The more they debate, the more York City Council members struggle to agree on how - or even if - the city should regulate the practice of immobilizing illegally parked vehicles.

When one of the city's most prolific towing companies went out of business, it opened the door for the entrepreneurial founder of Parking Lot Services to fill the void left by Intown Motors.

PLS, as it's known, subsists on the practice of booting vehicles and collecting a fee from their trespassing owners. Its customers include private parking-lot owners all over the city, several of whom have publicly lauded the service as an effective alternative to towing.

The city's police department - which is occasionally called to mitigate disputes between booters and bootees - has asked the council to put some rules on paper.

The police are looking for clarity, Capt. Steve Butler said.

"We want you to say people can boot or they can't," he said.

It's proven a tough task.

Council President Carol Hill-Evans has been especially skeptical, questioning whether the Pennsylvania vehicle code even allows booting as a lawful remedy for trespassing vehicles.

"Are we about to create an ordinance that's illegal?" she asked at a committee meeting Wednesday.

Don Hoyt, a city solicitor, said he couldn't say for sure whether state law expressly allows booting. But, Hoyt said he sees little potential liability for the city if it merely allows a private-property owner to use booting as a means of maintaining his or her own property.

Complicating the matter is the fact that former York County District Attorney Stan Rebert once issued an opinion that booting is illegal, while current District Attorney Tom Kearney has said it's OK.

Also, representatives of two companies that provide towing services to city lots have asked for fairness.

For example, much of the discussion has focused on whether booters - like towing companies - should have to wait 15 minutes before booting a vehicle they've discovered illegally parked.

That's the key element of a 2011 ordinance amendment that sought to minimize "predatory" towing.

PLS representatives, however, say the 15-minute wait requirement would put them out of business.

Other issues: Should booters be required to accept credit cards as well as cash? Should they be required to obtain the same level of insurance coverage as towing companies? Is booting a trespass remedy at all?

For now, the council is keeping the proposal in committee.

Councilman David Satterlee said he has as many questions now as he did when the debate began in September.

The proposal, he said, authorizes a private company to monetarily penalize someone.

PLS charges vehicle owners a $75 fee to remove the boot. Until the fee is paid, the vehicle remains in the space where it's been illegally parked.

"Towing removes the problem," Satterlee said.

- Reach Erin James at ejames@yorkdispatch.com.