By Paul T. Choate
Jan. 16, 2013. Following well over an hour of discussion at the Tuesday Boone Town Council meeting, action on the controversial booting ordinance was tabled for another month.
Jon Tate, owner of Lot Management Solutions, and property owners Jerry Butler and Mark Templeton spoke during public comment and even offered some input later in the meeting during discussion of the ordinance.
“Before [Tate] got here and his business we used towing,” Butler said. “That was the biggest, most expensive headache. We dealt with nice people. They tried to tow correctly. People always lost their car they felt like. … We’ve been dealing with [Tate] since he has been in town and our headaches have gone to zero.”
Butler and Templeton both spoke to the issue of booting, saying they felt it was a better, more effective way to stop illegal parking.
Sam Furgiuele, town attorney, presented the town with several ideas for amendments to the present ordinance based feedback he had received from town officials and community members. He said the town could approve sections of it, such as changes to signage or requirements for parking attendants, or did not necessarily have to approve any of it.
Amendments to the ordinance included requiring a sign at every parking space rather than every three, requiring a parking lot attendant to be clearly identified and remain with a booted car, and listing the names of all businesses a parking lot is designated for – either within the town’s Primary Fire District or the entire town.
Also tied to identification, the proposed amendments suggested that if a booting company employee is laying in wait for offenders in parking lots, they would be required to display some sort of flashing or rotating light on their vehicle.
Templeton offered that if this were required, the booting company business would dry up, saying it would create a situation where towing would need to be used exclusively.
Despite lengthy discussion, council members could not come to any sort of agreement on which amendments – if any – to go forward with. One thing that the council seemed in general agreement with was that there should not be signs at every parking space.
“I don’t think [one solution] is ever going to be perfect,” Furgiuele told the council members.
Tate offered that, based on his observations, listing the businesses the parking lot isn’t intended for was more effective. However, Councilwoman Jamie Leigh said she did not like the negative connotations associated with saying what businesses you couldn’t go to upon parking.
In an interesting twist late in the discussions, shortly before the issue was tabled, the issue of complaints via phone call came up.
“For two years or something we hadn’t had any complaints, then all of a sudden we were bombarded with complaints,” said Mayor Loretta Clawson.
“I can address that,” Tate interjected. “Some of the calls and some of the complaints that you may have had in terms of phone calls, I would take with a grain of salt.”
Tate said he had hired a private investigator to look into these calls and said he found that a man in Charlotte whom he did not mention by name had been using a “spoof card” – a device used to mimic other people’s phone numbers – to call and complain about booting. He said his private investigator made contact with the man and once “he knew he was caught,” the calls stopped.
However, Clawson and Councilwoman Lynne Mason both said it wasn’t just phone calls, saying they had also received a lot of letters and emails complaining about booting practices as well.
With exasperation coming to a head as the meeting reached 10:30 p.m. and two-and-a-half hours behind schedule, Leigh tried to move things along.
“I’m not comfortable passing anything tonight. We have gone in so many circles tonight. If you gave us another half hour we would complete the circle,” Leigh said, drawing laughs (and perhaps relief) from audience members.
Moments later, Leigh introduced a motion to table the issue until the February meeting. Councilman Andy Ball, who had also been vocal about trying to move the meeting along, quickly seconded and the motion passed unanimously.
The issue will again be on the agenda on Tuesday, Feb. 19.