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Parking service ends in eviction of tenant

Eric McAfee, Chapel Hill resident, stands at the entrance of his former driveway.
Eric McAfee, Chapel Hill resident, stands at the entrance of his former driveway.

The man in the video, Scott Kleist, had recently graduated from UNC. His video was part of a new entrepreneurial initiative called Tarheel Parking — “Secret Kenan-Flagler Parking 3-4 Min Walk!” as the video title clarifies. Tarheel Parking began in 2011, but it was shut down after a lengthy and complicated eviction process in December.

Two years before Tarheel Parking began, Eric McAfee moved into 1307 Mason Farm Road as a lessee. The property is one of six owned on that road by UNC. Before long, Kenan-Flagler students were asking McAfee if they could park on his yard to minimize their commute to and from class. McAfee said it was fine — he didn’t think much of it.

McAfee met Kleist that year after Kleist started classes at Kenan-Flagler as a transfer student. Kleist was one of the original students who would park on McAfee’s property because otherwise he would’ve had a two-hour commute. The two grew closer and decided to partner in the Launching the Venture program, a course series that works with entrepreneurial teams to launch startup ventures, at the business school.

McAfee and Kleist started working as partners on a “social network for gift-giving” called Gift Boogle, which they developed during the Launch the Venture series. During the course, entrepreneurs were encouraged to identify potential side value operations to fund their main project, so Kleist suggested to McAfee that he monetize his parking service. They bought the domain for Tarheel Parking and sent out an email to the Kenan-Flagler student email list. From there, demand exploded.

“It was like opening the floodgates,” he said. “So much money poured into the PayPal account, like, more than we expected, and we had to stop it.”

McAfee said he set up a system to coordinate parking on the property. After confirming an online payment, he would direct students to assigned spots marked with flags and lawn timbers. He made parking passes, which allowed students to rotate multiple cars through one spot if necessary. He charged $250 per semester.

University response

In late 2012, the UNC Property Office found out about Tarheel Parking when the University sent workers to McAfee’s house to fix tree damage. A representative called McAfee about the parked cars, and McAfee explained the business.

He didn’t hear anything more from the University until November 2014, when he received a letter citing several breaches of contract as justification for his eviction. He was given 10 days to vacate.

Jim Gregory, a spokesperson for UNC, said in an email McAfee had violated Section 4 of his lease contract by operating a revenue-gathering parking business on the property. Section 4 binds the lessee to only use the property for their private home.

McAfee decided to fight the eviction. He said the property office director came onto his property without warning to retake possession of his keys. McAfee and Kleist eventually met with Martin J. Horn, an attorney based in Durham, to assess their options and try to keep Tarheel Parking alive.

“The main reason (I resisted) is because the parkers were really counting on it,” McAfee said.

McAfee said Horn spoke with an official at the property office once he agreed to represent them. McAfee said Horn made him aware that what the University was attempting to do at the time was an example of self-help eviction, in which a landlord attempts to retake possession of property without a formal eviction process. McAfee was not initially aware that the University was doing this.

A protracted legal battle

McAfee attempted to send a rent check in December 2014 to make sure his payments were current, but the University declined to accept it. Following that and Horn’s contact with the University, no further attempts were made to evict McAfee until a magistrate hearing in July. McAfee lived in the house without paying rent in the interim.

“It was kind of on hold,” he said. “I didn’t really know what to do.”

At the July hearing, the University presented evidence against McAfee to prove the existence of Tarheel Parking, which McAfee didn’t deny. He and Horn instead attempted to show the demand for the service and brought up the self-help eviction by the property office. After the magistrate deemed these points irrelevant and ruled in favor of the University, McAfee appealed the decision.

“It felt like I was powerless to stop the juggernaut of the University,” McAfee said.

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The appeal continued until McAfee agreed to a settlement requiring him to vacate the property by Jan. 1, 2016.

A larger problem

“He was great and helped a lot of students,” Haley Peck, a senior business administration major, said about McAfee. “While this has gone down, he’s been really nice, and he’s helped out a lot of people, I think, and is staying true to his words. I have a lot of respect for him.”

Peck commutes from the business school to main campus and said she is concerned she might not be able to graduate in May without access to McAfee’s parking service.

“I still have the same schedule, but I’m five to ten minutes late, and I have to leave five to ten minutes early to each class,” she said.

Peck said parking spots were taken or too far away from Kenan-Flagler for her use. MBA and MAC students have access to the business school deck, but Peck said she wished some spots were available to undergraduates.

Nic Byron, a sophomore business and computer science major, said the business had a huge impact on his access to classes at Kenan-Flagler.

“I had a 9:30 a.m. (class) on Mondays and Wednesdays there, and that saved my life as far as being able to park nearby,” Byron said.

He said no University parking options were available to him.

“The most difficult thing I’ve ever encountered at UNC is parking at UNC,” he said. “It is a daily struggle. There is an insurmountable demand.”

Special Print Edition
The Daily Tar Heel Victory Paper for November 20, 2023