Street parking targeted in area subdivisions

Article Courtesy of The Jacksonville Daily News

By Michael Todd and Christopher Thomas 

Published August 17, 2014

Tow trucks frequented Carolina Plantations recently and took vehicles parked on neighborhood roads, according to submitted photos and interviews with residents in the subdivision.

It isn’t the first Onslow County neighborhood to face newly advertised restrictions that prohibit parking on residential streets. 

Some Carolina Plantations residents say the rules violates their rights as property owners. They attribute the problem to the Carolina Plantation Owners Association.


No one from the homeowner’s association responded to calls by The Daily News.
One sign warns residents and visitors of the policy. The large, red-and-white notice stands at Carolina Plantations Boulevard, the neighborhood’s main entrance. A drive through the neighborhood’s streets last week revealed no other no-parking signs in Carolina Plantations.
Matthew Drake, who lives in the neighborhood, said he was disturbed by tow trucks “stalking” the streets on July 25 and he started calling residents and driving door-to-door to warn them that cars parked on the roads could be towed.
He recalled one car “was still warm” when it was being towed by Goines’ Recovery in the neighborhood that night.

A tow truck loads up a car that had been parked in the street in Carolina Plantations on July 25. The neighborhood recently enacted new rules prohibiting cars and trucks from parking on roads in the subdivision. 

Drake said the driver said he had just gone in the house. Drake blocked the tow truck with his own vehicle and called 911. 

Onslow County Sheriff’s Office sent deputies, but the deputies were unclear about what to do, Drake said. 

“The three sheriff’s deputies said there’s no county ordinance saying you can’t park on the streets of Onslow County,” Drake said. “Meanwhile, there’s a fleet of wreckers driving around the neighborhood.”

The homeowner’s association is pointing to the county for the association’s decision to enforce on-street parking violations, according to an email to homeowners acquired by The Daily News. 

“We understand the community seems to be divided on a few of the rules, such as parking on the streets. Please keep in mind some of the rules and regulations were completely out of the hands of the developer and HOA,” according to the email, which is signed by “The Carolina Plantations Owners Association.” “One of these such rules was vehicles parking on the street. This was a rule that was required by Onslow County and cannot be changed by anyone.”

County spokesman Todd Lyman said he had not heard of such a rule. 

“The county does not maintain roads,” he said. “They are exclusively (N.C. Department of Transportation’s domain.)”

The reasons that Carolina Plantations Owners Association gave for prohibiting parking include a reference to a decrease in property value if rules are ignored or changed and the need for emergency-vehicle access, according to the email, which was sent June 6.

Sometime before July 20, Carolina Plantations resident Josh Matson said a sign was placed at the entrance to the subdivision noting the rule against parking on the streets. 

“There’s a few different times they’ve been coming through on Friday nights and will back out with four-to-six cars,” Matson said. “It’s started to happen within the last month or so.”

He has lived in Carolina Plantations about nine months, he said.

A contact for the homeowner’s association, Anthony Sydes of the neighborhood’s developer, Sydes Communities, was unavailable for comment last week. 

“He’s not here,” a receptionist said by phone at Sydes Communities. “I think he went out of town a few days.”

A phone call to the towing company reached a woman who identified herself as a manager and revealed a connection between the neighborhood and Goines’ Recovery. 

“We have a contract with the main finance company,” the woman said.

She said they would need “allowance” from another business to release information about what happened on July 25.

The homeowner’s association hired an agency — Premier Management of Wilmington — to enforce its rules. 

The ninth phone call to Premier Management reached a woman who declined to spell her name.

“We have no comment on that at this point,” she said. “The towing guy just called and said you had called and I am going to leave it at that.”

North Carolina’s laws are complex when dealing with situations in which cars can be towed legally.

Towing is legal if conducted at the direction of a law-enforcement officer, according to N.C. General Statutes.

It also is legal if in compliance with rules for state-owned parking lots. In addition, boards of education “may adopt reasonable rules and regulations” for managing improperly parked vehicles on “public school grounds,” according to N.C. General Statutes. On private property, the rules specifically protect the owner or lessee of a parking space. 

Drake said the residents should have more say over their rights.

“I asked the guy ‘What kind of company are you?’” Drake asked. “Either they’re breaking the law or not breaking the law. There shouldn’t be this kind of thing going on in a reputable neighborhood. ... There are a lot of people that are very upset.”

Brittany Lynn Owens has lived in Carolina Plantations for three years, she told The Daily News. 

“I don’t feel like we own this home,” Owens said of the rules. “Honestly, it feels like we are renting all over again.”

Owens said the homes have room in the driveways for only two vehicles, leading visitors or other drivers in the family to park in the street and run afoul of the community rule.

“Most people in the neighborhood are married so those two spaces are just enough for them,” Owens said. “So anyone that has visitors has absolutely nowhere to park.”

Sheriff Ed Brown said he has not heard of calls to Onslow County Sheriff’s Office in reference to neighborhood on-street parking problems. 

“This would be a homeowners’-association issue,” Brown said. “If the streets are private, then this really would really be a homeowners’-association issue.”

None of Carolina Plantation’s roads appear in a N.C. Department of Transportation database of state roads.

Attorney Frank Erwin of Jacksonville specializes in homeowner’s-association law, or “association law,” as he calls it. He referred to a “complex interweaving of various laws” — state, county and municipal — that could determine the scope of an association’s authority. 

Each homeowners’ association is governed by boards of directors, who are elected, he said. 

“The board has a lot of power given by statute and by the restrictive covenants, including — depending upon the subdivision — regulating the number, breed and size of animals, where an owner or visitor, or renter, can park or use recreational areas,” Erwin said. “But, there are also state and city and county laws which affect owners and also limit what associations may do.”

He said homeowners’ associations exist, legally, to “maintain the quality, safety and character of a neighborhood and maintain the value of homes.”

Their rules affect homeowners, landlords of rented properties and renters.

“There is a fine procedure which an association can go through if a renter does not comply,” he said. “However, the fine is imposed upon the owner. It’s the owner who is responsible to his fellow neighbor.”

For example, the City of Jacksonville limits how much private towing companies can charge “nonconsensual tows,” according to its Code of Ordinances.

“No person, firm or corporation providing vehicle-towing services shall charge the owner of any vehicle towed without the consent of the owner an amount for towing and storage fees in excess of those fees prescribed in the schedule of nonconsensual towing fees adopted by resolution of the city council,” according to the ordinance. “The limitation on towing and storage fees set forth in this section shall apply to any tow performed without the prior consent or authorization of the owner or operator of the vehicle regardless of the reason for lack of consent.”

In the current fee schedule, those costs are: 

$125 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday
$150 from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. Monday to Friday
$150 on holidays and weekends
$50 per hour after first hour
$25 for outdoor daily storage
$30 for indoor daily storage 

Carolina Plantations is across the street from and outside city limits, Assistant City Manager Glenn Hargett said. 

Another neighborhood outside the city limits recently has had new signs posted preventing parking on streets. 

Two new signs warn residents that parking will be prohibited on streets in Indian Wells at Hunter’s Creek. The new signs, placed recently to advise residents no parking will be allowed on the two roads to enforce rules set by the homeowner’s association there, stand at entrances of West Pueblo Drive and Pueblo Drive. On Tuesday afternoon, cars still were parked in front of the rows of townhomes and houses. 

A Jeep and sedan occupied the entire driveway Tuesday afternoon in front of the Pueblo Drive home Keysha Downs lives in. 

She said the signs were posted last week. 

“Our driveways are small,” she said.

Downs said she received no written notice before the signs were posted, but notes the signs’ presence.

“At least they gave us fair warning,” she added.

Erwin explained that a homeowners’ association usually has the authority to govern private streets. 

As to whether the county or city has authority to enforce an association’s rules for parking, he said “Usually not.”

The county also usually cannot enforce an association’s rules, he added. 

As to which law or ordinance trumps, he said usually it is the more restrictive rule. 

“They co-exist and must be read together,” Erwin said of the rules of an association and government. “The subdivision restrictions usually are more restrictive ... Usually, the more restrictive of the various regulations, restrictions is valid.”