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 Street, 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.
This article appeared in print with the headline "The gavel can't come soon enough"