By Susan Dickson
Following recent demonstrations at 201 N. Greensboro St., some Carrboro business owners are saying they have concerns not only about the demonstrations but also regarding the responses of some members of the Carrboro Board of Aldermen.
Debra Seaton, who owns the property at 203. N. Greensboro St., told the board last week that she felt statements made by some members of the board following the March 17 Guerrilla Gardening event staged by members of the Carrboro Commune group were inappropriate. Seatonâ€™s property is under option for purchase by CVS Caremark, pending rezoning and conditional-use permit approval for a two-story development proposed for the corner, including Seatonâ€™s property, 201 N. Greensboro St.
â€œI am extremely disappointed and bewildered by some of the statements made in the press by some of the members of the board of aldermen regarding the police presence,â€ Seaton said, adding that she witnessed no harassment of protesters by police. She said she asked police to protect her property during the demonstration, were it targeted by protesters, and expected them to do so.
Board members Dan Coleman and Sammy Slade told The Citizen that they were concerned with the number of police present at the Guerrilla Gardening event. One person was arrested for blocking traffic, but overall the demonstration was peaceful.
Other board members have said they supported the actions of police, given previous demonstrations at 201 N. Greensboro and at the former Yates Motor Co. building in Chapel Hill, in which buildings were illegally entered by protesters.
Some demonstrators have said they felt the police presence was oppressive, citing concerns with the amount of surveillance of protesters conducted by police.
Seaton said she felt it was inappropriate of the board to support the actions of protesters â€“ some of whom had previously broken into the building at 201 N. Greensboro St. â€“ over the rights of property and business owners.
â€œAllowing this behavior to almost have a town endorsement is incomprehensible,â€ she said. In an interview Friday, Seaton said board members whose politics interfered with their abilities to fulfill their oath of office should step down.
Seaton said she had spoken with a number of Carrboro business owners who shared her concerns and who â€œfeel that they have almost completely lost control over business expansion and redevelopment of properties that they own.â€
Cliff Collins, owner of Cliffâ€™s Meat Market, said he felt that board members needed to support police Chief Carolyn Hutchison, who he said is supported by many business owners.
â€œI think they need to go back and apologize to the police. If they donâ€™t have a goal to do that, they need to go home and let somebody else take their place,â€ he said.
Collins said Seaton was speaking for a number of Carrboro business owners when she spoke before the board.
â€œWe are all standing behind Debra Seaton,â€ he said.
Collins said he shared Seatonâ€™s concern regarding control of his property. Should he want to sell his property â€“ which he has no plans to do â€“ Collins said he would likely face difficulty finding a buyer to pay its true value, since buyers know how difficult it can be to make changes to properties in Carrboro.
The board has said it will have a larger policy discussion with regard to civil disobedience.