Who can ticket in the city's public parking garages?
York City Council voted Tuesday to make absolutely sure the city can ticket you in any of the public parking lots and garages around town.
The issue? While the city has a parking bureau, it doesn't directly own the public garages and parking lots — it created the York City General Authority in 1995 to do that. The General Authority currently owns and operates the three city garages and 11 parking lots available to the public.
But until Tuesday, the city's ordinances only made mention of lots and garages owned by the city and not any of the authorities it created. The council unanimously voted Tuesday night to change the language in the ordinance so it directly mentions lots and garages owned by the General Authority and the city's Redevelopment Authority.
After the meeting, assistant York City solicitor Jason Sabol reiterated to The York Dispatch what he'd told the council before the members voted: The city believes it's been on strong legal ground anyway in enforcing parking and vehicle ordinances in the garages and lots for the past two decades. He said this merely removes the possibility of anyone claiming there is a gray area.
General Authority chair Pam Zerba on Wednesday agreed, calling this a housekeeping move.
"Times change, and you find an ordinance that no one’s looked at in years and you realize, 'Hey, wait a minute, we need to update it,'" she said.
Zerba said it didn't stem from any recent incident.
"To my knowledge, this hasn’t been an issue," she said.
Meters: The General Authority also operates the more than 1,000 street parking meters in the city, but the authority doesn't own those street spots, so this didn't apply to them.
Zerba also said it's been the General Authority's interpretation that the ordinance in this regard was fine as is. After all, the city created the General Authority, Zerba said, and appoints the members of its board.
But Zerba acknowledged there's certainly some nuance to the question of who has the power to ticket people in these lots and garages.
"It’s a tricky question," she said.
The city government and the authority are discrete entities, and the relationship between them is complex. The General Authority has its own budget of about $1.6 million and operates independently of the city administration, though it does get money from the city government.
The General Authority also does not employ the people who enforce ordinances in the garages and lots. Instead, it contracts workers from the city government's parking bureau to do the job. And that's why this ordinance changes matters, Zerba said. It makes it clear that those city employees, under contract with the authority, can come into garages and lots and ticket cars for parking overtime, for being abandoned or any other automotive offense.
RDA lots: The story's a little different with the Redevelopment Authority, which owns just two lots around town and hasn't ever had an agreement with the city to provide enforcement, according to Shilvosky Buffaloe, the city's acting director of economic and community development. He said the RDA lets locals park in the lots for $1 a day, but there's no real enforcement mechanism.
Apropos of the ordinance change the day before, Buffaloe raised the topic of parking enforcement to the RDA at the board's Wednesday meeting, suggesting the board now should come to an agreement with the city to ticket people illegally parked in its lots.
At that point, RDA chair David Cross asked the obvious question regarding people parked illegally: "So what has been happening? Nothing?"
"I write a real nasty letter and ask them to leave," Buffaloe said.
"And how well does that work?" Cross asked.
Not that well, Buffaloe said, which is why "it would be to our benefit" to enter into an agreement.
The RDA board took this under advisement. If it wishes to do so, the board would have to vote on it at a future meeting.
More tweaks: Sabol also pointed out a couple of the other tidbits the ordinance change clears up. For one, the parking lot ordinance had still talked about city hall as being located at 50 W. King St. rather than at 101 S. George St., where it's been for several years.
The tweaks also changed the hourly metered parking rate to $1 — what it is in practice now, anyway.
Before that, the ordinance just gave a minimum hourly rate: 5 cents.