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Town, owner at odds over Abbey Court towing

Martin Ayala, who lives with his family in Abbey Court in Carrboro, stands outside the Carrboro Town Hall Saturday in protest of the recent spike in towing activity of residents’ cars by the apartment complex because they lack parking permits. Photo by Jordan Timpy.After dozens of cars are towed, residents claim discrimination

by Susan Dickson
Staff Writer

The owner of the majority of Abbey Court Condominiums told Mayor Mark Chilton on Monday that he would not suspend the complex’s towing policy and that management would continue to tow residents’ vehicles that do not have parking permits.

Chilton said he asked Ken Lucas, president and CEO of the Tar Heel Companies, to stop towing residents’ cars, but that Lucas refused. The Tar Heel Companies runs Abbey Court and Lucas owns most of the units in the complex.
Last week, Abbey Court began towing vehicles that were parked in the apartment complex’s parking lot without permits. However, many residents were denied parking permits because their cars have dents, need paint or have a cracked windshield, according to Carrboro police.

According to Chilton, Lucas said he was concerned that some people were parking there illegally to catch the bus to downtown Carrboro. In addition, according to Chilton, Lucas said he was concerned that there are people living in some of the apartments who aren’t on the lease and that he was trying to use the parking permits as a method to determine where people are living.

Towing notices have started appearing on windshields in Abbey Court. Photo by Jordan Timpy.According to resident Alfonso Hernandez, Abbey Court management had 47 cars towed in one day last week.
However, Chilton said Lucas told him the complex had towed only 12 cars.

Lucas did not return calls for comment. Lucas’ attorney, Bart White, said on Friday that he would speak with The Citizen, but has not returned multiple calls since.

“They want the cars to be pristine,” Hernandez said. He said many residents believe the property managers and owners are trying to drive them away.

“We started to get hints that [the property manager] didn’t like us,” Hernandez said.

The parking lot at Abbey Court was far from full Tuesday, as most residents have moved their cars to other locations in fear of being towed.

Hernandez said some of the residents have staged protests outside the property manager’s office, but that many people are afraid of protesting.

“They’re very afraid that something will happen,” Hernandez said.

Antonio Matute, an Abbey Court resident for the past 10 years, said that a member of the management team implied they could call on immigration officials.

“It’s racist,” he said in Spanish.

Residents protested at the Town Commons on Saturday morning. Chilton spoke at the protest and told residents that he supported their position on the apartment complex’s new towing policy.

Chilton spoke to residents, many who are Latino, in Spanish.

“As the mayor of Carrboro, I support the residents,” he said, encouraging residents to use their voices, rather than their hands, in protesting. During one altercation, a resident threw a bottle at a tow-truck driver.

Because the parking lot is private property, the town doesn’t have any official authority over the towing policy, Chilton said.

“The next step may not be one for the mayor to take,” Chilton said. “Somebody has got to step up and help continue to deal with this situation.”

Chilton said there could be possible Federal Fair Housing Act violations, but that residents would need to file a complaint for an investigation to take place.

According to Mark Dorosin, senior attorney at the UNC Center for Civil Rights, the Federal Fair Housing Act prohibits the coercion, intimidation or interference in the exercise or enjoyment of housing on account of a person’s race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin.

Dorosin said the FHA prohibits not only intentional discriminatory treatment, but also the adoption of policies or procedures that have a disparate impact on members of a protected class.

Dorosin said if residents of the complex believe their rights are being violated, they could file a complaint with the Orange County Human Relations Commission or the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Abbey Court has had a long standing policy against repair and maintenance of vehicles in its parking lot. Photo by Jordan Timpy.

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  1. Buzzm1

    Illegals are just that, illegal. Deport them all!!

    OUR ACCEPTABLE IMMIGRATION REFORM

    Job #1. Build the Legislated Fence!!!
    Job #2. Mandate E-Verify for ALL Employees!!!
    Job #3. Mandate E-Verify for ANY Benefit!!!
    Job #4. Stop the Underground Economy!!!
    Job #5. End Birthright Citizenship for Illegals!!!
    Job #6. End Chain Migration!!!
    Job #7. Make English our Official Language!!!
    Job #8. Cut Off Federal Funds to Sanctuary Cities!!

    NOTHING MORE!!! NOTHING LESS!!!

  2. Librarian

    Carrboro BOA to the rescue! What a joke.