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Ballantyne Village parking dispute escalates

A spat over parking at upscale Ballantyne Village has turned nasty, with a lawsuit filed, visits from police officers and metal poles installed to block hundreds of parking spaces.

Caught in the middle are businesses and shoppers, who say the monthslong dispute between rival owners is hurting business and making parking scarce.

David Finby, who works nearby, said he now skips going to Ballantyne Village for lunch and the gym because of the parking restrictions.

“It is frustrating. It’s making it much harder to find a parking spot,” he said. “What are these people doing?”

The root of the problem: The Ballantyne Village property is split between two owners. One portion is owned by Vision Ventures and Mount Vernon Asset Management, which paid $26.1 million for a portion of the property after the lender foreclosed on the development. Ballantyne Village was appraised at $71 million when it was completed in 2006.

Those companies own the retail buildings, movie theater, and adjoining surface lots at Ballantyne Village. But their purchase didn’t include the parking deck and its two adjoining surface lots.

The original developer, Bob Bruner, still owns those through his company Ballantyne Village Parking LLC. Bruner has said he wants to develop the parking areas into new commercial properties such as condos or a hotel. A banner hung on the parking deck advertises “2 pad sites + parking” for sale, with Bruner’s phone number listed.

In February, shopkeepers complained that Bruner had fenced them off and blocked the parking deck and two surface lots. At the time, they said patrons moved the fences regularly to access the lots.

But over the past week, metal poles have appeared in the middle of spaces in the parking deck, and at the entrance to two surface lots. The poles, sunk in concrete, block off all but a few of the spots.

The owners of Ballantyne Village’s retail buildings declined through a spokesman to comment. Bruner’s attorney, Will Terpening, said Bruner has a legal right as property owner to say who can and can’t use his parking spaces.

“The folks that own the retail space are attempting to treat the parking deck like it’s their property,” said Terpening. “The bollards (metal poles) are an attempt to ensure that the owners of the retail comply.”

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police records show officers have been called to Ballantyne Village three times this year to deal with parking-related disputes. In February, records show Bruner called CMPD to report “his barrier chain link fence blocking a portion of his parking deck had the locks removed and had been dismantled.”

According to the report, a suspect who said he represented “business property owners in the area” admitted to officers that he cut off the locks and dismantled the fence so people could park in the deck. Bruner chose not to prosecute.

Bruner also called the police to report someone had broken lock chains. And in May, nine poles used to block vehicle access were reported stolen. They were valued at $1,080.

Property records show the parking deck and Bruner’s other two lots have a total tax value of $7.2 million.

On May 19, Bruner’s company filed a lawsuit against the owners of Ballantyne Village. According to the complaint, Bruner has a buyer for one of the surface parking lots. But he said the buyer won’t make the deal without assurances from Vision Ventures and Mount Vernon Asset Management that the buyer will be able to restrict access to the lot without interference.

Bruner said he has an easement that allows him or any buyer to do so. He’s seeking written confirmation of that from the owners, as well as damages in excess of $25,000.

Ballantyne Village’s owners haven’t filed a response to the lawsuit.

The manager of The Blue Taj said the restaurant has seen the number of lunch customers sink from 70 to 100 a day to 30 to 40 since parking restrictions tightened.

“They have limited time, and they come here and they waste time finding parking,” said Vikrant Naringrekar.

Mark Boley, general manager at Outland Gift and Cigar, didn’t expect the recently installed metal posts.

“He’s really taking it to the next level,” Boley said of Bruner. “Every time I come to work I’m just like, ‘What the heck?’ It doesn’t make any sense. Everybody’s frustrated.”

“Midday, it gets extremely busy, all these parking spaces will be taken up and people will be circling and circling,” said Boley. “It’s a real inconvenience to the retailers here.”

Rich Montgomery, a salesman at Abraham Joseph Fine Jewelers, said the dispute is making it hard for him to find parking at work.

“I hope they figure something out,” said Montgomery. “It’s so silly.”