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Carr Mill Mall installs new signs following notice of towing violation

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Signs at Carr Mill Mall in Carrboro warn customers of new towing policy on Monday, Nov. 13, 2023.

On Nov. 21, the Carrboro Police Department provided Nathan Milian, the property manager of Carr Mill Mall, with a notice of violation regarding the towing signs located on the mall’s property.

According to the notice, the police department conducted a review of towing signs on Carr Mill Mall’s property on Nov. 20 after receiving a complaint the previous week. The police department found the signs were not in compliance with Town code.

Milian said he was informed some of the lettering on the property’s towing signs were a quarter of an inch short. He said, after receiving the notice of violation, he contacted the Town to ask for a detailed explanation of what appropriate signage looks like.

“We didn’t agree with the interpretation, but we don’t want there to be any noncompliance,” Milian said.

The Town gave Milian a 14-day grace period to have all signs on the property in compliance with Town codes and ordinances in question, which Carrboro Mayor Damon Seils said is standard practice.

Milian said he has a signage company on standby to create the new signs as soon as they are approved by the Town. He said new signs were installed on Tuesday and that the Carrboro Police Department would check their compliance on Wednesday.

If the signage still contains violations after the grace period has expired, the Town can subject Milian to penalties like fines. 

Sammy Slade, a member of the Carrboro Town Council, said he does not think the Town has taken enough action against the towing practices at Carr Mill Mall.

“I feel like this is so egregious, what’s happening — the number of towing and the way it’s being done — that we need to be a little more forceful in enforcing our ordinance,” he said. 

Carr Mill Mall announced on on Nov. 8 that it would be implementing a new camera system to monitor its parking lots, encouraging patrons in the lots to stay on site. 

Between March and September of this year, 24 cars were towed from the mall’s property, according to records from the Carrboro Police Department. From the start of October through Nov. 20, 268 cars were towed.

The Town became aware of complaints about towing practices at Carr Mill Mall about two months ago when residents began raising concerns on social media and contacting the Town, Slade said. 

“It seems like every few years, this particular property owner goes through an episode of aggressive towing behavior,” Seils said. 

In a message to some Carr Mill business owners, Milian wrote that this increase in towing was due to a lack of public parking in downtown Carrboro, which has put strain on Carr Mill’s private lots.

“We have studied that issue many times, and we know that there is good parking supply," Seils said. "What we need to be doing better as a Town is making sure that our residents and visitors know how to find that parking."

Seils said the Town used to have much stronger regulations on towing, such as fee caps. But, in 2014, the N.C. Supreme Court ruled municipalities cannot set limitations on towing and storage fees.

“This is the only example that I’ve seen in my many, many years of watching this issue in Carrboro, it’s a particular issue for this property owner, and unfortunately we don’t have a lot of authority to do much about it,” Seils said.

According to Milian, Jon Hartman-Brown, the economic development director for Carrboro, asked Milian for permission to place small signs on the mall’s property containing QR codes with information regarding nearby public parking before the notice of violation.

Milian said that he agreed to this request, but that he received no other recent contact from the Town regarding towing concerns at Carr Mill Mall.

He said that since the notice of violation was issued, fewer cars have been towed.

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“The word is getting out that you can’t just park here and go somewhere else,” he said. “Hopefully, that’s going to last.”

Milian said no one at the mall has any sort of financial relationship with Barnes Towing, which conducts towing at Carr Mill. Barnes Towing did not respond to The Daily Tar Heel's requests for comment. 

He said he has no plans to adjust his towing practices, and that his goal is to get his property in compliance with Town code.

Seils said he is worried about how the business owners at Carr Mill Mall are being affected by the towing violations. 

“This is purely the behavior by the mall’s property manager and local towing company, and I don’t want our local businesses to be punished because of their behaviors,” Seils said.

Milian said he values the customers of Carr Mill Mall, but that the mall cannot accommodate downtown Carrboro’s parking needs.

“We don’t want to tow anybody," Milian said. "It’s not our preference to tow people — it’s our preference for people to just respect that they can’t park here and go somewhere else."

@DTHCityState | city@dailytarheel.com

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