CARRBORO – At a meeting earlier this month, the Board had harsh words for the increase in towing efforts at Carr Mill Mall. On Tuesday night, representatives from the Mall gave their side of the story.

Here’s Nick Robinson, an attorney for Carr Mill Mall.

“The town needs to acknowledge that Carrboro does not actually have a towing problem, and that Carr Mill Mall is not the problem,” says Robinson. “It’s now time to acknowledge the real problem and call it what it is: Carrboro’s municipal parking shortage. The town, through its ordinances, policies and permits, has created a parking shortage of its own making.” 

The issue was not originally on the June 11 agenda, but was brought up when a representative from Southern Rail had some scathing words for the management of Carr Mill Mall—which the board agreed with.

Cindy McMahan, the owner of Elmo’s Diner, also signed up to speak at Tuesday night’s public hearing. McMahan has owned Elmo’s Diner and operated in Carr Mill Mall for nearly 22 years, and says listening to a replay of the June 11 meeting left her feeling disheartened.

“My business has probably generated $35 million for the Town of Carrboro and I feel forgotten,” says McMahan. “It hurts my feelings, for my staff, for my customers and for the other tenants in the mall. I’m not afraid to work hard, but it’s just not fair how you are treating Carr Mill Mall.”

McMahan added that just hours before the meeting, she encountered visitors who illegally parked in the Carr Mill Mall parking lot. Although she verbally warned them they could be towed and fined, she says they still elected to leave their car in the lot while eating at a restaurant across the street.

The Board had mixed feelings about the words from Robinson and McMahan.  Alderman Jacquelyn Gist says she feels the town owes some loyalty to local businesses such as Elmo’s.

“We have a Carrboro business that helped build Carrboro whose being negatively impacted by the lack of parking, and that’s not fair,” says Gist. “I think there is right and wrong on both sides. I’d be really happy if the signage was good and people could read it, but we also need to protect existing businesses as new ones come in.”

But Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton took issue with some of the words spoken against the Aldermen, especially from the mall’s attorney.

“I feel like the letter that we received shortly after our June 11 meeting, I guess it just feels a bit disingenuous to say for me to hear a bunch of complains about what happened at the June 11 meeting or what happened at previous meetings before that, and then be told that those things are water under a bridge,” says Chilton. “If they were water under a bridge, you wouldn’t be up here complaining about them.”

Chilton specifically mentioned the new garage at 300 East Main and the purchase of the lot at 203 S Greensboro St of examples of the town’s recent actions to help alleviate the issue.

It wasn’t just store owners and legal advisers who spoke against the recent towing stipulations. Barnes Towing, Talbert’s Towing and T Roy Towing all agreed to speak with town staff regarding their issues with the ordinance in its current state.

Although enforcement has recently increased at Carr Mill Mall, the town’s updated towing ordinance has been in place since 2011. The ordinance is very similar to Chapel Hill’s— it requires companies to accept credit and debit cards, places limits on the corresponding fine to $100, and mandates proper signage at all lots.

Tuesday’s meeting was the last official Board of Aldermen meeting before the Board’s summer recess. The Aldermen are scheduled to hold their annual retreat this Sunday afternoon, after which they will further discuss the possibly of allowing residential space in the 300 East Main Street property. Stay tuned to WCHL and for the latest developments.