For months, parking in the Northside neighborhood has been a source of stress for landlords and tenants. And now, it’s the subject of the lawsuit.
In September, an ordinance went into effect that set a four-car maximum for parking at homes in the Northside neighborhood — a primarily low-income area between Columbia and Lloyd streets. The ordinance was adopted by the Chapel Hill Town Council in response to the growing student population in the historically African-American neighborhood. After fielding complaints from residents, Mark Patmore and William Gartland, who both own rental properties on Brooks Street in Northside, sued the town of Chapel Hill in November over the ordinance. Nicholas Herman, the attorney representing the landlords, said the case is currently before the North Carolina Court of Appeals.
The landlords have asked the court to declare the regulations unlawful and void, and to forbid further enforcement of the ordinance.
Ethan Kavanaugh, a Northside resident and UNC senior, said after the ordinance passed, he and his four housemates struggled to follow the guidelines laid out by the town council.
“We had space in our driveway to fit more than four cars in our driveway — we had five people with cars in our house,” he said.
“It was annoying because if there were already four cars in the driveway, we had to go find street parking and walk back to the house.”
Herman said his clients think the ordinance is unconstitutional because it exceeds the power given to municipalities by the state legislature.
“The General Assembly has specific statutes that give cities certain powers to regulate. One of the powers deals with parking. That statute talks about parking in all kinds of different contexts, but does not allow what they’re doing,” Herman explained.
“If the legislature said you could do it, you could. But Chapel Hill doesn’t have the authority to do this.”
Neither Gartland nor Patmore returned multiple calls for comment.
Under the new ordinances, landlords can be charged up to $100 a day for parking violations committed by renters.
Between September and October, Patmore and Garland each received separate notices of parking violations by tenants on their properties, carrying penalties of $100 for each landlord.
Herman said the plaintiffs also feel the way the town enforces the ordinance is unfair.
Patmore and Gartland had no idea their tenants were in violation of the parking ordinances and neither landlord has control over whether their tenants follow the regulations, according to the lawsuit.
“We say that enforcement method of citing the owner is unconstitutional,” Herman said. “How can you hold someone to a violation when they had nothing to do with violating anything?”
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