SP Advisory Panel Considers Sites for Back-In Parking Trial
Jayne Rhodes bared her soul Monday to the Southern Pines Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee because she feels that back-in angle parking could put her out of business.
“I wanted them to see it bared because I’m concerned,” said Rhodes, who owns Framer’s Cottage on Broad Street. “I spoke my heart. I just wanted to see if they understood that livelihoods were involved.”
The committee is considering potential sites for a demonstration project of back-in angle parking, which has existed for decades but has been implemented sporadically around the country. Charlotte and Cary are the only municipalities in North Carolina that currently have back-in angle parking on several streets.
So far, the committee is leaning toward recommending the 200 block of North West Broad Street in downtown Southern Pines, with its second choice being the same block of Broad on the other side of the railroad tracks. The final decision will be made by the Town Council.
“Every option has pluses and minuses,” said Dan Kohn, who chairs the committee. “I like the area around the train station because there are multiple options there.”
The committee eliminated a third option — New York Avenue between Broad and Bennett streets — because a plastic divider would have to be erected in the middle of the two-way street.
Kohn appeared before the Town Council last January to present the three options but was told to engage downtown Southern Pines merchants before making a recommendation.
If a site is selected by the council, the new parking spaces will jut out at an angle from the curb but will face away from oncoming motorists instead of toward them. As in parallel parking, drivers will signal, pass their spot and back in instead of entering front first.
The transition, if it occurs, will be aided by signs and other marking to clarify the appropriate use of back-in angle parking spaces.
Tony Grausso, owner of Seagrove Candle Co., said he planned to canvass the downtown merchants by the end of the week to get their opinions.
“I’m hesitant to even support a trial based on feedback I’ve received from my customers and fellow merchants, but I’m willing to go along with what the majority of the merchants agree to,” Grausso said.
He asked merchants in an email Tuesday to draft a brief statement about where they stand on the trial site, back-in parking in general and how it may impact their business and downtown.
“I just want a definitive public record that can’t be disputed by the committee or the Town Council,” Grausso said. “I’m hoping for 100 percent participation, whether the merchants are for it or against it.”
Grausso planned to begin collecting the statements Friday.
“This is an extremely important issue,” he said. “It’s a community issue. I want the end result to be positive for the merchants, the community and the committee.”
Bruce Bishop, president of the Southern Pines Business Association (SPBA), said he attended Monday’s meeting to gather information.
“The SPBA does not have an official stance on back-in angle parking,” Bishop said. “What we’re doing is disseminating information to our members and asking for their feedback. We’ll continue to keep them posted on developments regarding this issue. We hope they will use us as a conduit to provide feedback to the committee and the Town Council.”
Rhodes said she had nothing against improving safety for bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists, but not at the expense of downtown merchants.
“We’re not talking about losing a customer or two,” she said. “We’re talking about people possibly losing their livelihoods. I think that would be a really sad thing to do to a thriving, wonderful little town. We have this treasure, and I think sometimes people don’t realize that.”
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at email@example.com.
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