Carrboro residents shouldn’t forget about alternatives…

By Robert Matteson
Co-Editor

The globe is still warming.
We’re still in Iraq.
But what we’re really ticked off about is signage.

The posting of the “Good Neighbor Rules” signs by Carr Mill Mall was met with resistance because of their placement and wording. The signs quickly were removed. The explanation posted on Weaver Street Market’s Web site stated, “The error resulted when the wrong file was sent to the sign maker. When the error was discovered, Carr Mill immediately arranged to take down the signs and have the wording changed.”

[ orangepolitics.org has a good (if colorful) explanation of differences between the wording here ]

In October, Mayor Mark Chilton and Alderman Dan Coleman met with Nathan Milian, and Paul Greenberg, manager and general partner of Carr Mill Mall, respectively. They worked to resolve the issue and set up guidelines for the space’s use. The group also met with Bruce Thomas. Last we heard, Bruce is dancing again.

The rules they came up with aren’t that unreasonable. Here is Weaver Street Market’s open space policy direct from its Web site:

1. Carr Mill Mall buildings, lawn and parking lots are for the use of customers while shopping and dining, for tenants and their invited guests, and for those attending public events. Event attendees must use satellite parking.
2. Solicitation and distribution of literature or handbills is prohibited except as specifically authorized as part of a Weaver Street Market event.*
3. Loitering is prohibited.
4. Persons panhandling, exhibiting drunken behavior or substance abuse, sleeping on benches, disturbing the peace or acting in a way that is threatening to persons or property will be evicted and subject to trespass.
5. Unauthorized performances and unauthorized large or publicly advertised gatherings are prohibited. “Performance” means any activity intending to attract or having the effect of attracting a crowd of spectators, or that’s volume disturbs others. Performances need to have the advance written permission of Carr Mill Mall.
6. Dogs must be well-behaved (no barking at or sniffing around customers), leashed, attended at all times, not relieve themselves on the property (accidents should be promptly cleaned up after) and watered with disposable bowls.
7. Stay out of all trees, garden areas and the pond. The edge of the pond can be used for seating but not for walking or running. Do not throw anything in the pond.
8. Alcoholic beverages can be consumed only in eating areas and not near the entrance to the offices or the edge of the lawn.
9. Table and chairs should remain in the designated dining areas.
10. No smoking is permitted anywhere on the premises except in specifically authorized smoking areas at the edge of the lawn.
11. Sidewalks must be kept clear for passage at all times.

Some of the points could be debated, such as what exactly would constitute loitering, but it’s one of those “in the spirit of the rule” situations. We’re all adults here. If there weren’t so many cigarette butts and beer bottles lying around, would the signs even be up?

The mentality in Carrboro is that the Weaver Street lawn belongs to the community and that people should be able to use it as they please. There’s certainly some validity to that mentality — Weaver Street Market is a co-op. According to its Web site, its second principle is democratic member control.

However, it’s not direct control. Representatives are elected who are beholden to the membership. Sort of like state government, only less bureaucracy and more organic food.
And like state government, if you disagree with it, the most effective method of change is not printing T-shirts. Speak with your representatives by telephone, or show up at their office and knock politely.

The Carrboro mentality is a little too quick to arm itself.

We are a small community, and rash, outspoken behavior doesn’t make good neighbors any better. There are alternatives available.

Just down the street, there’s a lovely place called the Carrboro Town Commons. Most of the time, it’s empty.

According to section 7D of its use policy, “No reservation shall be required for spontaneous gatherings.” A full version of the policy is available at http://www.ci.carrboro.nc.us/Townwide/Documents/TownCommonsUsePolicy.pdf.

It’s a nice spot — there’s a playground for the kids and plenty of open space for the critters to stretch their legs. The best part — we’re all paying customers there, all the time, regardless of where we bought our herbal tea and organic blueberry muffin that morning. That’s the beauty of taxes.

There are better things to get twisted into knots about. We all want to protect the sanctity of our favorite places, but sometimes the best thing to do is take a step back and breathe.
If Weaver Street Market’s new policy really cooks your goose, then talk to one of the member representatives.

And in the meantime, go check out the Town Commons — the gazebo is pretty neat.

2 Comments so far

  1. BrianR March 28th, 2007 7:56 pm

    From a comment I left at OrangePolitics.org. It may seem silly the response people had but it makes since in its proper context.

    The signs put up on the WSM lawn are symbolic of a much larger set of issues. What’s being discussed in this thread [on OP] is but one of those issues. For context and hopefully clarity check out the following category called Footloose. It contains a lot of posts.

    The original post about the changes at Carr Mill Mall is called Dancing May Return to Carr Mill Mall. A post called Live on the Lawn also contains a lot of info. The post Dancing Ban Update contains even more info and context.

    Here is a video about the dancing ban from the people directly involved called Let Bruce Dance.

    These long posts and discussion threads spawned many more topics of discussion in areas like What is Public Space? ,

    Understanding some of the intense emotions people have by reading the above can help explain why two signs set people off.


    In short Carrboro is a community of activists who believe speaking out LOUD is a good idea. They have memories like elephants too.

  2. apalmer April 4th, 2007 8:27 pm

    I mostly find it comical, but sad in a way that mall management just doesn’t get it. We can debate the reasonableness of the requirements, but it of course is not about the reasonableness of the requirements. The Weaver St. lawn just has that life to it and any attempt to squish it is like stepping on a bug - ladybugs or roaches - just for spite. The town commons is nice and can attain something of that life, but only at events like the Farmer’s Market and life can not be moved as easily as you move a sign.

    –Abraham

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