BY SHANNON BEAMON Staff Writer
Thursday, March 20, 2014 —
Business owners on Commerce Street in Albemarle said new state laws are causing a major parking problem that is close to hampering their businesses.
Longer wait times at the North Carolina License Plate Agency on Commerce has caused parking to overflow onto the narrow street for nearly three months now, according to John Almond, owner of Phase One Barber Shop & Salon on Commerce.
Almond said the agency operator told him that new state laws requiring local property taxes to be paid along with registration have extended its normal eight minutes per person to 12-15 minutes a person. The agency can’t move people out fast enough to keep parking spaces open, Almond said
“The parking lot can’t handle the traffic,” Almond said.
To compensate, people have been parking on both sides of the street, which narrows the road to one lane, and in business parking lots where customer parking is limited.
Harold Crisco of Crisco’s Automotive said he has had cars park in front of his garage doors.
“I can’t get people out until they move,” Crisco said.
At Monday’s city of Albemarle meeting, these owners asked the city for assistance in handling the parking problem, stating that it is also a hinderance to maintenance and emergency vehicles.
“When those cars are parked like that I don’t think a fire truck could get through,” Almond said.
The road is 22 feet at its narrowest point, he said.
Fire Chief Shawn Oke said roads must be 20 feet across, excluding parking areas, to provide room for emergency vehicles.
“If anything were to happen, things could go badly,” Almond said.
With steep drop offs along part of the road and curb along another portion, Almond said vehicles can’t pull far off the road either.
“Sometimes you can barely squeeze a car through,” he said.
Almond and another neighboring property owner have offered the license plate agency operators an option for expanding their parking area, but so far Almond said there has not been any interest.
“I know the state requires them to offer adequate parking, though,” Almond said.
However, since the agency is a private business working for the state, Mayor Ronnie Michael cautioned the Council about getting involved in the details of a governmental contract by trying to enforce adequate parking.
“They’re working for the state, they’re not working for us,” he said.
“We need to be careful what we do with that. The street, though, that is our responsibility.”
The Council asked the fire and police departments to evaluate the potential for no parking signs and/or delineating parking spaces along one side of the street.
“We need to know what’s possible before we move forward,” Councilwoman Martha Sue Hall said.
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