Day: January 28, 2008

Chapel Hill Downtown Property Shenanigans

As barriers go, it’s unimpressive, a line of railroad timbers cutting across a parking lot off West Franklin Street. But, symbolically, it’s a miniature Mason-Dixon line.On one side is gray-haired Southern land baron P.H. Craig. On the other, Long Island Yankee Spencer Young III.

Young, 51, owns The Courtyard of Chapel Hill, home to the popular Mexican popsicle shop Locopops and restaurants Penang and Bonne Soiree, 3Cups coffee, wine and tea shop and Sandwhich sandwich shop.

Craig, 70, owns most of the parking lot that serves the Courtyard. About six months ago, Craig blocked off his section with railroad ties and gravel piles. The Courtyard’s parking dropped from 79 spaces to 23.

The move, which Young calls “Machiavellian,” has hobbled his tenants, bothered customers and dragged public officials into private matter. | Chapel Hill parking lot now no man s land

It’s always interesting and frustrating to me when the property rights of one man triumph over the obvious welfare of the town. The Supreme Court in Kelo v. City of New London did uphold the principle that privately owned property could be forcibly sold to another private entity if it was part of a “comprehensive redevelopment plan”. Clearly, the town of Chapel Hill is going to do no such thing. Not that a giant open parking lot occupying valuable real estate space is any better, but Chapel Hill downtown seems to be owned by well heeled landed gentry always holding out for more money. If they asked me, I would try to get more people to live there, I would get the university a bigger foothold downtown, as my planner friend always says, instead of building a giant outpost campus. There’s little to do downtown other than eat, drink, or buy UNC paraphernalia. But who knows, city planning ain’t my area of expertise. But I have lived downtown for the past 5 years and all I ever did in downtown Chapel Hill was drink (lots), eat (occasionally), fix my bike (a couple of times) and buy a T-Shirt (once). So something is not right.

Meanwhile, the reporter tries very hard to re-enact the American civil war, only in the South!

Maybe there’s a difference between the way the people from the New York area do business and the way people from the South do business,” Page said. “Once they got sort of ticked off at each other … they just haven’t talked anymore.

Right, a brawl involving valuable real estate space and business that boils down to cultural differences, not money, sell me something else brother!

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