Fire lane at shopping center not officially designated
By Christen Coulon
The parking situation at the Mulberry Avenue shopping center in Selmer containing Rite Aid, Food Giant, Aaron’s, Fred’s and Cambridge Marketing may seem a bit odd. Even with the clearly posted fire lane and no parking signs in front of the stores, cars can be found lining the curb on a daily basis.
At any given time, it might appear that more than a dozen drivers are simultaneously breaking the law. However, things are not always as they appear.
An Independent Appeal investigation into the parking at the shopping center revealed that this was not a flagrant display of lawlessness, but more akin to civil disobedience, the only difference being that with civil disobedience people choose to break unjust laws; in this situation, the people have simply chosen not to create one.
According to Selmer Fire Chief Anthony Carr an official fire lane was never designated in the first place. He said that this was private property, and the property owner has never asked the city to enforce the parking, so the city has never done so.
One of the few shopping center tenants who would go on record, Dennis Flat, manager of the Food Giant, said, “We got with the other managers of the other businesses out here and a lot of them did not want to enforce it because they have handicapped customers.”
He said that they also have customers who are handicapped, but that is why they have reserved parking in the lot.
Flat stated that while he wants to be fair to everyone he did have some safety concerns regarding the parking both as a fire hazard and in the accident potential as well.
“You can set out here any day and watch people backing in front of ongoing traffic,” Flat said. “I know that some people need (the parking), but some people are taking advantage of it too.”
Another building tenant who said they were trying to enforce the fire lane parking, Melissa Middleton, manager of Aaron’s commented that they were doing everything they could to keep the area clear of parked cars even going so far as to erect concrete and steel barriers in front of their doors.
“If we have any customers there, it’s just to load merchandise, and then they are gone,” Middleton said. “Our trucks will unload...and then they are gone. The barriers do help and our customers still have pretty good access to get into our store. I think it’s a big deal if they need to get the fire trucks up there, especially in our store with all of the electronics, computers and upholstery that we have.”
The property owner, Jack Reynolds, and the other tenants were each contacted by the Independent Appeal, but chose not to go on record. However, off the record, most of those contacted shared the opinion that they felt there was adequate access for the fire trucks and the parking was desperately needed for the elderly and handicapped customers, especially at the building’s two pharmacies.