Town parking rule yields 27 citations

Chapel Hill has handed down more than two dozen citations to violators of its controversial Northside parking ordinance since enacting the law a year and a half ago.

The ordinance limits the number of cars allowed to park at homes in the Northside and Pine Knolls neighborhoods to four.

The Chapel Hill Town Council enacted the ordinance in September 2012 in response to the growing student population in the historically African-American neighborhoods.

People who violate the law could face fines up to $100 per day if their violation is not addressed.

According to records from the Chapel Hill Planning Department, there have been 22 total violations in Northside and another five in Pine Knolls.

To protect their residents, Mark Patmore and William Gartland, two Northside landowners, challenged the ordinance.

Patmore and Gartland, who both rent out homes on Brooks Street, filed a lawsuit against the town in November 2012 after their tenants complained about the rule.

Between September and October 2012, Patmore and Gartland each received separate notices of parking violations by tenants on their properties on Brooks Street, carrying penalties of $100 per violation for each landlord.

Nicholas Herman, Patmore’s lawyer, said the case is currently in the appellate stage. Herman said he is arguing against the ordinance based on a state parking statute.

The statute provides guidelines for how the city can regulate parking. Herman said the city has no power to put the ordinance in place because it doesn’t give the city the ability to regulate parking at a private residence or tell residents how many cars can be parked there.

“There is no authority for the town to have such an ordinance,” Herman said.

Patmore said he disliked the ordinance due to the danger it presented to residents.

“It’s absolutely ludicrous,” Patmore said.

He said that every resident should be able to park at their own house and not have to walk several blocks to their home at early hours.

“I think every resident has their right to drive to their house, park their car and walk into their house safely,” Patmore said.

Patmore also stressed the importance of students in Chapel Hill and criticized the city for trying to push them out of Northside.

“They’re trying to make rental properties less desirable for students,” he said.

For all the citations received, Patmore said he didn’t receive many complaints on the subject from his residents.

Herman said the next step for the case will be for the court to decide whether to have an oral argument. He said he is hopeful that the court will rule that the ordinance is invalid and unauthorized.

He added that the case will probably be decided around the end of 2014 and will probably be heard by the court of appeals in the spring.

Patmore emphasized the need to cater to students because of how much they bring to the city and the identity of Chapel Hill as a college town.

“I love it here. I’m not here to try and change it and make it not a college town,” Patmore said.

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