A dispute has emerged between The Streets at Southpoint and the public transit agency GoTriangle over the use of the mall’s parking lot spaces by GoTriangle park-and-ride customers.
GoTriangle warned customers Wednesday that mall management had said the park-and-ride spaces may only be used from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday – and that violators would be towed.
GoTriangle said the notice violates the mall’s agreement with the City of Durham, which requires Southpoint to mark designated spaces and place signs that clearly indicate parking restrictions.
The agency doesn’t believe the mall has clearly marked where the park-and-ride spaces are and has not placed any signs that note time limits. (There is a sign in the parking lot that indicates the general park-and-ride area, but individual spaces are not marked.)
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The Streets at Southpoint did not immediately return a request for comment.
Under an amended agreement with the city in 2008, the mall must provide 147 park-and-ride spaces as well as signs designating which spaces are reserved for park-and-ride customers during weekdays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
An email from Patrick O. Young, the director of the Durham City-County Planning Deparment, sent to the Durham City Council and the Durham County commissioners on Thursday indicates the mall would be in violation if it enforced time limits on the spaces.
The mall would be allowed to enforce limitations only after installing correct signage, Young wrote.
Additionally, a representative from the mall had recently expressed interest in reducing the number of reserved spaces from 147 to 100, Young said.
“This is permissible under the UDO (Unified Development Ordinance), but would be considered a significant deviation from the Zoning Approval, necessitating a new site plan,” Young wrote.
At a Durham City Council work session on Thursday, Durham Mayor Bill Bell said he thought Southpoint officials handled the situation “poorly.”
“I just think it was really poor public relations on the part of the mall to proceed in the direction they did,” Bell said. “The state the mall is in today, you’d think you'd want as many people as possible to be able to come there.”
City Councilman Charlie Reece added that he would like to revisit the 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. time restrictions in the future.
“It puts folks at a disadvantage who work alternative hours,” he said. “Some of the working folks who are taking public transit typically work at least one job outside the 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. timeframe.”
Mike Charbonneau, director of marketing and communications for GoTriangle, said the agency has not heard directly from The Streets at Southpoint since notices began to be distributed on windshields.
“One of our remaining questions is that we don’t know how Southpoint management is going to determine who is a park-and-ride customer and who is a mall customer before they tow,” Charbonneau said.
“They haven’t explained how people who might get off of a bus after 6 p.m. or a customer who goes to the mall after they get off a bus instead of going straight to their car would be treated,” he said.
Charbonneau said The Streets at Southpoint park-and-ride location is one of transit agency’s most popular locations for parking, though an average number of daily users at the location was unknown.
There are more park-and-ride spaces are located nearby at the Renaissance Village shopping center in front of the Home Goods store along Renaissance Parkway. It has 67 reserved spaces.
Charbonneau added that the city’s response reinforced GoTriangle’s belief that the Streets at Southpoint was behaving unfairly.
“The city confirmed what we believed yesterday – that it was unfair and a violation of the agreement with the city,” he said.
Staff writer Virginia Bridges contributed to this story.