Dancer, officials seek balance

Carrboro parties discuss lawn use

Staff WriterSeptember 21, 2006 

— The man whose moves started a debate over public versus private space after he was told not to dance outside a local mall met with the property's owner for the first time Wednesday.

Bruce Thomas was told two months ago to stop his impromptu dancing on the lawn outside Carr Mill Mall's Weaver Street Market.

Overnight, people started posting on local blogs, writing letters to the editor and even staging "dance-ins" to take back the lawn.

A new program now requires people such as Thomas to sign up ahead of time if they want to dance, sing or play music outside of regularly scheduled events, such as Weaver Street Market's Sunday brunch and Thursday evening music events.

On Wednesday, Thomas met with Paul Greenberg, president of Carr Mill Investment Limited Partnership, which owns the property; Nathan Milian, who manages it; Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton and Alderman Dan Coleman.

Chilton and Coleman arranged the meeting in the mayor's office.

Greenberg and Milian declined to comment as they left Town Hall.

But Thomas, who sees the rules as stifling self expression, was optimistic.

"[Greenberg] didn't have to come here," he said. "But him being here shows he is considering my point of view."

In the past, Milian has said office workers at Carr Mill Mall have complained about activity on the lawn, which has turned the lawn into a brown expanse of dirt and mulch.

Chilton and Coleman said panhandlers and disruptive people hanging around the market and lawn are a concern as well.

"The owners have demonstrated that they're willing and eager to listen to the community and its values as far as the use of the lawn," Chilton said Wednesday. "But they don't want it to be a public park.

"So, they want it to be an inviting place and an interesting place to visit, and they want art and public expression to be a part of the attraction," he continued. "But they don't want to throw wide the flood gates. So they're trying to figure out how to do a balancing act. And [Dan and I] are trying to help them think broadly about that."

Staff writer Meiling Arounnarath can be reached at 932-2004 or meiling.arounnarath@newsobserver.com.

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