Chapel Hill removes hybrid parking signs at library

tgrubb@newsobserver.comMay 3, 2013 

These signs at the Chapel Hill Public Library reserve spaces for hybrid vehicles to help qualify for the newly expanded building's LEED Silver certification.

COURTESY OF DOUG LORIE

— Town crews removed eight parking signs in the Chapel Hill Public Library’s upper lot after residents complained they were discriminatory.

Three other signs reserving spaces for hybrid and low-emission vehicles remain outside the main entrance. The town is talking with its architect to determine how many signs it needs and if there are other options, a town spokeswoman said.

At least 5 percent of the newly reopened library’s parking spaces must be reserved for alternative fuel or low-emission vehicles to get LEED Silver energy-efficiency certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. A town ordinance requires all new or significantly renovated town buildings meet that standard.

The library’s LEED – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – application also includes high-efficiency mechanical systems, lighting and water conservation, stormwater runoff control, recycled and regionally sourced materials, and bus service. The library’s nearest bus stop is about one-quarter of a mile away at the corner of East Franklin Street and Estes Drive.

The library has not been certified yet.

Town Manager Roger Stancil said the town had received “many emails and comments concerning the parking signs.” The signs also generated letters to The Chapel Hill News and complaints to library staff, the Town Council and the town’s sustainability officer, town spokeswoman Catherine Lazorko said.

Resident Janet Johnston urged officials to visit the parking lot and see older residents, mothers with children and others who could use spaces closer to the library walking past them. The town should get out of the “social engineering business,” she wrote in her letter.

Hybrid owner Richard Perry applauded the town’s setting aside the spaces. It helps get people thinking about the environment, he said. Plus, owning a hybrid does not mean you’re wealthy, ascritics suggest, he said.

“Sure – the (non-hybrid) driver might have to walk a few extra steps to the library door. What is the hardship in that? And in the long term, such rewards can be one extra incentive for others as they consider their next auto purchase,” he wrote.

While he hasn’t used the library spaces, Perry said he tries to park his 8-year-old hybrid Honda Civic in similar spaces at his church.

On Wednesday, Perry said the decision to remove the eight signs was disappointing.

“But it’s not the most important issue facing the community or the library,” he said

Grubb: 919-932-8746

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