Canton nixes street parking near Blackbear Automotive

A section of Johnson Street in Canton has been closed following complaints that parked vehicles — repair jobs from Blackbear Automotive & Transmission — were creating a traffic hazard. 

“We’re after a safety issue. We’re not trying to close his business, but he seems to think otherwise,”  Jerry Mcfall, a resident living near the area in question, said at a specially called town meeting July 16. “Safety is our primary issue, and that’s what we’re here for.”

The Canton town board,  with three of its five members in attendance at the meeting, voted unanimously to increase the no-parking zone from its current 30 feet from Johnson’s intersection with N.C. 110, to 115  feet — the distance to the next property down from Blackbear Automotive. 

Before extending the no-parking zone, Alderwomen Gail Mull and Carole Edwards and Alderman Dr. Ralph Hamlett heard from neighborhood residents about the dangers created when parked cars blocked the view of cars coming out from Johnson Street. The board had heard from residents before, prompting the special meeting.

“Any driver leaving or entering that street needs to have the full ability to see what’s coming and going in all directions,” said neighborhood resident Edie Burnette. “Since the state has never dealt with changing that traffic pattern, I think it’s our responsibility to deal with it as best as you (town board) can.”

Canton Police Chief Bryan Whitner noted that complaints about the traffic issue began coming in on May 30, with 11 total complaints made since. The police did go to the property, taking photos to illustrate the problem. 

Currently town ordinance states there is a  no-parking zone extending 30 feet down Johnson Street from the intersection with N.C. 110, or Pisgah Drive. Whitner suggested the 115-foot pushback.

“[After extending the no-parking zone], the next step would be legal actions, parking violations, see where that goes, and it gets more intrusive, there would be state citations,” the police chief said. “These are not our preferred methods unless we have to. My goal is to provide safe lanes for people, but we also want his business to survive.”

John Mamph, owner of Blackbear Automotive, was not in attendance at the special meeting — though Canton Town Manager Seth Hendler-Voss said the business owner and his landlord, Steve Singleton, were both personally invited by the board to attend — but has previously complained about a double standard and contended the street parking is necessary so that delivery trucks can more easily deliver auto parts. Mamph has also pointed out that the street is legal parking. 

“So, it’s OK for everybody else who lives here to be able to park on the sides but I can’t?” the business owner said previously when contacted by the Smoky Mountain News. “How can I get my parts delivered if the trucks can’t park here? I’ve been in business three years. We’re a great location, and we’ve built a great business and now, after three years, they’re going to start complaining?”

“I find it troubling the owner is not here to hear this,” Alderwoman Gail Mull said at the meeting. “I’d like him to be here to answer some of these questions.”

A call by The Smoky Mountain News to Mamph to comment on the ruling was not returned by press time. 

The board also unanimously passed a second motion, which called for No Parking signs and cones to be placed across the street from Blackbear, on the other side of Pisgah Drive, on a vacant lot owned by the town. This action was taken in an effort to discourage Blackbear and others from parking in the space.

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