Nancy Oates headshotNancy Oates.
The town’s response at the Jan. 14 Town Council meeting to the high demand for on-street parking near downtown reminded one UNC employee of her days in the Peace Corps. She worked in a remote village that had only one telephone, which was frequently inoperable. Villagers pleaded with the phone company to come out and fix the problem. Finally the repair technicians paid a visit and resolved the complaints – by removing the phone.
Bridgit Adamou, a program manager at the Carolina Population Center on West Franklin St., petitioned the town to ease newly imposed parking restrictions in the Northside neighborhood. While waiting for a UNC parking space, she parked on Caldwell St. and walked the half-mile to her office, until construction of the new elementary school took away several parking spaces and the rest were restricted to one hour only.
Council’s response was to make daytime parking in that area – and along a stretch of Cotton St. – by residential permit only. Council member Donna Bell added that Adamou should let UNC know of the pressure employees feel from the lack of free or affordable parking downtown.
The residential parking permit program is a money-maker for the town. The memo from town staff indicated that enforcing parking in the permit areas costs Parking Services about $10,000 a year. Parking Services issues about 1,200 permits annually at $25 a pop. That comes to $30,000 and doesn’t include the revenue the town collects from parking tickets it issues in those areas. Nor does it count the extra money the town takes in by forcing drivers who had hoped to park for free into paying for a space in a town lot.
This was the same council that made it more difficult for downtown business owners to clear parking moochers from private lots that the businesses paid for to give their customers free parking. The towing ordinance basically put a boot on tow truck operators by increasing the hoops they had to jump through before towing an illegally parked car and by limiting the fees they could charge. But that ordinance got caught up with the ill-fated cell-phone ban ordinance lawsuit, so it’s on hold right now. Tow truck drivers, for now at least, can strike fear in the hearts of those considering parking illegally, thus incentivizing more drivers to pay the town for parking.
The town is battling so many legal actions right now, the lawsuit by the tow truck operators included, that it has hired outside counsel to help.
It’s a good thing parking revenue is on the rise. TW
The author, who is a freelance writer, started the Chapel Hill Watch blog in 2009. She lives near the long-awaited Carolina North campus. The weekly Town Council meeting is her favorite TV series.