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    Crowded Ballot Worries Raleigh

    BY Demorris Lee
    09/29/2000
    by Demorris Lee on 9/29/00.

    RALEIGH -- City officials think North Raleigh residents will support $ 75 million in road, park and housing bonds - if only they can find them on the Nov. 7 ballot.

    With presidential, gubernatorial and other races before voters, along with $ 3.1 billion for state college facilities and $ 500 million for Wake County schools, Raleigh officials are concerned that their bond issues may get lost in the shuffle.

    "There are going to be so many bond issues on the ballot," Raleigh Mayor Paul Coble said. "We want to make sure that everyone understands that all three [city bonds] are important, and all three can be done without requiring a tax increase."

    The city has solicited the help of developer Steve Kenney and PaineWebber account executive Amos Mitchell to make sure that residents don't forget the Raleigh bonds. Both Kenney and Mitchell helped with the city's last successful road bond vote in 1998.

    "Our biggest challenge is getting the word out," Kenney said. "We have a well-thought-out bond package, and we feel that if people are informed about the package, they will vote yes."

    Kenney said that the three city bonds - which require a "yes" or "no" answer - will be at the bottom of the ballot. There is fear that some voters may not make it that far down.

    "Residents need to take the time to vote yes at the bottom of the ballot for the bonds," he said.

    Each of the bonds would have significant impact in North
    Raleigh:

    - Roads: $ 45 million is requested for projects that would include the widening of Falls of the Neuse Road, improvements to the Beltline interchanges at Six Forks and Wake Forest roads, the widening of Leesville Road, the extension of Edwards Mill Road and the widening of Newton Road.

    - Parks: $ 16 million is sought for park improvements that would include the continued development of Neuse River Park, Leesville Park, Strickland Road Park, Horseshoe Farm Park and Baileywick Park. Land also would be acquired for new parks.

    - Housing: $ 14 million is requested to provide loan funds for multifamily and single-family housing. Money would go toward joint venture projects, city-owned rental projects and land acquisition throughout the city.

    Dempsey Benton, Raleigh's city manager, said that passage of all three bonds is critical.

    "They are quite important in our efforts," he said.

    City officials are quick to note that there is no organized opposition to their bonds. In fact, both North Carolina Citizens for a Sound Economy and the Wake County Taxpayers Association - which were instrumental in defeating last year's Wake school bond referendum - back all three bonds.

    "The mayor and City Council have done an excellent job of managing ... money and lowering taxes," said Chuck Fuller, director of Citizens for a Sound Economy. "We have confidence in them and support this bond referendum."

    Benton said that the city borrows money for the bonds at a low rate and pays it back over a 20-year period.

    "The beneficiaries are not only the folks who are in the city now, but residents in 20 years who will be involved in the repayment of the bonds while benefiting from the roads, housing and parks."

    Each of the bonds aims to build on work that was funded by previous city bonds.

    In 1990, Raleigh voters approved $ 20 million in housing bonds that were used to buy property for rental homes and to provide homeownership loans to working families.

    "Unlike public housing, which is a federal program, this money goes to working families," said Eileen Breazeale the city's community development director. "With average rent being as high as $ 765 a month, working people have a hard time."

    About $ 5.65 million from the 1990 bond provided second-mortgage financing for 296 affordable single-family homes.

    The city used another $ 5.6 million to buy or renovate 105 rental properties. The city owns 239 affordable rental units throughout the city. A family of four earning up to $ 31,000 a year is eligible for the units.

    About $ 9.7 million of the 1990 housing bond was used to provide low-interest loans to private housing developers to construct or rehabilitate affordable rental units.

    City residents approved roads and parks bonds in 1998 and 1995, respectively.

    Among other city projects, the 1998 road bonds paid for: the Litchford Road widening from Gresham Lake Road to Falls of the Neuse Road; the Buffaloe Road widening from New Hope Road to Southall Road; the Durant Road widening from Capital Boulevard to Falls of the Neuse and the Strickland Road widening from Creedmoor Road to Falls of the Neuse.

    The 1995 parks bond paid for, among other things, the construction of a new facility and the renovation of Campbell Lodge at Durant Nature Park, improvements at Marsh Creek Park, a new community center at Lake Lynn Park, and the development of Buffaloe Road Athletic Park.

    "The park system is 200 years old, and it is here forever," said Jack Duncan, the city's parks and recreation director. "We have to add to and build our park system in order to continue to meet the needs of a changing community."

    ###

    What city bonds would do

    The three bond issues before city residents on the Nov. 7 ballot could have the following effects in North Raleigh:

    $ 45 million Transportation Improvements Bond

    - Falls of the Neuse widening from Strickland Road to the vicinity of Interstate 540. Also, improvements in the area north of the I-540 interchange from Falls of the Neuse Road toward Durant Road.

    - Falls of the Neuse widening from Durant Road to Raven Ridge Road.

    - Widening Six Forks and Wake Forest roads at the Interstate 440 interchanges for better Beltline access.

    - Construction of an additional westbound lane on Capital Boulevard from Highwoods Boulevard to the Beltline.

    - Widening Leesville Road from Lynn Road to Millbrook Road.

    - Widening Newton Road to three lanes from Six Forks Road to Falls of the Neuse Road.

    $ 16 million Parks Bond

    - Continuing development of Neuse River Park from Crabtree Creek to Falls Lake.

    - Developing a park near the Leesville Road campus. The city already owns a 50-acre tract near the school.

    - Developing a park on Strickland Road near Ray Road.

    - Developing Horseshoe Farm Park along the Neuse River.

    - Developing a park adjacent to Baileywick Elementary School.

    - Continuing the acquisition of land for park and greenway development.

    $ 14 million Housing Bond

    - Providing loan funds for multi-family and single-family housing for residents with low and moderate incomes.

    - Acquisition of land and construction or rehabilitation of housing.