Business parking issue prompts special meeting

By Vicki Hyatt | Jul 15, 2014
Photo by: Vicki Hyatt John Mamph, owner of the Black Bear Transmission & Automotive, stands near a barrel he's placed at the edge of his property to keep motorists from cutting through the area where he's repaired a large pothole.

CANTON — A special-called meeting of the Canton Board of Aldermen will be held at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the town hall courtroom to discuss prohibiting on-street parking on a portion of Johnson Street.

The issue was discussed last Thursday at the regularly scheduled board meeting, but upset neighbors looking for swift action prompted the board to ask for a special meeting, said Town Manager Seth Hendler-Voss.

A proposed ordinance change would prohibit parking on the first 115 feet of the street from the point where it intersects with U.S. 110, also known as Pisgah Drive.

While the residents of 16 households on the dead-end street regularly rely on street parking, residents say operations at Black Bear Transmission & Automotive have impacted sight distance and caused motorists to veer into the opposite lane where they could collide with oncoming traffic.

At present John Mamph, owner of the vehicle repair business on the corner near the Community Kitchen, is not breaking any laws and has as much right to park on the street as others. However, if the proposed amendment ordinance is passed, Mamph won’t be able to park personal vehicles or cars he is working on near his business, and his customers will be ticketed if they park on the street.

“We’ve been looking at the issue for a few weeks now trying to find a diplomatic solution that would support the business owner while addressing resident concerns,” Hendler-Voss said, “but we’re at the point now where safety issues are a priority.”

The public notice of the special-called meeting to be held today was sent out Monday. Hendler-Voss said such a short notice “certainly wasn’t ideal,” but noted the board wanted to move quickly on the issue.

Since the ordinance's language change will merely add a portion of the street to the list of streets where parking is restricted, there is no formal public hearing that must be followed. Hendler-Voss said he told Mamph on Friday of the board's intention, and a public notice was posted and sent out to newspapers Monday.

"The timing isn't ideal, but we're meeting a minimum notice requirement of 48 hours," Hendler-Voss said. "Because of the concerns of the residents, the board felt they needed to move on this quickly."

He expects action to be taken Wednesday.

“We’re not going to limit parking any more than we have to to address the safety issue,” Hendler-Voss added. “It is unfortunate it has come to this point. We were trying to facilitate a diplomatic solution.”

Singled out

Mamph cites a number of instances where delivery trucks block traffic, even on the town’s main thoroughfare, but nothing is said about it. He notes that he never parks closer than 75 feet to the intersection — more than twice the set-back distance required — which allows motorists plenty of sight distance when pulling into the busy Pisgah Drive.

“Even though I’m within my rights, when I get overflow and if I park on the side, they are calling the cops,” Mamph said of his neighbors. “None of them have ever said anything to me. The police chief and the town manager said I wasn’t doing anything wrong, but asked me not to park there because they were getting complaints.”

Mamph started his own business three years ago and has developed a brisk business at the shop he named after the Pisgah Bears, a team he ardently supports. In addition to the automotive repair work, he also has a U-Haul business with rental units parked along the back edge of his property.

The business, said Mamph’s father-in-law, Bud Ray, is thriving like never before.

“With as many businesses as there are closing in Canton, you wouldn’t think they’d want to run successful businesses out,” Ray said. “It’s a crying shame them giving him a hard time and him just trying to make a living.”

Mamph said he was hit by a drunk driver a while back and could just draw disability, but instead chose to make it on his own. He said he feels like he is being singled out for doing business in a similar fashion as Main Street Davis Furniture or Sid's on Main where delivery trucks block traffic.

Parking is a problem

Johnson Street resident Edie Burnette lives within sight distance of Black Bear Transmission & Automotive and said the street parking obstructs traffic as motorists near the busy intersection, and at times, has totally blocked the street.

One time a car with a flat tire stopped in the middle of the intersection, preventing anyone from exiting or entering the street, and another time it was a delivery truck blocking traffic.

Burnette said the street has been totally blocked at least three times in the past couple months.

“I have no problem with a man trying to earn a living and it appears his business is good,” Burnette said. “Nobody wants to hurt someone trying to make a living, but why antagonize everyone on the street by blocking the road? He should have better business sense than that.”

Burnette suggested perhaps if the property was used either for automotive repair or the U-Haul business, it would open more onsite area for parking.

“It seems to me he needs to make some choices,” she said.

Neighbors had also expressed concern about a barrel on the corner of his property to keep motorists from cutting across and wrecking the pothole repair work he’d done.

Response

Mamph said the road wasn’t blocked when there was a delivery truck parked on Johnson Street for about half an hour.

“The cop who responded was able to get by,” he said wryly.

As for the car with a flat tire, it was a motorist who wasn’t even a customer. The driver pulled off Pisgah Drive and did block the street, but he didn’t want to spend $5 to repair the tire, so he eventually drove away on the flat.

“Is that my fault?” Mamph asked.

When interviewed Monday afternoon, Mamph was unaware a special town board meeting had been called to address an issue that will impact his business.

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