Dangerous Travel

Published 10:04 am Monday, October 17, 2016

AHOSKIE – What goes bump in the night (and the day)?

Vehicles traveling within the confines of Ahoskie’s Newmarket Shopping Center.

The town’s first major retail development outside of Main Street is showing its age, especially the asphalt of its parking lot. There, potholes are numerous, not to mention dangerous and Ahoskie Town Councilman Justin Freeman said there’s no time like the present to find a solution to the problem.

“I’m hearing many, many comments about the deterioration of that parking lot,” Freeman said during Tuesday’s regularly scheduled meeting of the Ahoskie Town Council. “It’s causing damage to vehicles. It also is dangerous to vehicles trying to figure out who has the right-of-way because there is no signage or arrows marked on the pavement.”

Freeman added that the handicapped parking spaces are poorly designed as they do not meet the needs of a vehicle unloading a wheelchair.

He said the complaints received to date have been from both the customers of the retail outlets located at Newmarket as well as the business owners there.

Freeman presented a letter he drafted that, upon the Council’s approval, will be sent to the owners of the property (Coastal Equities located in Weston, Florida), asking that they take immediate steps to address the problems.

In the letter, Freeman pointed out that “the potholes mentioned are not minor – they are devastating.  Several people have popped tires, bent rims, damaged undercarriage, and scraped bumpers due to these dangerous potholes.  During a large rain event, the potholes are even more difficult to navigate and exponentially more dangerous.”

The letter also addresses the “grid-style” layout of the parking lot, saying patrons do not know who should yield and who should proceed at an intersection.

“A small amount of signage, including stop signs, and directional arrows would add a lot of clarity for patrons,” Freeman wrote in the letter.

He added, “There have been numerous attempts to fill in these holes with temporary materials like rock and gravel, but a more permanent solution is needed.  Several individuals have indicated they no longer visit this shopping center due to the poor quality of this lot.  It is our hope to have you fix these issues as we seek to make Ahoskie a better place to live, work, and shop.”

“I’m asking for everybody’s signature on this letter,” Freeman encouraged his peers on the town council. “I’ve spoken to the business owners at Newmarket and they’re saying they’re losing customers because of the poor condition of the parking lot. That’s a shame when they have to pay the amount of rent they do to occupy that type of square footage and people don’t want to come there due to a deteriorating parking lot.”

Freeman said the letter was written to “encourage the property owner to react.” The letter states the property owner has 30 days from receipt of the correspondence to take the appropriate action and rectify the problems.

“If there is no response in 30 days, I guess we could follow up with a stronger worded letter and have that one come from our Town Attorney,” Freeman suggested.

“I do not know of what authority we have as a council to make them do anything; we just want to let them know of our concerns,” Freeman said.

Town Manager Tony Hammond said to his knowledge, the Newmarket parking lot has never been totally re-surfaced.

“There’s been a lot of patching the potholes; we (the town) have done it a couple of times on our own because they (Coastal Equities) would not.”

As far as what authority the town has over private property, local attorney Buddy Jones, who serves as legal counsel for the Town of Ahoskie, said the town does have police power.

“If something is deemed unsafe for the motoring public, then I would think that the town would have the right to take some type of action,” Jones noted. “Further, the businesses who rent or lease the buildings there, depending on the way their leases are worded, I would think they have something to say (to the property owner) about the common spaces there.”

Following a lengthy discussion among council members, to include input from Ahoskie Police Chief Troy Fitzhugh, they voted, without objection, to send Freeman’s letter to Coastal Equities, by certified mail, and wait for a response within 30 days before taking further action.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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