RALEIGH, N.C. — Strictly interpreted parking rules in downtown Raleigh have businesses worried and shoppers fuming.
For example, did you know it's illegal to park more than 12 inches away from a curb?
It is, and parking enforcement officers are pulling out their tape measures to check.
Another example: Signs at City Market read "2-hour Parking." Just don't stay any longer than that.
"I was coming out of the building and she was writing the ticket and it was too late then," said Charlie Patterson, a patron of a store downtown.
Like many visitors to downtown Raleigh, Patterson ended up with a $12 ticket.
And time isn't the only reason people are getting tickets.
"I was shocked," said Heather Laffler, who got a ticket after being parked only five minutes. "They said that it was because my car was parked more than 12 inches from the curb, which apparently is illegal but I had never heard of such a thing."
The rule is on the books, but merchants say the aggressive enforcement is hurting business.
"All day long they scream about it and they all say the same thing," said Troy Hess, a hair stylist. "That's why everybody hates to come downtown."
The private company that runs the city's parking program denies it's overzealous.
"All we do is enforce the city's codes as we're instructed to by the city," said Mark Edwards of ACS Inc.
But Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker says the current contract encourages that.
"The current contract has financial incentives for the contractor to write a lot of tickets and that, to me, is a big problem," Meeker said.
Here's why the mayor sees a problem with the contract: The city gets the first $420,000 in parking fines and the private company gets the rest, up to $1 million.
Meeker says the company wants to make its million every year. The contract with this company has actually expired, so City Council members will talk about what to do about it next month.