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Back You are here: Home Opinion Opinion Section Editorials Editorial: Solutions Needed For Neighborhood Parking Problems

Editorial: Solutions Needed For Neighborhood Parking Problems

By WILLARD KILLOUGH III
Managing Editor

The Carolina Beach Town Council should take action to resolve numerous parking and noise related issues in residential areas of Town as well as placing appropriate limits on outdoor activities in every commercial and residential district.
Last week the Council was confronted by residents living in the area surrounding the Carolina Beach Lake. When events are held at the popular lake area in the warmer months, they can create a parking headache that leads to invasion and people infringing on residents right to quiet enjoyment of their properties.
The right not to have their driveways blocked or stranger's kids playing in their hammock beneath their home without permission. They should be able to park at their home and not have to worry about parking blocks away to carry their groceries home because some inconsiderate person parked in their driveway or blocked their access just to attend an event at the Lake.
These are some of the complaints recently expressed to the Council.
And parking issues are not restricted to the Lake area. There are parking problems in other locations such as the Carolina Sands neighborhood on South Lake Park Blvd. They've been complaining for several months to the Town about people parking along their residential streets to attend weekend, and quite frequent, "block parties" at two local restaurants adjacent to the entrance of their subdivision. That's Uncle Vinnies and the neighboring Twisted Lime.
In addition to the parking issue, they've also complained about noise from loud bands playing in the parking lot.
One lady called the Gazette to complain her tenants were not renewing and would be moving out because officials had not resolved the situation.
This situation centers on permits issued by the Town for "Special Events" to local businesses to hold events in their parking lots with entertainment.
The odd aspect of this is, it's not a "Special Event" if it occurs frequently. At that point it becomes a "routine event".
And while these events are innocent in nature and designed to promote a business sometimes in conjunction with a charity, the quiet nature of the surrounding area is the envelope that is being pushed to the limit. And the ordinance allows for these permits.
Not to cause a wave of permit requests, but the Town's code of ordinances permits "Outdoor Performances and Events" with a permit 30 times a year.
Here's the issue, the ordinance states, "Private events on private property shall be unlimited in the number of events and Public events on private property shall be limited to thirty (30) events or thirty (30) days per calendar year."
It states, "An application shall be submitted for approval to the town manager and/or town council. The town manager shall make a determination based on the anticipated impact as described under subsection (f) as to the need for town council's approval."
It appears the Town's ordinance is in conflict with the issuance of special events permits.
The section regarding parking requirements states, "Parking reduction or assignment to another use. The parking spaces required by this article shall not be reduced below the minimum required for the use or facility to which it is assigned, nor shall any parking spaces required by this article be used for any other purpose or use unless otherwise specified by this article. Required off-street parking spaces and loading spaces are permanent areas and shall not be used for any other aboveground purpose."
The Town could address this situation, for example, by changing the code of ordinances to limit special events to three times a year or never less than four months apart.
That returns "special event" permits to what they were intended for; grand openings, charity events, music festivals, etc.
If such events are desired on a more frequent basis, then a property owner should be allowed to seek a conditional use permit that examines their property to ensure it can adequately meet a predetermined set of criteria based on the district it is located in, establish rules for unique situations and include the ability to revoke a permit for violations. That would require notification of property owners in the area and give them a chance to voice their support or opposition to a proposal.
One permit may be more restrictive near a predominately residential area while less restrictive for areas such as properties in downtown Carolina Beach. If a business desires to have outdoor entertainment on a regular basis throughout the year, a conditional use permit should be required to ensure they meet predetermined rules and continue to adhere to those rules placed upon them by the Council. Failure to do so would lead to swift action rather than calling the police or emailing elected leaders who basically act like there's nothing they can do about it, or, they'll talk to the owner and try to smooth things out. Such situations should be more predictable than whether or not elected leaders or Town officials can "talk to the owner". It should be, "They are in violation and must comply, or close."
That's not overly restrictive.
It's absolutely common in Any-Town-USA.
If a business doesn't have to worry about their customers parking along neighboring residential streets when "special events" are not taking place, but do when they hold those events, that's a clear indicator they are exceeding the available capacity of their business. 
It's in fact a scenario where the Town of Carolina Beach is permitting a violation of the very ordinance the majority of the community agrees with and depends upon for predictability when purchasing their homes.
They expect off-site parking in the busy downtown area, but not in the quieter neighborhood business or residential districts adjacent to commercial businesses. Until the Town corrects this situation, I guess any business can apply for a permit to hold special events with live bands and activities in their parking lot 30 times a year. The law allows it. Council should consider changing the law.