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The Daily Tar Heel

Zoning Violation Unresolved

Town officials say a parking lot that came under fire last year still is not in compliance with Chapel Hill town zoning ordinances.

Lance Norris, Chapel Hill inspections director, said the lot, which is located at 1119 U.S. 15-501, still has cars parked in it even though the owner -- whose exact identity is in question -- does not have a permit to operate a parking lot.

UNC students have parked in the lot in recent years, including this year.

Norris' department sent a letter Sept. 4 to the registered owner of the lot on file, Barbara Guthrie of Durham, informing her of the problem. The letter stated that she had until Oct. 1 to remove all the cars in the lot or obtain permission to park them there.

Norris said that when an inspections officer visited the site at the deadline, she found it was still not in compliance.

Norris said the owner is being fined $25 a day until the cars are removed. He said if the owner does not comply, the matter will be handed to the courts.

But exactly who owns the lot is a matter of confusion. The parking lot is leased by the Mueller Corporation, which runs the Tar Heel Parking business on the lot, even though town records show Guthrie as the owner. Town officials say the owner -- not the leaser -- is responsible for compliance. But Guthrie said she does not own the lot. Robin Whitley, a town employee, said town records show Guthrie does own a piece of land near the parking lot in question, but the town is not sure if it is the lot in violation.

Gustave Mueller, who runs the Tar Heel Parking business and is a part of the Mueller Corp., declined to comment on the parking lot violations and his role in the ownership of the lot.

The parking lot came under scrutiny last year when Mueller sold spaces to students who said they were promised more than they got. Several students went to Student Legal Services for help, and SLS lawyers helped them reach a $5,200 refund settlement with Mueller. But at the start of the fall semester, fliers advertising Mueller's lot again appeared on campus.

Norris said ordinance violations rarely reach the courts. "With general violations, most of the time we contact people and inform them they're in violation, and they'll comply," he said.

Norris said lots in violation usually pop up when UNC classes are in session.

"Sometimes if we see it, we might check, but it's a complaint-driven process," he said.

Norris said in order for the lot to be in compliance, the owner would have to apply for a parking lot permit and meet the town's requirements. He said, "(The owner) will have to provide the planning department with documentation and show he meets their standards."

The University Editor can be reached at udesk@unc.edu.

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