Chief Wes Kahley
Chief Wes Kahley (John A. Pavoncello - jpavoncello@yorkdispatch.com)

The customers of a company that immobilizes vehicles parked illegally in private lots came to its defense Wednesday at a York City Council meeting.

The council is considering a proposal that would regulate Parking Lot Services and any other company that subsists on the practice of booting vehicles and collecting a fee from their trespassing owners.

According to the proposal, for example, upon discovering an illegally parked vehicle in a private lot, companies would be required to wait 15 minutes before booting the vehicle - unless they have the express permission of the property owner to tow that specific vehicle.

And that's the part of the proposal that especially vexed both the representative of Parking Lot Services present at the meeting and the several business owners who contract services from the company.

Unlike towing - which means the vehicle owner often returns to find his or her vehicle missing - booting is a "better, less intrusive, more convenient solution for illegal parkers," said Anne Zerbe, a representative of PLS.

"When there are mistakes, the boot comes off," she said.

She called the proposed 15-minute wait requirement "arbitrary and capricious."

Frank Countess, who is a co-owner of the building at 135 N. George St., said booting has provided a reasonable solution to a never-ending problem for businesses located near the downtown courthouse.

Towing, he said, only deters one person from illegally parking. Often, Countess said, he's seen people park illegally in empty spaces where another vehicle was just towed.

With booting, he said, "You don't leave an empty space."

"You leave a calling card that says, 'Don't park in this lot,'" he said.

Casi Babinchak, chief operating officer at Central Market, said booting is "much less offensive than towing."

And it's sent a message at the market's garage, she said. People are following the rules.

Eric Menzer, president and general manager of the York Revolution, said he is concerned the 15-minute wait requirement could put booting companies out of business.

"The service that they're providing is really important to property owners," Menzer said.

The ordinance is modeled after the city's towing ordinance, which aimed - and, by most accounts, successfully - to curb predatory towing practices. That ordinance was passed in 2011."We haven't had any issues since we made those changes," York City Police Chief Wes Kahley said.

As was once the case with towing, the police department is spending too much time mediating disputes between PLS employees and the owners of vehicles they've booted, Kahley said.

The proposal, if passed, would require booting companies to notify the police when they've immobilized a vehicle. That should help police officers handle such disputes, Kahley said.

After a lengthy discussion and public comment, the council decided to keep the proposal in committee - meaning it is not cleared to be introduced at a voting meeting.

"Maybe there are some things that we need to take a look at," Kahley said.

- Reach Erin James at ejames@yorkdispatch.com.