Staff photo by Allison Potter
Zoned residential, the parking lot located behind The Crest building is not permitted to function as a pay lot, but town officials say Evolution Mixed Martial Arts continues to charge $25 for parking.
At the June 14 Town of Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen meeting, the ordinance granting a permit for the owners of Evolution Mixed Martial Arts, located upstairs in the historic Crest building on North Lumina in the business district, to charge for parking in the lot behind The Crest building was pulled from the agenda in order to give staff an opportunity to consider the parking lot itself, which had a residential zoning designation. Because of this residential zoning, the lot did not qualify for the permit.
Since then, however, Evolution has continued to charge those parking in the lot $25 for parking until 4:30 p.m. Planning and parks director Tony Wilson said his staff has confronted Evolution about renting parking to
beachgoers multiple times.
“We have verbally told them on a number of occasions not be renting out their parking lot and we will continue to address that issue,” Wilson said. “We’ve seen them during the weekday and on weekends doing the same thing.”
Since the town received another complaint about Evolution collecting money from parking spaces in an email during Labor Day weekend, Wilson said his staff will be issuing another round of notices, but that the owners of the gym believe they are fully in compliance.
“In the past we have sent them notices of violation and we will be sending them some more letters in the next week or two; if they do not comply, the town will take legal action,” he said. “If you ask them, they feel like they have the right to do that, but we think differently.”
Kerry Owens, Evolution’s secretary, said that he believes the business is managing the parking lot within its rights because the $25 fee is for day passes to the gym, not for the space itself.
“Literally, I have never sold a place for parking out back for three years now,” Owens said. “For the purposes of managing that parking lot, I have a written management agreement with the owners of this building.”
Owens said that he makes every person who parks in the lot sign a release statement, which states the person is paying $25 “for a day pass to Evolution Mixed Martial Arts with access to the downstairs workout room for one individual,” and also that, “Evolution is providing free parking until 4:30 p.m. to encourage me to check out their gym.”
Since the disagreements have continued, Owens said he would be prepared for legal action if the town takes that course of action, but that he would drop the matter if the consequences negatively affected The Crest or any of its other businesses.
“If they pursue it, and I don’t mean this as a threat to the town or anything, but it will be adjudicated; it is just simply too absurd not to,” he said. “I don’t want this to affect The Crest building though; that is my main concern. I’ll stop everything before that happens.”
However, as of Tuesday,
Sept. 4, Owens said he believed to be in good standing with the town.
“Why would they want to pursue it? They think I am intentionally skirting their provisions and I disagree,” he said. “Right now, as far as I am concerned, I am square with the town of Wrightsville Beach.”