CHAPEL HILL — Two local landlords are fighting Chapel Hill’s Northside neighborhood parking rules in court.
Mark Patmore and William Garland have been cited for violations of the four-vehicle-per-residence limit aimed at stemming student encroachment. They have appealed a June court ruling that supported the town.
“We believe that the town does not have the statutory authority to regulate parking on a private dwelling,” said Patmore, whose Mercia Residential Properties, 314 Brooks St., advertises rental properties “for students and professionals all within walking distance of UNC Chapel Hill” on its website.
Garland owns a rental property at 318 Brooks St. that also received a notice of violation of the parking regulation.
In his June ruling, Superior Court Judge W. Osmond Smith denied the landlords’ motion to dismiss the town’s case.
“It was an expected ruling, because we know it’s going to the (N.C.) Supreme Court,” Patmore said. “Next stop is the Court of Appeals.”
Nicholas Herman, the landlords’ attorney, said he bases his challenge on the N.C. Supreme Court’s 2012 ruling in Lanvale v. Cabarrus County, a case he argued. The court’s ruling challenged the idea that North Carolina law gives municipalities broad authority to enact land use regulations, Herman said.
Herman said the Lanvale ruling takes a restrictive approach to town powers governing signage, landscaping standards, tree preservation, architectural design, lighting and fencing.
“Those are all suspect under Lanvale,” Herman said. “Many local governments, and this is true of Chapel Hill … attach all kinds of site-specific conditions to developments.”
None of those matters is explicitly listed as subjects of regulation in North Carolina’s enabling statutes, Herman said.
Attorneys for the town of Chapel Hill countered that the Lanvale case concerned developer fees, not parking regulations.
“We believe it’s within our zoning authority to do what we did,” said Matthew Sullivan, staff legal adviser for the Chapel Hill Police Department.
Cars in yards
Keith Edwards, a longtime Northside resident on McDade Street, said parking regulations in Northside began with street permits in order to keep UNC students and employees from parking in the neighborhood during working hours.
“The town has said you can’t have a yard full of cars parked. The problem is, when many of these investors came into this community, they stacked the houses with students,” Edwards said. “That was one of the problems with Northside, but how it’s just about all over town.”
Patmore said Northside has too many regulations.
“It’s easier to get regulations passed in the Northside, because there are so few permanent residents here,” he said.
The parking regulations are part of Northside’s Neighborhood Conservation District Plan.
The suit acknowledged that the premises at 314 Brooks St.’s A and B units were leased to three tenants each, under lease agreement. The premises at 318 Brooks St. was leased to four tenants, according to the suit.
The town issued notices of violation to Mercia Properties on Sept. 1 and 314 Brooks St. on Oct. 2.
Violators are subject to a $100 civil penalty, with additional penalties in the same amount for every day the violation continues.
Patmore said he passed the fees on to tenants of the properties in violation.
“All of the leases of my clients make reference to these regulations and require that the renter conform to the laws of the town,” Herman said.
The Northside parking regulation was drafted to help address the neighborhood over-occupancy problem, Chapel Hill planning department administrator Loryn Clark stated in an affidavit signed on April 25.
High occupancy creates problems in the neighborhood, Clark’s affidavit stated, including excessive garbage and traffic problems.
Clark’s affidavit said excess vehicles “diminished the neighborhood’s appearance because many District homes are not designed with garages or carports. As a result, tenants of over-occupied homes often parked their excess vehicles on the front lawn.”
Edwards said things in his neighborhood have improved since the conservation district and parking rules were introduced.
“Because of everyone’s hard work, things really are better today,” said Edwards. “The students have a much better attitude.”