Belvidere Park Gets New Entrance Thanks To Neighbors' Efforts

 

Joe Valles at work on stone entrance

The six-foot stone columns rising just outside the Belvidere Park Subdivision will not only improve the entrance to the 1948 neighborhood. They also stand as monuments to the perseverance of Belvidere residents.

In 2009, Belvidere received $2,500.00 in Raleigh Neighborhood Improvement Funds to replace the crumbling brick columns at the Dennis Avenue entrance to the subdivision. But before residents could start the work, they had to untangle city rules that were nearly as thick as the weeds at the old entranceway.

When residents applied for a sign permit, they learned that the brick columns were on city right-of-way. Raleigh officials told the residents they needed liability insurance to place the stone columns there - a requirement that was impractical and unaffordable. Yet, because Neighborhood Improvement Funds can be used only on public property, the new columns could be built nowhere else. 

"This dilemma is common to a lot of older established neighborhoods that want to have something at their entrance," says Charlene Willard, a community specialist in the Community Services Department, which administers Neighborhood Improvement Funds. Today, developers incorporate sites for entrance signs in the subdivision plans, but there was no such provision at the time Belvidere was built.
 

"This dilemma is common to a lot of older established neighborhoods that want to have something at their entrance...."

 

To get a reprieve, Belvidere resident and stonemason Joe Valles and Mark Turner, then chair of the East Citizens Advisory Council, appealed to the Raleigh City Council. The City Council eventually waived the insurance requirement for projects supported by Neighborhood Improvement Funds.

Neighbors pitch in with landscaping around columns

Residents also met with city officials to obtain building permits for the new columns and a low stone bench at another spot in the neighborhood. They worked with the city's urban forester on preparing the site for landscaping.
 
Valles, who owns European Stone Masonry LLC, is constructing the columns at a steep discount. "We live here too, so it's really worth it to me," he says.
 
Valles moved to Belvidere in 1998, drawn by its affordability and Inside-the-Beltline location. "It's nice," he says. "Everybody seems to be working on their houses, and it seems to be improving all the time."
 
His advice to others who must navigate city regulations to complete neighborhood improvement projects: "Just have patience." City officials were easy to work with, despite the lengthy process, Valles says. "They are not trying to make it hard for people to do anything," he says. "They are doing their job. If it's worth doing, they'll let you do it."

This article was published online by the City of Raleigh Community Services Department on February 15, 2011. 

 

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