The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday August 12th

Plaza Theater Expansion Vote Delayed

Businesses concerned with lack of parking

The council instead closed the public hearing on the matter and will readdress it at its Jan. 13 business meeting. The town manager and his staff are recommending that the council approve the plans with agreed-to modifications.

The applicant for the project, Eastern Federal Theatres, was requested to continue working with town staff to resolve acknowledged problems, mainly a conflict over parking.

The lack of available spaces in the parking lot in front of the current six-screen Plaza Triple Theaters property, located on Elliott Road, has adjacent business owners fearing their customers will be choked out of the lot by moviegoers.

"No one is going to park around the corner from the theater; they're going to park in a more natural spot -- in the Whole Foods Market parking lot," said George Jones, the market's manager.

Jones was supported by fellow Village Plaza tenants, including Jim Groot, owner of Red Hot & Blue , who told the council that the math Eastern Federal is using in its plans doesn't work out.

"There's 1,798 seats in there; (with the parking they have planned,) they're going to have over a thousand empty seats in there," Groot said.

"I doubt these gentlemen would risk this much capital for that."

Groot said the likely result of the Eastern Federal proposal, which plans for 482 parking spaces, is a spill into the adjacent businesses' parking areas.

"I'm not that concerned with where my customers will park. I'm not that concerned with where my employees will park," he said. "I'm more concerned with where those moviegoers will park."

The town's building codes call for a minimum of 738 parking spaces for a project the size of Eastern Federal's.

Council members voiced deep concerns over different aspects of the parking situation.

"I think we're trying to make our impervious surface fit the use when we should be trying to fit the use to the impervious surface," said council member Flicka Bateman in explaining why she will only support the project if two more screens are removed from the plans.

Initial proposals had 13 screens housed at the complex.

Council member Edith Wiggins backed Bateman, saying the council has a lot of license with the theater's construction.

"This applicant is asking the council to modify several of our regulations," she said. "It seems to me we're in a position to ask for just about anything.

"This project needs to be scaled down."

The council inquired as to whether public transit could be useful in servicing the theater.

Council member Ed Harrison, who serves as the council's liaison to the Transportation Advisory Board, said that on the weekends, which are the theater's projected peak times, there is no bus service to Village Plaza after 6 p.m., before the theater's evening shows.

The multiplex would be the largest movie theater in Orange County, with the nearest location of comparable size being the 16-screen complex at Durham's Streets of Southpoint.

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