The owners of Ballantyne Village claimed a partial victory in their long-running fight with the former owner over parking at the shopping center, with a judge ordering the former owner to remove metal poles blocking access to dozens of disputed parking spaces.
The preliminary injunction, issued Thursday by Superior Court Judge Eric Levinson, also requires that the former owner open access to two surface lots and adjacent driveways that had been blocked off, and repaint traffic markings to allow cars through again.
“With this action, visitors to Ballantyne Village may now use a total of 721 parking spaces to ensure their convenient access to stores, restaurants and our other tenants,” said MV Ballantyne Village, the joint venture that purchased the upscale property last year, in a statement.
The former owner and original developer, Bob Bruner, said through his attorney that the Ballantyne Village’s position is “not right and not consistent with the American system of private property ownership.”
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The dispute stretches to October 2013, when Ballantyne Village, which had flirted with foreclosure since the recession, was sold to new investors. The 170,000-square-foot shopping center had been appraised for $71 million in 2006, and it had a loan for $50 million from Bank of America. Vision Ventures and Mount Vernon Asset Management – which also bought, refurbished and sold the EpiCentre – paid $26.1 million for Ballantyne Village after the lender put the property up for sale.
But Bruner retained ownership of three parcels through his company, Ballantyne Village Parking LLC. They include two parking lots and a three-story parking deck connected to the shops and restaurants by a pedestrian bridge. Mecklenburg County property records show the three parcels have a tax value of $7.2 million.
Bruner said he had closed the lots while exploring how to develop them for other uses, such as a hotel or residential property. To keep Ballantyne Village customers out, Bruner used fences, planters and eventually metal poles known as bollards to block the surface lots and parking deck. Tenants and shoppers complained that the parking restrictions led to congestion and lost business, especially during the lunch rush.
Levinson’s injunction doesn’t require Bruner to open all of the parking spaces he controls. Levinson found that Charlotte zoning rules require Ballantyne Village have at least 721 parking spaces. Easements on Bruner’s property require he provide enough parking spaces to meet that minimum. To meet the requirement, Bruner will have to provide 54 more parking spaces. The injunction gives him 20 days to open access to the spaces.
Bruner’s attorney, Will Terpening, said they expect to win and see the temporary injunction reversed when the case goes to trial in March.
“There is no factual or legal support for MV Ballantyne Village LLC’s efforts to make unpermitted use of BV Parking’s property – no matter how much their tenants and customers may want convenient parking,” said Terpening, in a statement. “Ballantyne Village’s actions are analogous to someone parking on their neighbor’s driveway, without permission, just because their own driveway is full.”