 27′ road, with a 6′ setback and 6′ sidewalk—for a quite, little-travelled street in an old residential neighborhood?
*Now that it’s known misinformation was spread to secure a number of signatures, all of these numbers and percentages are in question.

—Posted by David Simonton on 10/01/2015 at 9:41 AM

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This is too bad, Crowder’s husband did a superlative job shepherding the calming improvements currently unfolding on Kaplan. He answered every email/call I placed with him, and soon that street will finally be livable.

—Posted by Sogno on 10/01/2015 at 1:42 PM

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@Jane Porter OK, thanks for clarifying.

—Posted by Steve Grothmann on 10/01/2015 at 8:08 PM

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 I think it’s really important to get this clear. There’s a lot of faulty logic in this story. Roughly 41 homes compose the street/neighborhood. So 68% of the neighborhood supports the proposition – that includes the northern end of the street. If you break out the northern end of the street into a smaller subset, there is a similar ratio of homeowners that did not sign the petition (from the numbers presented, you can’t say that someone that did not sign is automatically against it – just that they did not sign. But that’s a separate issue.). There are clearly neighbors that are against the project, but their tactic has been to over-state the level of “doesn’t want the city’s ‘improvements’ “. As an example, they have gotten their dissatisfaction put into IndyWeek.
Now, the title of this article is more than misleading; it is patently false to say that the neighborhood doesn’t want the “improvements”. Some do not, but clearly the petitioned numbers show the opposite for an overwhelming majority. This “article” seems much more like an opinion piece, written not from a journalist.

—Posted by CMixon on 10/07/2015 at 10:44 AM

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To provide some context and perspective, “CMixon” (comment below) is the Petitioner’s sister’s husband. The Petitioner’s sister initiated the Petition.

—Posted by David Simonton on 10/07/2015 at 6:19 PM
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UPDATE: On December 1 an unsympathetic City Council, in effect, forced its agenda on our quiet neighborhood block (from Onslow Road to Garland Drive; established in the 1950s), where 10 out of 14 property owners now stand opposed to the project. A counter-petition was therefore submitted to Council, asking that our block be removed from the original (tainted) petition. The Council members were silent in response, offering no comments.

And so, apparently, goes government…and government officials. And there, alas, goes this City of unique and diverse old neighborhoods, if what’s happened in our case serves as a precursor of what’s to come.

Brace yourselves, y’all: it looks like uniformity & conformity will be ruling the day from here on out.

(One is left to wonder: Did developers play a part in any of this? Time will tell….)

—Posted by David Simonton on 12/02/2015 at 1:11 PM
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