Archive for January, 2008

City of Raleigh E-Newsletter

Monday, January 28th, 2008

From the City of Raleigh “At Your Service” Newsletter:

Residents who want to receive the City of Raleigh’s news releases electronically may do so by sending a request to chris.riley@ci.raleigh.nc.us.

Hard copies of the news releases will continue to be mailed weekly upon request. Please contact the City of Raleigh Public Affairs Department at (919) 890-3100 to make this request.

What a great way to stay up-to-date with information from the City of Raleigh in an environmentally-friendly way.

Water Usage Calculator

Sunday, January 27th, 2008

Want to figure our your household water usage? We’ve tried to make it easy for you. Try out our Water Usage Calculator to determine your household water usage and per person water usage. Get you water bill, enter your consumption, number of days in your billing cycle, and the number of persons in your household.

Do your part to help conserve Raleigh’s water.

The Battle over Infill

Monday, January 21st, 2008

For those of you that have been following the infill debate in Raleigh, the lines have been drawn and citizens from both sides are taking their stands. I first become educated on the issue from some Five Points residents forming Community SCALE.

Recently, another group of citizens organized around the issue and went more public with a new website: Renew Raleigh. Their mission? The website claims the following:

Renew Raleigh is a group of concerned Raleigh citizens —including homeowners, property owners and small business and service providers—who have grouped together to stop the City Council from adopting new policies that will take away property rights and diminish the property values of Raleigh’s homeowners by imposing significant restrictions on new and renovated homes.

I am actually intrigued with the issue. When I try to understand the bottom line, I say the debate over is the following: Property Rights vs. Neighborhood Rights

When you think about it, any property owner is entitled to their property rights. So where do neighborhood rights come in? I think their is a certain, unspoken expectation, that when you move into a neighborhood, you have a certain vision of what the neighborhood will look like for years to come. I believe that property owners have a right to improve their property, who wants to see a property deteriorate? I think the real issue is the teardown trend that people are seeing and the houses that push the zoning restrictions to the limits.

After all, according to the North Carolina Legislature, Planed Zoning Districts are the law. Any rezoning has to make a very good case if it doesn’t fit the current zoning. Hence, one of the main reasons why Raleigh is putting so much effort into the Comprehensive Plan.

This is a really interesting debate, Infill. City Council has a tough decision on it’s hands. Overall, I’ve found that there are many benefits to the right kind of infill, however, the teardown component probably needs to be addressed. For this to be resolved, I think both sides of the argument need to be willing to discuss the issue and come to resolution. Raleigh should address this issue now before it becomes just another growth issue like is has in so many other cities in the United States.

On a final note, I think that the Lineberry area probably isn’t too concerned with this issue right now as most of the homes here are fairly new. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t pay attention. The only area’s here that (I think) would be subject to infill are the older lots in Pleasant Ridge & Ramsgate and Trailwood Drive homes. Other than that, our area is pretty dense as it is.

Water Usage Formula (in gallons)

Sunday, January 20th, 2008

As a follow-up to my post How do I get to 25 Gallons of Water / Day? I figured I would add in the formula used to determine your water usage. If you’ve figured out how to read your water meter (perhaps a later post), try this:

Water Usage Formula

How do I get to 25 Gallons of Water / Day?

Sunday, January 20th, 2008

If anyone in the Raleigh area has been paying attention to the drought, then you have heard about Mayor Meekers request to get all water customers to 25 gallons per day:

“Mayor Charles Meeker is asking all Raleigh water customers to limit their water consumption to no more than 25 gallons per day, install low-flow devices by March 1 and to use rain barrels for irrigation.” – Source raleigh-nc.org

In a related story, we will soon see an increase in our water rates? The N&O reported: “Raleigh mayor proposes raising water rate 50%“. Time will tell, but it sounds like that will be investigated in more detail before implemented.

In order to answer the question of how we get to 25 gallons per person per day, I think we first need to understand our own water usage. Do you know what your current water usage is? I don’t, and I’d like to know, and from what I’ve been reading on community mailing lists, people want to know. In fact, some people are making spreadsheets and figuring out how to read their water meters.

Which brings me to my next topic. Our water bill. Does anyone know how to read their bill? I recently took a more detailed look at my bill which arrived at the beginning of January 2008. The water usage for a family of 3 humans and 3 dogs was a consumption rate of 6 over a two-month period. Consumption rate? Whatever this consumption rate means, translates to a Bi-monthly inside water usage of $10.20. About half of the bill is recycling, solid waste, and stormwater fees ($28.60 out of $60.47). The other fees included 5/8″ meter inside and sewer items.

I think the City of Raleigh can have some quick wins to help with the drought initiatives. Here is a list of recommendations, not all my own, but a collective list from discussion with neighbors and friends:

  • First and foremost, go to monthly billing AS SOON AS POSSIBLE
  • Change the bill to make it more customer friendly, we don’t understand what is currently on our bill. Give me a graph of my usage on a month-to-month basis like Progress Energy does. Provide me with my daily average -or- give me the tools to do this myself.
  • Give me self service tools so that I can monitor my water usage.
  • Provide a Top-5 list of water saving idea’s and relate the average number of gallons saved by implementing each idea in a single-family home.
  • Identify the biggest water consumers, consider charging them a higher rate or work with them to identify water saving measures.
  • Look for ways to use gray water better, the City should try and connect water customers that can use gray water and form partnerships.
  • Partner with NC State Turf Management program(s) to get turf management education out to citizens by Spring 2008.

So there it is, I think some of these ideas can help get us to 25 gallons per day per person. Let’s hope the City is listening.

DDNA Meeting Notes from January 2008

Sunday, January 20th, 2008

District D Neighborhood Alliance (DDNA) Meeting on January 19, 2008

Attendees: Phil Poe, Connie Crumpler, Bill Padgett, R. Bethea, Elizabeth Byrd, David Brown, Chris Weedy, Jimmy Creech, Mary Belle Pate, Jason Hibbets, and Thomas Crowder.

We talked about water conservation and the drought. The recommendations from the Water Conservation Task Force (last council) were not taken into consideration. The current council will most likely be moving towards Phase 2 restrictions. We talked about a top 5 list of conservation efforts and were uncertain about what those might be. We’d like to understand which conservation options save how much water. The topic of water irrigation came up and we talked about how much of a water hog landscape and turf irrigation is.

There was some interesting conversation around some quick wins for the city. A simple re-design of the City’s Water bill. Show usage in terms that consumers can understand. Include charts like the power bill. Show daily usage. Get to monthly billing ASAP.

The next topic centered around Thomas’s Neighborhood Empowerment initiative and Citizen Advisory Councils (CACs). The challenge from the Mayor is to develop a program to empower all Raleigh citizens and neighborhoods with a component of economic development. Several topics/ideas were discussed:

  • Family stability issues for the Latino Community
  • Office for Neighborhoods
  • Neighborhood Hotline (ie: 311 for New York City)
  • Expanding DDNA to other Districts for the City: DADA, DBDA, DCDA, and DEDA
  • Neighborhood resource center
  • Tap into Raleigh neighborhood college and CPLI alumni for leadership development
  • Coaching for developing community leaders
  • Develop a neighborhood report, aka North Raleigh Times
  • CACs used for education, integrate with city departments

While discussing this topic, Chris Weedy suggested that the DDNA get behind one issue for 2008 and get it done. We decided on Front Yard Parking.

Other items:
We talked about the former Orange Card, who to call for what, and it was suggested that we collaborate on a District Wide “Who to Call for What” list. Elizabeth suggested the Jason Hibbets kick it off. Jason then suggested that he would start it, then everyone could contribute to it and it would continue to evolve over time.

Announcement: Rep. Weiss will be attending the next Method Civic League meeting.

Suggestion: Empower ourselves by education on public nuisances. It was suggested by Chris Weedy that DDNA host our own workshop around public nuisances. Elizabeth Byrd said that she would work with Robert Spruill to get a mini-nuisance conference/program for DDNA, then perhaps the grand vision is to expand / make this available to other Districts in the City.

Next meeting: District 26 Captain Mise will be invited. Gather all your police concerns in preparation for our next meeting in February.

SWCAC Recap for January 14, 2008

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

SouthWest Citizens Advisory Council (SWCAC) January 2008Notes

To kick the meeting off we got updates from Parks & Rec. Starting February 4, they have mens and womens aerobics class starting at Carolina Pines. There is also a special event, Free-Throw competition, on Saturday, January 19, 2008 hosted by the Elks.

Next we got the Raleigh Police Department update from Officer Upchurch. She reviewed the police calls in the SWCAC area for the last two months. Some things of interest: 96 animal calls, 6 graffiti calls, residential break-ins on Appalachian Drive and Sterling Park Drive, numerous noise calls, party calls, and loud-party calls and 40 suspicious person calls. Officer Upchurch did not have an update on the incident that occurred on Lake Wheeler Road, Saturday night (1/12) around 5:00 pm.

We got an Inspections update from Jerry Mahler. He said things are pretty steady, about 200 calls for the month of December (2007). The calls were pretty typical, most nuisance calls like tall grass go down in the winter. Hand-outs for PROP, nuisance violations and housing inspections were available at the meeting. Jerry also shared with us the departments new slogan, “Inspect to Protect, Health, Safety, and Welfare.”

Frank Olafson, Permits Office Administrator, was next on the agenda. He covered many different topics that were interesting to the audience. The permits office is part of the inspections department. Frank told us that they do about 6,000 new building permits per year and about 60,000 permits over the year. Most folks would be interested in additions to their homes like a new deck. The process is fairly simple, 1) Application 2) Plot Plan and 3) Approval.

Building a new house is different, a more detailed plan is required. This process usually takes about 5 days and the fee’s are based on the square footage of the new construction. Impact fee’s are also assessed during the permit process.

For things like fences and sheds, as long as they are under 6-feet and they are located behind the home, no permit is required. In particular, sheds less than 400 square feet do not require a full foundation. Any dimensions greater than 12 feet require a permit. If electrical work is part of the addition, an electrical permit is required.

Other items that were covered included: Permits last for 6 months and are renewed every year if work is continued. Permits should be visible from the street (however some projects allow permits to be placed in a front window). The current owner of a property is responsible for any floor plan updates on the Wake County records.

The Honorable Deborah Ross joined our meeting tonight to provide an update on the work going on in the NC Legislature. Representative Ross represents the 38 th District in the NC House. She mentioned that she tries to hold meetings every 6-8 weeks on Saturday mornings. Contact Mary Belle, Mildred or Jason to get more information or to get on the distribution list. Currently, the Legislature is in between the long and short sessions. Only certain things can pass during the short session. The Legislature will meet from May 13, 2008 to about the end of July. Typical items include small adjustments to the budget and other small changes that have “carry-over” from the previous session.

Next Representative Ross covered several topics of interest for the upcoming short session.

  • Mental Health Reform – talked about Dix, Wake County is working together with the State.
  • Drought – Focusing on 2 things:
    • 1) changing the laws on the use of gray water and
    • 2) prohibiting certain kinds of development/building in the water shed.
  • Transportation – Re-evaluating the equity/inequity formula for transportation. She also covered items like regional rail for Wake County and other public transit opportunities.

Representative Ross is also involved with Planning & Capital Construction (aka land use). She mentioned that there are several projects on the board that are pretty exciting: Natural Science building, NC Department of Natural Resources (NC DENR), and the first Visitor Center for the capital. All project in Wake County, downtown. Raleigh is the last capital in the US without a visitor center. Also, part of the land use projects include a Master Plan for the State regarding property located in Wake County. 50% of the land in Wake County owned by the State is park or open space. The plan will be discussed this Wednesday at 1:30 pm in room 421 of the Legislative Building.

We wrapped up with a few items including the different options to consolidate the DHHS (Dept. of Health and Human Services) employees, re: Dix. Health Care reform, mental health coverage now included in health care providers plans, the creation of a high risk pool, and expanding children’s health insurance programs for the State. We talked about being able to walk and bike on State owned property (of course recognizing no trespassing signs). Finally, there was a question about toll roads. The option for toll roads was passed, but only in the sense that GAP funding from the State only provides the GAP amount for road construction. This is the difference in the amount the tolls will cover and the actual costs of the road.

That was pretty much the meeting summary, we had a few announcements, then concluded.

Food Lion MVP – You can Help

Friday, January 11th, 2008

Dear Lineberry Neighbors,

Happy New Year! The Pleasant Ridge & Ramsgate Community Watch would like to ask for your help. Last year, our organization signed up with the Food Lion Shop & Share Program. Basically, every time you shop at Food Lion and use your MVP card a portion will be donated to our non-profit group.

We have struggled to get the minimum amount of participants for the program as there is a lot of competition with other organizations like schools and churches. If your MVP card is not linked to an organization, can you help out our community watch?

If so, here’s how:

Link your Food Lion MVP card to our Community Watch! Each time you shop at Food Lion and use your MVP card, a portion of your total grocery purchase will be donated to our organization. Complete the form with all the information today at http://prr-watch.org/foodlion.php

Thank you,
Jason Hibbets
VP Pleasant Ridge & Ramsgate Community Watch

Free Neighborhood College & Leadership Institute

Thursday, January 10th, 2008

Want to get the inside tip on how the City of Raleigh works? Want to help your community with the power of knowledge? Look into these great opportunities provide by the Community Service Department. Both programs are FREE, include dinner, and only require your time and attention. I’m happy to write a letter of recommendation to anyone in the Lineberry who applies.

Raleigh Community Services Department

Now accepting applications for Spring 2008 Leadership Institute
The Citizens Participation Leadership Institute is a program offered by the City of Raleigh and Shaw University. Classes are free of charge and meet on Thursdays from 6 – 9 p.m. with dinner served each session in the Shaw University cafeteria. The Community Services Department is now accepting applications for the Spring 2008 classes. Contact Kevin Smith at 831-6117 or e-mail Kevin.smith@ci.raleigh.nc.us.
Raleigh Neighborhood College – A great experience for Raleigh citizens.
The Raleigh Neighborhood College (RNC) graduated its most recent class of 17 citizens on Dec. 6, 2007 at Peace College, which is the new home base for the majority of the classes. RNC is a series of 12 classes which offer an informative overview of Raleigh’s city government operations and activities. Come learn how your tax dollars help make Raleigh’s quality of life truly exceptional. Dinner is provided prior to the classes. Now taking applications for the Spring 2008 session. Call 831-6095 or e-mail Charlene.willard@ci.raleigh.nc.us.

Lineberry / Sierra Park – Next Step: Budget

Thursday, January 10th, 2008

On Tuesday, January 8, 2008, I attended the Raleigh City Council Budget Hearing.  I heard some common themes throughout the evening including parks, sidewalk, and pedestrian access.  Even street lighting was mentioned and requested.  Another big issue that was on the citizens petition agenda was traffic calming.  This is a city-wide issue that no one knows how to reasonably solve without traffic engineering analysis, design, efforts, and money.

So it was finally my turn to speak.  I first welcomed the new city councilors and then thanked city council for the pending purchase of the land at Lineberry Drive and Sierra Drive. (Address is 2640 Sierra Drive.)

My request focused around the next steps in order to make this neighborhood park happen.  I requested funding for the development of a park master plan and also asked for a “fast track” for small park planning, similar to the “fast track” available for developers.   I stated that neighbors before me had requested this park 20 years ago and that we can not wait another 20 years for the park to actually happen.

With that, I kept it short and sweet.  We will see what happens during the budget process.