Clayton may step up downtown parking enforcement

ndunn@newsobserver.comJune 20, 2014 

CMC Electric vans sit in the Horne Square parking lot. The Town of Clayton has asked the company to stop filling up the public lot on weekends to make room for residents who want to shop and eat downtown.

NASH DUNN — ndunn@newsobserver.com

Clayton might increase its oversight of overnight parking because of one business that some town leaders say is abusing the privilege.

Clayton ordinances don’t allow overnight parking at all, but police don’t enforce the ban in public lots. That includes Horne Square, a small plaza on Main Street near shops and restaurants. The square, which includes public art displays and benches, also has a parking lot with 27 spaces.

Town staff say one business, CMC Electric, parks its vans overnight in the Horne Square lot. Some town leaders, including Mayor Jody McLeod, say that’s not fair to residents who need a place to park downtown at night and on weekends.

“We developed Horne Square because it’s the heart of Clayton, and we want parents, seniors and kids to be able to get out of their car safely,” McLeod said. “The parking lot needs to be open.”

The town has asked CMC Electric to stop parking its vans at Horne Square from Friday through Sunday, but Councilman Michael Grannis, who owns Clayton Steakhouse on Main Street, said the business is still using the lot.

“I just want to be clear that we have tried to work out an arrangement with these businesses,” Grannis said. “I think for a short period of time they did find other places to park, but then they decided to come back.”

CMC Electric leases office space at 106 N. Lombard St., nearly adjacent to the Horne Square parking lot. Owner Chris Conrad said his company has used the lot for about three years because it has no where else to park the six vans that his employees use daily.

Conrad said he’s aware of the many events held downtown, especially on weekends, and he and his staff do the best they can to move the vans.

“But where else do we park?” Conrad said. “There’s just physically no where else to do it. We are sitting on this island and are told we can’t be on the island, but then we aren’t given a boat.”

Town Manager Steve Biggs said his office will again ask the business to not use the lot on weekends. If that doesn’t work, the town will start issuing citations.

Clayton police enforce parking rules throughout town but not the ordinance that bans parking from 11 p.m. to 5:30 a.m. Sunday to Thursday and from midnight to 5:30 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Biggs said the town council adopted the ordinance in the late 1990s after police responded to multiple complaints of teenagers drinking alcohol and playing loud music in municipal parking lots late at night. “We just don’t have that now,” he said.

The town has plans to develop a larger parking lot downtown, not far from Horne Square. But Biggs said the proposed concept would require cooperation from several private businesses. Most have agreed to the idea, but not all, he said.

“We need to look at this a little more before we say, ‘Enforce it,’ ” said councilman Art Holder, adding that the town needs to be as business friendly as possible.

The other public lots in downtown are on Town Square and at The Clayton Center, Hocutt-Ellington Memorial Library, the Clayton Police Department and Clayton Fire Department.

Dunn: 919-553-7234, Ext. 104

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